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Flaubert's Parrot

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Winner of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2011

Flaubert's Parrot deals with Flaubert, parrots, bears and railways; with our sense of the past and our sense of abroad; with France and England, life and art, sex and death, George Sand and Louise Colet, aesthetics and redcurrant jam; and with its enigmatic narrator, a retired English doctor, whose life and secrets are slowly revealed.

A compelling weave of fiction and imaginatively ordered fact, Flaubert's Parrot is by turns moving and entertaining, witty and scholarly, and a tour de force of seductive originality

190 pages, Paperback

First published October 1, 1984

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About the author

Julian Barnes

134 books6,152 followers
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 and Merton College, Oxford, he worked as a lexicographer for the Oxford English Dictionary. Subsequently, he worked as a literary editor and film critic. He now writes full-time. His brother, Jonathan Barnes, is a philosopher specialized in Ancient Philosophy.

He lived in London with his wife, the literary agent Pat Kavanagh, until her death on 20 October 2008.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,313 reviews
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,468 reviews3,635 followers
September 11, 2021
How can we know the past? Old articles are silent witnesses of the days gone… The old object in question is a green stuffed parrot…
How do we seize the past? Can we ever do so? When I was a medical student some pranksters at an end-of-term dance released into the hall a piglet which had been smeared with grease. It squirmed between legs, evaded capture, squealed a lot. People fell over trying to grasp it, and were made to look ridiculous in the process. The past often seems to behave like that piglet.

The past can’t be resurrected… But it can be made up.
When Gustave Flaubert was writing A Simple Heart the stuffed parrot served him as an inspiration… But actually there are two such parrots in two museums… Which one is authentic? Are both fake?
It makes me recall a holy relic of Jesus Christ’s prepuce… Throughout Christian history dozens of churches possessed this wondrous relic.
Julian Barnes doesn’t write a biography… He researches Gustave Flaubert’s life… Therefore even the dreams that didn’t come to pass become a part of history…
In 1850, from Constantinople, Flaubert announces three projects: ‘Une nuit de Don Juan’ (which reaches the planning stage); ‘Anubis’, the story of ‘the woman who wants to be fucked by a god’; and ‘My Flemish novel about the young girl who dies a virgin and a mystic… in a little provincial town, at the bottom of a garden planted with cabbages and bulrushes…’

Contemplating vicissitudes of world literature Julian Barnes doesn’t forget to mention the ghoulish and everlasting obscurantism of critics…
…many critics would like to be dictators of literature, to regulate the past, and to set out with quiet authority the future direction of the art. This month, everyone must write about this; next month, nobody is allowed to write about that. So-and-so will not be reprinted until we say so. All copies of this seductively bad novel must be destroyed at once. (You think I am joking? In March 1983, the newspaper Libération urged that the French Minister for Women’s Rights should put on her Index for ‘public provocation to sexist hatred’ the following works: Pantagruel, Jude the Obscure, Baudelaire’s poems, all Kafka, The Snows of Kilimanjaro – and Madame Bovary.) Still, let’s play. I’ll go first.

Trying to reproduce the past, we always tend to patronize it…
Profile Image for Kalliope.
691 reviews22 followers
June 11, 2014
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 to access another person at all?

Or is it the story of the whereabouts of Loulou, Flaubert’s stuffed parrot that sat at his desk while he wrote Un Coeur simple?

So, how could I parrot Julian Barnes and write a review about my understanding of Flaubert’s Parrot? May be the parrots themselves would open up the key to my review.


This stuffed parrot is, surprisingly, a Joan Miró work of art (or part of one). It belongs to the MoMa, and is a gift of Mr. amd Mrs. Pierre Matisse. It is labeled as Stuffed Parrot on Wooden Perch, 1936.

Miro’s bird is part of an artistic concoction in which in addition to the stuffed bird he has also included a perch, a stuffed silk stocking with its garter, etc. But I am not interested in this artifice. I wanted to select only that which pertains to the bird. I am sticking to the facts.

