Flaubert: was a Frenchman,
author of Madame Bovary and a
copious amount of personal
correspondence. Copious amounts of
personal correspondence are well-liked by
literary biographers. It helps them
define their subject even though there
can be as many definitions as definers.
He also kept a parrot. The parrot is the
only character in this book to keep its
beak shut. Sometimes being stuffed is a
fictional character and narrator of
Flauberts Parrot'. A retired
GP, he makes intermittant references to
his wife who commited suicide. His hints
raise our curiosity about her (and
thereby about him) just as discovery of a
parrot raises his about Flaubert.
Braithwaite is an amateur sleuth and
Flaubert is his case. Flaubert is his
obsession. Braithwaite doesn't allow a
parrot to become a red herring.
Enid Starkie: a real life
person. At least she was up until she
died in 1970. A literary biographer who
specialised in French literature, she
criticised Flaubert over the shifting
colour of Emma Bovarys eyes. She
was wrong. Emmas do change colour
and Flaubert intended it so.
Starkies soul lies in turmoil.
Julian Barnes: the author
of 'Metroland, 'Before She Met
Me and 'Flaubert's Parrot.
The latter began one night in the parking
lot of a disused diner with a man too
long without sleep to continue his
journey. It began with the landing of a
parrot from another time. This was
Flaubert's parrot... Or was it?
Strange that these people
should be linked by a stuffed bird but
then 'Flauberts Parrot' is a
strange book. In a tale of obsession
which culminates in an inevitable
and complete frustration Barnes
plugs his favourite writer, cocks a snook
to the ivory towers of academic literary
criticism (in so doing concocting a
lit.crit. style of his own) draws out the
peculiarly British weirdness of
Braithwaite and wraps the whole lot in
the dip and jump form of a
Rivetting and mysterious,
and the best use of a parrot since Long
John Silver in Treasure