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Flaubert's Parrot

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  7,139 ratings  ·  512 reviews
Which of two stuffed parrots was the inspiration for one of Flaubert's greatest stories? Why did the master keep changing the colour of Emma Bovary's eyes? And why should it matter so much to Geoffrey Braithwaite, a retired doctor haunted by a private secret? In "Flaubert's Parrot", Julian Barnes spins out a multiple mystery of obsession and betrayal (both scholarly and ro ...more
Paperback, 190 pages
Published November 27th 1990 by Vintage (first published 1984)
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Community Reviews

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This book is the biography of Gustave Flaubert written by the Francophile Julian Barnes.

Or may be not, may be this is a pointless story of a widower and retired doctor, Geoffrey Braithwaite, who is as fascinated with Flaubert as is his creator.

Or if we are to get intellectual, is this a satirical meditation on writing, on reading, on the possibilities of gaining a deeper insight into the literary output of an author by studying his life, or even on the irremediably fictional nature of being able
Paul Bryant
This was a giant gimmick of a novel and I thought the gimmick just worked so well. I understand some readers disagree. I'm not going to say that them's fightin' words and I'm going to have to ask you to step outside. I'm just annoyingly, irritatingly going to tell you that I thought this was like a gloved hand on the back of your neck which inches its way round to your windpipe. What happens is that a dull kind of guy mooches about France collecting biographical data about the sainted Flaubert, ...more
You might think this is a book about Flaubert's parrot. The title would indicate that this is not such a preposterous assumption to make. Or at least, if not the parrot, then about Flaubert himself, maybe the parrot is just a way in to a biography of the man? Again, not entirely erroneous. What we get, though, isn't really much of a biography at all, more the musings of a man called Geoffrey Braithwaite, who has a long-term obsession with the Frenchman and would like to write the definitive life ...more
Dec 16, 2011 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like biographies in confusing disguises
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
I read this book on the train. Originally this was done out of necessity as I was commuting and needed something to stare at so as to avoid the blank eyed gaze of the other commuter drones as they also lumbered too and from a number of non-descript towns in the north in order to earn their daily crust. Many of them look like zombies.. only the lack of meaty-decay smell informs you that, no, they are in fact still living and allegedly sentient. Sometimes I worry about becoming a commuter zombie ( ...more
Mar 27, 2014 Mala rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fans of Flaubert and Julian Barnes.

The Booker jury sometimes behaves like the Oscar one: how else to explain this-- In the year 1984 the following books were shortlisted:
Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes
Empire of the Sun by J.G.Ballard
In Custody by Anita Desai
Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner
According to Mark by Penelope Lively
Small by David Lodge

And Anita Brookner's jaw-droppingly boring book,pipped Barnes,Ballard & Desai to the post!

The same thing happened again in 1998 & 2005,but at least he lost to somewhat good books:
This is perhaps my least favourite novel by this author. It is still worth reading - he is still one of my favourite authors - it is just that it is missing something, unlike the other novels by him which I don't think are lacking in anything at all. I think this was because at first what I thought this would be about - you know, the 'big themes'- ended up being what the book turned out to be about. Never a particularly fun thing to find out about a book. There isn't much I can say about this, a ...more
MJ Nicholls
A little too Radio 4 for my liking: pseudo-scholarly musings on Gustave Flaubert, cosier than a cushioned futon in the House of Lords. Mostly diverting and amusing: if a shade pompous and niche (i.e. you don’t have to have read Flaubert to read this, but it helps). Nothing more to add, particularly. Except this edition was so tiny I had to shrink my hands to hold it. Thanks, Picador. Anyway. Did you read about my Guinness World Record in the paper the other day? I am the first man to listen to T ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Aug 20, 2014 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2012)
This is the second Julian Barnes book that I've read. I equally liked this and his The Sense of an Ending (also 4 stars). Not that they are similar. In fact, they are almost opposites. This is a lot more literary as this dwells solely on the life of Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) who obviously is a favorite of Julian Barnes while "Sense" is about a story of a non-communicative man and ends up as a loser. Having said that, there is a tinge of sadness in the life of Flaubert when he died as a lonely ...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
Gustave Flaubert died in 1880. But this did not prevent Julian Barnes from falling in love with him. Barnes' obsession with him, which only a lover can suffer from, resulted to this book which was first published in 1984, almost a century after the author passed away impoverished, lonely, exhausted and not having finished his swan song, "Bouvard et Pecuchet" (despite its incompleteness it was still good enough to be included in the 1001 list).

Any keen follower of my goodreads review (and there a
Julian Barnes has written a book hard to categorize. Is it a novel? Is it a work of literary criticism? Is it a biography? This work of metafiction defies being fit into a particular genre. True, it is a work of fiction, but Barnes works into it so many features that usually appear elsewhere that the reader is kept continually on his toes. The result is creative, fascinating, and wonderfully entertaining.