Julian Barnes was born in 1946 and he wrote this book and it was published by Jonathan Cape in 1984. It was listed for the Booker Prize. The first edition had 190 pages. Sales Rank in Amazon.co.uk is 29,392 (as of August 12th, 2013).

BEAUTY - The Flying Wonder

And it should not surprise us that there is also beauty in this book. Barnes’s writing in this work is not particularly florid but elegant it is. I think he would agree, though, that the most beautiful passage in his book is his quote of Flaubert. The following passage shares the abstract beauty of my Flying Parrot as well as its mysterious exotic quality.

Ahead of them lay the Nile, bathed in mist, like a white sea; behind them lay the dark desert, like a petrified purple ocean. At last, a streak of orange light appeared to the east; and gradually the white sea in front of them became an immense expanse of fertile green, while the purple ocean behind them turned shimmering white.


Barnes questions whether there is a perfect reader. May be there isn’t, but I hope there is an archetypal Parrot. Does this one correspond to your idea of Parrot? Or may be you prefer other colours depending on what you have seen or imagined? For example, it could have a green body with a blue head and with a bit of pink at the end of its wings, and its neck could also have a touch of gold. If so, this parrot would be, if not perfect, at least the one that Flaubert described, (son corps était vert, le bout de ses ailes rose, son front bleu, et sa gorge dorée).

If it is difficult to find a perfect reader, or a perfect critic, what about a perfect Review for GR? Can it be attempted, or should I stick with just this Perfect Parrot and continue looking for the Perfect Review?


This being a book written by Barnes, it is peppered with his unmistakable clever witticism. But as humour can only be triggered from its own context, examples or quotes will not do. I would have to append a silly and ineffectual “and this made me laugh” to elicit the desired effect.

But I’ll have to admit that I did laugh out loud several times.

TRIPARTITE – Chronology

May be because he wants to cater for all tastes, Barnes, or is it Braithwaite, presents three different chronologies of Flaubert’s life. Of course I have my favourite. Out of the two formulaic ones --the pessimistic and the optimistic-- and the one constructed with quotes from Flaubert’s diaries and letters, I pick the latter.

And should I choose the blue parrot?

MODERNIST – Multiplicity

The three chronologies indicate that Barnes is aware of multiplicity of viewpoints. This issue he addresses multiple times as well, both directly and indirectly. What is Biography writing?. Multiple parrots or multiple personas?. The core of Modernism.

But I prefer not to post a photo of a Disembodied Parrot. Not all Modernism is interesting.


Unavoidably, even documents with direct utterances, such as letters and diaries are suspect. Can we trust perception, and what about projections?


Barnes explores even what it not there in Flaubert’s life, or rather, what never became his literary output. He could have written many more works, but given his highly engaged way of labouring over his novels, and the huge amount of research he undertook for each, these ghosts of ideas had to remain just as shadows of never-to-be books.


What I think Barnes does not address is why Flaubert had a stuffed parrot on his desk? May be it was a culture thing, a nineteenth century French obsession with the eroticism of this very smart bird.

Courbet and Delacroix had a similar interest in Parrots. These paintings may give as an idea in which way they thought of them.


And Delacroix's:

In the end, though, with all my parroting, I do not think I have given you a real bird nor have you learnt much about parrots.

This whole effort will remain futile, as happens with a great deal of writing, unless you want to give meaning to it.
Profile Image for Jim Fonseca.
1,102 reviews7,207 followers
August 31, 2023
A novel that is largely a non-traditional biography of Gustave Flaubert. We get all the usual biographical info on Flaubert we expect, but it’s organized in chapters such as one on the various colors of Madame Bovary’s eyes in that novel by Flaubert. Barnes threads the book with the fictitious biographer’s concern for, and reflections on, his wife dying of an illness. Spooky, because Barnes’s wife actually died of a brain tumor in 2008, but he wrote Parrot in 1986.


One chapter is structured as a glossary of odds and ends about Flaubert’s life, his acquaintances and thoughts. Another chapter tells of Flaubert’s long-term relationship with Louise Colet from HER perspective.

A chapter titled “The Train-Spotter’s Guide to Flaubert” features Flaubert’s thoughts on trains, how they figured in his novels, and one house that he lived in, visible from the tracks.

