introductions & (pre-pre-)pre-introduction materials.
clearly, the penguin classics are all about giving you your money's worth in pre-reading material. whew. reading all these seriously took about as long as it took to get through the first two-chapters-times-three... i won't get too bogged down in describing the pre- material, but here's a breakdown, a first pgh comparison and some notes/thoughts.
2. Translator's Introduction
3. Suggested Reading
1. Translator's Introduction
(then right into to the book. blammo. not even an index!)
2. Preface by Michele Roberts
6. Further Reading
7. A Note on the Translation
there are things you come to understand about the translators and translations, right off the bat. for instance, out of all the introductions, only davis' began in the voice of flaubert. which isn't to say the other translators are more callous to flaubert's voice, but their priorities are more about revelation, than davis who seems immediately dead-set on establishing a super-high degree of transparency.
is quote-heavy and talks about the story through flaubert's letters to louise colet. describes flaubert, his working conditions right down to the time of day his mother would leave the house... it's an assessment more than a theory, which, much like "story" in her fiction, is something that colors itself in, in the background, while you're absorbing her collected, organized data.
honestly, it just reads like a pretty standard intro/essay? illuminating, but with a very scholarly mouth-feel.
i read last and it was definitely a sock in the gut, compared to the crispness of s & d's. he is one, dark motherfucker. like he mentions flaubert saw his father working on dead bodies. and it gets darker from there. while davis opts for translucency, wall is very... visceral.
"The grotesque conjunction of the sacred and the profane pleased him."
"He had promised himself and his friends that his first book would be a thunderclap."
"It was to be a luxury item, gratuitously crafted and minutely detailed. His mother remarked, judiciously, that the pursuit of the perfect phrase had desiccated his heart." (BURN!)
both wall and davis include steegmuller in their recommended reading lists.
wall is the first to point out in his breakdown of characters that there are three Madame Bovarys in the novel. also the first to draw a connection between emma/femme and hommais/homme. uh. he is also the only one to break down every single character.
a cool discrepancy also worth noting:
wall edition, in the introduction by roberts, flaubert was "crying" as he wrote the final lines ("Closing the novel, you might be crying your eyes out as Flaubert himself was when he wrote the final, tragic scenes.")--but wall says flaubert was "vomiting repeatedly as he wrote the closing scenes."
but don't take my word for it!-- the three openings:
"'Yesterday evening, I started my novel. Now I begin to see stylistic difficulties that horrify me. To be simple is no small matter.' This is what Flaubert wrote to his friend, lover, and to fellow writer Louise Colet on the evening of September 20, 1851, and the novel he was referring to was Madame Bovary. He was just under thirty years old."
(flaubert-y! also, i guess that means he started three days before my birthday. well--three days and about a hundred thirty-one years...)
"Scholars with a calendrical turn of mind have computed that the first scene of Madame Bovary--Charles's entry into the classroom--takes place in October, 1827, and the last scene--Charles's death--in August, 1846. The married life of Charles and Emma extends over a period of nine years, beginning in 1837."
"Born in 1821, Flaubert was the son of a highly successful provincial doctor, the director and chief surgeon of the municipal hospital in the town of Rouen. His family lived in the gloomy residential wing of the hospital, in the midst of blood and death, as Flaubert always remembered it. Just over the wall of the garden where he played as a child, there were corpses laid out in the dissecting-room. He and his sister would peep over the wall to observe their father, with his sleeves rolled up, probing and slicing, pausing to wave them angrily away from the forbidden spectacle."
(see what i mean about viscera? actual viscera.)