The narrator of the work is one Geoffrey Braithwaite, a retired physician with a avocational
Aug 21, 2007 Steve rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Dashing Francophiles
Shelves: fiction
Postmodern: replete with literary metafiction, ordered lists, chronologies, conscious ironies, and other bullshit. All of this is executed quite well, though. Pleasing to the forebrain.
Flaubert’s Parrot is a witty essay on Flaubert, thinly battered in fiction. The fictional story, of retired physician and Flaubert amateur Geoffrey Braithwaite alone with memories of his adulterous suicide wife (her name is Ellen, not Emma), I found weak and boring. But I kept with it because Braithwaite approximates my favorite kind of first-person narrator: the speculative dreamer, the casual critic; the isolated ideal mind—a phrase I’ve heard—at home in all history. There’s Ishmael, Humbert, ...more
An entertaining, interesting book. Not only is Barnes clever, he's chuckle-out loud funny in some places, as in the section on the types of books the narrator thinks should not be written. The chapter called "Pure Story" is both beautifully written and heartbreaking.
Jun 08, 2008 El rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to El by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (190/1001)
Julian Barnes first won my heart in A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters in which there is a chapter written from the point-of-view of a woodworm on Noah's Ark. It was such a refreshing change of pace and I adored it. Since reading that several years ago I have put off reading anything else by Barnes, hoping to retain that feeling lest History was a fluke. I bought a copy of Flaubert's Parrot a while back but kept it on the back burner, again to avoid being disappointed by Barnes, but also ...more
Dhanaraj Rajan
An interesting concept and an excellent execution.
At the end you end up liking both Flaubert and Barnes.
Entertainer with many witty turns and close observations on Life and Art.
Loved the parts in which he talks of relations between Life and Art, Literary Criticism, Obsessive adherence to favourite authors, The difference between the reading of an ordinary reader/lover of literature and the reading of a literary critic.
Verdict: A really wonderful textbook for a course entitled ‘Gustave Flaubert & Assorted Literary Musings’. Not terribly useful beyond this context.

Written by a man whose last name begins with ‘B’ and classed (rather dishonestly) under the first Guardian 1000 books category of comedy, ‘Flaubert’s Parrot’ made it onto the first page of my list of essential novels. From there it managed to worm its way into my subconscious so that, without making any deliberate note of it, I recognized the titl
Guy gets talking to this doctor on a ferry trip; the doctor just can't understand why his wife killed herself.

Flaubert sometimes used to refer to himself as "Gourstave". Barnes translates this as "Flau-bear".

And more Flaubert-related musings, vaguely wrapped up as a postmodernist novel. If you're a Madame Bovary fan, you may like it.
Flaubert’s life intertwined with the life of a biographer whose wife died. Witty and ingenious as no biography has ever been. I can only compare its novelty of form (in effect) to “Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter” (Mario Vargas Llosa) from what I’ve read. Although, they're totally different. I am not ready yet (not sure if I’ll ever be) to write a review, but I can say however: I enjoyed reading this book a lot. This is Barnes at his best: a light read, but full of quotes I could not help but wr ...more
One of my favorite authors, this is one of his earliest works. It reads like a Flaubert dissertation paper. Possibly? It is classified as non-fiction because it does hold biography of Flaubert to degree of intense minutia. But it holds as much about the author Barnes himself, as well. It's a work of intelligentsia displaying itself. Most people of erudite backgrounds relish this analysis and manipulation of juxtapositions interlaced with savvy wit. Stuff to ponder, but such is never my most favo ...more
Rohan Maitzen
It's really a 2. 5 star book for me, because I really enjoyed some parts and found other parts (and to some extent the whole concept) tedious. I think I would have preferred just to get Julian Barnes straight up on Flaubert: if you aren't really going to write a novel but rather a pastiche, a parody, an appreciation, a medley of parts and ideas and venting and quoting -- which package it as a novel, with a narrator and the thread of a plot? Why not just throw off the pretense and do your thing? ...more
A curious experimental examination and tribute to a Great Master of the early novel - Flaubert. Briefly pretends to be a bit of fiction, but instead launches into a multi-pronged investigation and defense of the man Flaubert.