“The Flaubert Bestiary” chapter features his pets, animals in his stories, and how they were connected to animals he owned, and the parrot! The chapter called “The Case Against” features sixteen things (count ‘em) his detractors said ranging from the cosmic (he hated humanity) to the mundane (there are a lot of animals slaughtered in his books). Barnes demolishes most, but not all, (isn’t that phrase redundant?) of these bad raps.

Flaubert at times claimed he was annoyed at the overbearing fame of Madame Bovary that overshadowed his other work. (All authors should be so lucky.) Barnes tells us we should take him a “little seriously” on this matter.

Quotes I liked: “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.”


Flaubert believed in “authorial absence.” He wrote “I think that one must not show one’s own, and that the artist must no more appear in his work than God does in nature.” Of course times change, deconstruction arrived, and no one believes that an author can remain hidden now.

This book is a meta-biography because Barnes offers his reflections on the “why” of a biography. He starts with a discussion of the statue of Flaubert in Rouen in northern France (pictured above), just across the English Channel. We love Madame Bovary but why can’t we let it go at that? Why the statue? Why a museum? Why a biography? What do we expect to get out of wandering through Flaubert’s home? Why do we go to his grave? – he wasn’t family.

Here's where the book’s title comes from: Flaubert wrote with a brilliantly colored stuffed parrot on his desk to inspire him. It could have been any one of a number of parrots lent out by the local museum at the time but for some reason we want to know WHICH ONE really was his parrot.


A very good read; it was short-listed for the Booker Prize.

Top photo is Flaubert's statue in Rouen from Wikimedia
The parrot from booksnplaces.files.wordpress.com
The author from thereadersroom.org

[Revised 4/27/22, edited 8/31/23]
Profile Image for Fionnuala.
792 reviews
July 5, 2021
This book has been perched on my to-read shelf for quite a few years, and recently, fresh from reading Madame Bovary and L'éducation sentimentale (as well as Bouvard Et Pécuchet), I thought the perfect moment had arrived to take Flaubert's Parrot down from the shelf and dust him off. On page sixteen however, Julien Barnes mentions Flaubert's Un coeur simple, saying, perhaps you know the story. I didn't, so I put Flaubert's Parrot back on the shelf and read the perfect little tale of Félicité and her parrot instead. Flaubert wrote two other novellas at the same time so I read those as well. Then I took Flaubert's Parrot down from his perch for the second time.

On page twenty-five, Barnes mentions the huge success Flaubert had with Salammbô so I threw a cloth over the Parrot and ordered a copy, but since it was close to Christmas, I didn't expect it to arrive quickly so I read a kindle version of Flaubert's Saint Antoine in the meantime (Salammbô wasn't available on kindle in French). The Parrot remained under wraps for the following three weeks while I feavered with Antoine in the desert, and eventually thirsted with Salammbô in besieged Carthage.

When I finally settled down with the Parrot, I was glad that I'd read all of Gustave Flaubert's fiction first as I understood the references better, though the frequent mention of Gustave F's letters had me pausing for a moment. But no, I couldn't possibly shelve the Parrot again so I ignored the call of the Letters (in any case, I'd like to be certain that Flaubert and his correspondents wanted them published (plus, there must be forty years worth of correspondence, and I'm the sort of obsessive who'd feel obliged to begin with Volume I and read them all (and I wouldn't want to risk anyone confusing me with Julien B in the Flaubert obsession stakes))).

Geoffrey Braithwaite, Geoffrey Braithwaite!

That squawk is to remind myself that there's a narrator in this book - otherwise I may keep referring to 'Julien B's obsession' instead of 'Geoffrey B's obsession'.
Never has a narrator been so not present for me as GB has been (and he doesn't like being called GB, by the way (I expect he doesn't want to be confused with Great Britain, given that he's so obsessed with everything French: Camembert, road signs, pharmacies, the behavior of children in restaurants...(and let's not forget that Geoffrey B is the creation of the man who wrote England, England (hmm...)))).

