My diary, in images.
Love with her was pure irrationality and perfection in one sweeping, sudden fury.
The lancia boat I was lying inside on my back teetered side-to-side, creaking like trees moving by the wind’s hand. I felt the ancient splinters vying for my salt-dried skin. The sea splashed over the side of the boat, tickling my limbs, reminding me with each tongue of water that I was amongst the rawness of the sea, which could take me at any moment in one swipe. The sea reminding me of my immortality instigated the memory of Valentina. I closed my eyes, seeing her petal silk lips whispering if love, if love, if love, over, and over again until our lips were inches apart, almost kissing. Almost. It almost happened. Then I saw her hands dousing creamy white lotion onto my skin. Her hands pined for my skin. But she had already faded into a memory, as if what happened between us occurred many years ago, when it was only days ago. There was still more of her I had yet to experience; I feared this, and yet it thrilled me at the same time. She lingered, waiting for me to take the next step. One part of me wanted her to disappear, but never too far away from reach.
Passage from Mon Corps et Moi (My Body and I) (1925)
“But since God the Father wants nothing to do with me in His Paradise, the same as yesterday, I must go on using objects, earthly creatures. Today, however, I am not inclined to making advances.
Fortunately the other is here to save me.
The other feels that thinking has gone on too long.
I hear: It’s time to go home.
It’s true, dawn leads to love.
At home I touch this body, as I have already had the honor to touch others, wishing only to rid myself of my most specific desires, without the hope of satisfying any, or the wish to prolong them.”
Get. Some. Lotus. In. Your. Life.
A fire romps within the dwellings of a kept creature, I, a lost girl influenced by the masses, a timeless roaring rage to keep purity alive all in the name of doing what is right. Life seems long when the years trickle into a puddle, merging with otherness into sameness. It’s the acceptance of hiding which makes life normal. Sameness, hiding, long, acceptance.
I felt, I thought, I ceased. Time decayed after her.
The word lust is too sturdy and clear; whatever it was, it felt fragile and hazy in my bones and mind, as if for the past month I wandered lost in a foreign nightclub.
Emerson said in Nature, “A man is a God in ruins.”
I am a broken statue— Donatello’s muse project gone wrong— mind chipped and irreparable.
But I come back to her, if even just in memory, and then I am whole.
I awaited during the lazy morning for this isolation. While all the others padded the stone courtyard musing upon their fresh pressed orange juice and tales of the crinkly-faced sun villagers who adore old lawless Virgil, I paced in a total wreck of a mood to get out.
The asters and carnations blooming near the eating table angered me for their sweet beauty that lived just for the sake of living and nothing else. The sun, always the sun out and about, irritated me, as the pits of my white shirt were already soaked through. Trickling water from the gold fiori water spout pulled at my chest as the water made its way to an idle, content state in the lilypad pond. My breathing became aware of me. I couldn’t swallow the grapefruit topped with sugar. The orange juice tasted dull.
Mother what is it?
My tongue pressed the backs of the front teeth in detest of… mater, mētēr, madre, mother. They contemplated me as if I were crazy or sick. Well, perhaps I am both.
“At the bottom of her heart, however, she was waiting for something to happen. Like shipwrecked sailors, she turned despairing eyes upon the solitude of her life, seeking afar off some white sail in the mists of the horizon. She did not know what this chance would be, what wind would bring it her, towards what shore it would drive her, if it would be a shallop or a three-decker, laden with anguish or full of bliss to the portholes. But each morning, as she awoke, she hoped it would come that day; she listened to every sound, sprang up with a start, wondered that it did not come; then at sunset, always more saddened, she longed for the morrow.”
Madame Bovary: sexy, passionate tale of love affairs gone awry… or is it?
Gustave Flaubert’s perhaps most famous novel– and quite possibly the work he detested writing the most– is a paradox. Despite the French government convicting Flaubert of immorality regarding Bovary (Flaubert escaped such conviction in the mid 1850’s), this frustrating and brilliant novel is not centered on passion and sex. Scandalous? Yes, but in ways dependent on society in 1856, or society in 2018. In 1856, this novel was scandalous by the fact that a woman cheated on her husband multiple times sexually and emotionally. In 2018, this novel is scandalous by the way Flaubert calls out our human flaws.
Often before reading well-known literature, an opinion is formed before page one is turned. Before delving into this piece, mine was more of an expectation; that I would be transported to a world of rich parties, extravagant love affairs, and tantalizing climatic desire… think Anna Karenina. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Yes, there are parties, there are love affairs, and there is desire, but it is not what one would expect, which is one reason I find this novel brilliant and unique.
One side of the mirror displays Flaubert’s poetic care for Emma Bovary, primarily in a physical sense. When the other side of the mirror is flipped, a more clinical, cynical Flaubert emerges: He jabs at high society, drab husband Charles Bovary, the shallow lovers, and most often, his central character, Emma.
Externally, he explores and comments on human faults found in all, but particularly of this time period, the bourgeoisie, and the drudgery of like-mindedness. The core of the novel reveals a universal flaw found only in humans: the desire for something else than what is found in this very moment, and a desire for something more than the basic needs (see Maslow’s hierarchy of needs). This is why I chose the quote at the top from Madame Bovary… it sums up the existential crisis of Emma, her primary desire, and motivation for all of her actions and thoughts.
This story is the least romantic, perhaps because Flaubert had an aversion for clichés, which Emma is the epitome of a cliché. You will not read Fifty Shades of Grey plots or clichéd writing in this novel. Clichés, however, do not tag solely along with romances, passion, desire, and thoughtless writing; they are simply the outcome of similar thoughts.
Unless you have attained enlightenment– the peace of mind that this very moment is perfect and the way it should be and nothing more– you, me, and Flaubert are Emma.
“Madame Bovary, c’est moi.” –Gustave Flaubert
“You’ll kill me if you stop.” -André Aciman, Call Me by Your Name