I'm sure a lot of us bookish types have at least one author we could obsess over and defend against all critics, learning every little detail of their lives, collecting their works, and every 'dripping' from their pen.
En France, on n'oserait jamais toucher à notre ours sacré - outre-Atlantique, c'est sans doute plus simple.
J'ai l'impression que, flaubertiste averti ou non, tout un chacun peut apprendre un petit quelque chose, un petit détail, sur la vie de Flaubert, à travers les aventures du médecin fictif de Julian Barnes. J'ai tellement envie, à présent, de me lancer moi aussi sur les traces du perroquet de Flaubert.
Willy Schuyesmans
Ik ben intussen zowat verslaafd aan Barnes en heb nu eindelijk zijn boek gelezen waarmee hij in 1984 is doorgebroken en dat wereldwijd bekroond werd: 'Flauberts papegaai'. In dat boek gaat de oudere arts Geoffrey Braithwaite na de dood van zijn echtgenote naar Frankrijk, waar hij op zoek gaat naar sporen van zijn idool, de schrijver van 'Madame Bovary'. Hij bezoekt Rouen in Frankrijk waar Flaubert geleefd en gewerkt heeft en hangt zijn hele verhaal vast aan een pittig detail: de papegaai die in ...more
This is an odd book. It’s not really a biography, but there’s so much biography in it I’m not sure it could really be counted as a fictional novel either. So what is it then? An Appreciation? A Musing? Yes, I’m going to go with that last one. This is that somewhat rare literary breed – “a Musing’ on a theme or subject.

A doctor wanders in and around Flambeau’s life and work, and how they intersect with his own life gradually becomes apparent.

It’s a book which manages to be interesting, whilst ne
The author asks really good questions about why we pursue the writer of books instead of being content with their writing and he questions the way we look at history as well. Really made me stop and think about things. In this way, it reminds me of The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields, another book that delves into the inherent flaws of autobiographies.

In addition, I LOVED the organization of the book. The author will pick some random thing: A critic's accusation that Flaubert didn't bother to se
Max Karpovets
завдяки бажанню більше дізнатись про папугу Флобера, Джуліан Барнс розкриває і розриває, відкриває і зикриває монументальні міркування щодо літератури, творчого покликання, людської природи і в цілому сутності реальності, світу. справді, Барнс постійно перевіряє світ на міцність і смисли - чи працює той стереотип ("но я могу сказать, в чем наше превосходство перед критиками")? той чи інший міф, сюжет? це все відбувається невимушено, наче ви зайшли купити хліба, а вам ненароком розповіли всі нюан ...more
Karlo Mikhail
Many have judged Julian Barnes’ Flaubert’s Parrot a “delightful” reading experience. However, my own encounter with the book do not tally with such praise. The impression Flaubert’s Parrot’s protagonist made on me was that of a narrator purposefully avoiding his own traumatic experiences by displacing his energy towards an endless narration of Flaubert trivia – from a chronology of Flaubert’s life from various points of views, an exposition of Flaubert’s relation with animals in his life and wor ...more
Me leí este libro porque tocaba en el Club de lectura de mi biblioteca y sin muchas esperanzas de que me gustara, porque al fin y al cabo es de un autor que está vivo y más fresco que una rosa, y tan joven es el libro que lo es incluso más que yo. Además, prometía ser metaliteratura de la peor clase, la metaliteratura para las masas, una reflexión sobre las relaciones entre vida y literatura de lo más obvia y facilona, un simple juego frío y sin vida. Pero sorprendentemente no es así. Aún no ent ...more
Anna Savage
Flaubert’s Parrot is not a novel so much as it is Julian Barnes masturbating onto his favorite, tattered, and undoubtedly stained copy of Madame Bovary. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The book is solidly written, thought-provoking, unique, and sometimes hilarious. However, if you have no lustful feelings of your own toward M. Flaubert, probably best to stay away. Certainly having read Madame Bovary is a prerequisite for any appreciation of this book. I still felt underprepared having read ...more
Kristopher Jansma
Truly awesome - this had me laughing in places and flat-out stunned in others. Basically a narrative about a Doctor doing some amateur research into Flaubert's life, who becomes mildly interested in discovering which of four stuffed parrots is the one that inspired his famous story "A Simple Heart." But this is almost minor in the book, which is really a mash-up of many strange forms. He goes through various timelines and interpretations of Flaubert's life by other biographers, critiquing all of ...more
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Julian Patrick Barnes is a contemporary English writer of postmodernism in literature. He has been shortlisted three times for the Man Booker Prize--- Flaubert's Parrot (1984), England, England (1998), and Arthur & George (2005), and won the prize for The Sense of an Ending (2011). He has written crime fiction under the pseudonym Dan Kavanagh.

Following an education at the City of London School
More about Julian Barnes...
The Sense of an Ending Arthur & George A History of the World in 10½  Chapters Levels of Life Talking It Over

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“Books say: She did this because. Life says: She did this. Books are where things are explained to you; life is where things aren't. I'm not surprised some people prefer books.” 3386 likes
“Books say: She did this because. Life says: She did this. Books are where things are explained to you; life is where things aren't. I'm not surprised some people prefer books. Books make sense of life. The only problem is that the lives they make sense of are other people's lives, never your own.” 425 likes
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