So, in this book, Geoffrey B (whom Julien B, in the cover note, implies is a real person who translated all the Flaubert excerpts himself, thereby hinting that he, Julien B, is the one who should be considered 'not present' in the narrative) recounts his obsession with the creator of the 'adulterous' Emma Bovary. For me however, JB is hintingly present all the time, and I kept thinking that GB's obsession with adulterous wives was really JB's obsession (there is more attention given to Emma Bovary in this book than to any of Gustave Flaubert's other characters (and more attention given to her 'adulterous' acts than to any other aspect of her story (plus, the words 'corruption' and 'vile' are used in association with Emma's 'adultery' which made me wonder why, when women take lovers, they are immediately branded as adulterers whereas when men take lovers, it is mostly described as infidelity or simply an affair?))).

Geoffrey B is a doctor however, so the few times he mentioned that, I remembered that he wasn't Julien B who has never been a doctor as far as I know (but that may be a misconception on my part - a mistaken assumption that this author isn't also a doctor (after all, the writer Arthur Conan Doyle, about whom JB has also written, was a doctor)).

But GB being a doctor led to another confusion because Charles Bovary was a doctor, and both his and GB's wives took lovers, and both wives committed suicide, so when I wasn't confusing GB with JB, I was confusing him with Charles B. And I even managed to confuse CB with JB sometimes - especially when the narrative showed a strong affinity for Charles' predicament.

But I realise that I may have misconceptions about JB's real intentions, and JB/GB anticipated me wanting to figure out his motives: You expect something from me too, don't you? It's like that nowadays. People assume they own a part of you, on no matter how small an acquaintance; while if you are reckless enough to write a book, this puts your bank account, your medical records, and the state of your marriage into the public domain. Flaubert disapproved. It seems Gustave F felt a writer's work should survive alone: The artist must manage to make posterity believe that he never existed. Indeed.
According to JB, near the end of his life, when he was very tired, and struggling to finish his final book, Gustave F imagined himself liquefying like an old Camembert, which I think is a great way of disappearing, and I don't think posterity has anywhere to store melted Camembert (JB's narrative is full of asides like that which I really enjoyed).

On the subject of misconceptions (a problem that preoccupied Gustave F so much he compiled a dictionary of common myths), Julien B allows Geoffrey B to correct some of the misconceptions that exist about GF himself (though JB/GB admits GF had flaws aplenty (I felt JB's willingness to admit his own flaws too which I found reassuring (no one could bear us if we didn't have some flaws).
One of the misconceptions about GF relates to an obituary that stated that he was a doctor as well as a writer! Another, that he was once observed to have been 'beastly' to a woman at a party in his home. About that allegation, GB speculates that GF was simply afraid that the woman might enter his study, implying that it is understandable that a writer would want to keep busybodies out of his study at all costs. Hmm.

So what are we doing in GF's study? Yes, JB and GB definitely invite us into Gustave F's study, and into every private corner of his life. And by correcting the many misconceptions about him, no matter how entertainingly, they plant ideas in our minds about poor liquified Flau(em)bert that we never had before. Hmm.
So much for GF's statement about posterity.

And so much for GB's manifesto about the things writers shouldn't write about:
There shall be no more novels which are really about other novels. No 'modern versions', reworking, sequels or prequels. No imaginative completions of works left unfinished on their author's death. Instead, every author is to be issued with a sampler in colored wools to hang over the fireplace. It reads: Knit Your Own Stuff.

But I know that JB is laughing in the privacy of his study at all the misconceptions about himself and his intentions he's managed to convey in this very entertaining book.
Profile Image for Dolors.
541 reviews2,286 followers
February 23, 2017
That I knew very little of Flaubert’s life was an advantage for me to get a full immersion into this literary extravaganza. One can tell that Barnes had fun writing this alternative biography of the famous French writer, using his stuffed parrot to concoct a colorful tapestry of interspersed anecdotes with metaliterary intention, ironic finesse and the savoir faire of a virtuous ventriloquist.

The fictitious narrator Doctor Geoffrey Braithwaite scrutinizes the correspondence between Flaubert and his net of acquaintances and a sample of pompous academic miscellania to (mis-)construct his own theories about the writer’s life, or rather, he presents the evidence and allows the reader to make his own assumptions in quite a burlesque style.
The result of this rigorous exploration is the vivid image of an eccentric, stubborn, contradictory, scatological, decadent but fiercely intelligent artist, hungry for the hedonistic pleasures of life but sceptic about its purpose. As a byproduct, the novel (is this a novel?) works like a very entertaining diatribe against literary criticism, biographies and… the railways!

Barnes plays tricks on the reader, crossing the hazy line between reality and fiction. In Geoffrey, the reader can get a glimpse of the British writer and sense his deep admiration for Flaubert. In the non-biography of the French author, one can’t help but wonder about the revelations discovered by the fictitious chronicler. Would Flaubert’s lover, the poet Louise Colet, bare her emotions and hurt pride with such honesty? Was Flaubert literal when he described his turbid sexual life, his pure love for his mother or his flamboyant ideas about politics, religion and… animals?

All in all, the book mystified and mesmerized me. The lingering taste in my mouth after turning the last page is surprisingly sweet. Because rising above the witticisms, the apparently detached and playful teasing; love for words, love for literature and deep reflections of philosophical nature on the role of the artist and the timelessness of his creative output is what prevails in this original work.
The glassy eyes of the stuffed parrot stare at the reader and imitating Flaubert’s chirping voice, he sings “¡Loulou c’est moi!”
Whatever the real identity of the parrot may be, Flaubert’s essence shines in myriad colors in this homage to the writer and to his gift for elevating the imaginary to a reality greater than him, greater than us.
Profile Image for Valeriu Gherghel.
Author 6 books1,447 followers
July 31, 2023
O carte amuzantă, scrisă anume pentru fanii lui Flaubert (între care, firește, eu sînt cel mai mic și mai umil).

Evident, ficțiunea biografică a lui Julian Barnes nu urmează un fir cronologic strict, precum biografiile clasice (viața și opera). Totul depinde de voia și placul naratorului, medicul englez Geoffrey Braithwaite. Iar numitul medic, fan devotat al operei lui Flaubert, e un povestitor capricios, sare de la una la alta, fără a respecta pașii unui biograf academic. În definitiv, ce are a face papagalul apocrif de la Hotel Dieu cu fantomatica guvernantă a prozatorului, englezoaica Juliet Herbert?

Julian Barnes a realizat, deci, un puzzle biografic. Totul e riguros documentat. Dacă verifici un amănunt oarecare (cum e cu ochii doamnei Bovary, să spunem), observi imediat că Geoffrey Braithwaite nu minte niciodată cînd se referă la viața și opera lui Flaubert, deși minte adesea cînd se referă la sine. Firește, un profesor american cu numele de Ed Villiers nu există. Corespondența dintre Flaubert și misterioasa Juliet Herbert (dacă au schimbat scrisori) nu a fost distrusă de acest istoric puritan, ci de purul hazard.

Nu știu dacă genul literar al „bioficțiunii” (care nu e totuna cu biografia romanțată) a fost inventat de Julian Barnes. Știu însă precis că Papagalul lui Flaubert e o carte excelentă.

Și fiindcă am amintit de legendara guvernantă a prozatorului, n-ar fi rău să transcriu acest pasaj:
„Cîndva, la mijlocul anilor 1850, [Juliet Herbert] s-a angajat ca guvernantă a nepoatei lui Flaubert, Caroline, și a petrecut la Croisset un număr nedeterminat de ani. Ulterior, s-a întors la Londra. Flaubert îi scria, iar ea îi răspundea; din cînd în cînd, se vizitau chiar. Asta-i tot ce se cunoaște. Nu s-a păstrat nici măcar o singură epistolă din cele adresate ei, sau scrise de ea. Despre familia femeii, nu știm aproape nimic. Nu se știe nici măcar cum arăta. Nu ne-a parvenit nici o descriere a guvernantei și nici unul dintre prietenii lui Flaubert nu s-a gîndit să-i închine vreun rînd după moartea maestrului, cînd erau consemnate memoriile tuturor femeilor importante din viața lui”.

Profile Image for Fabian.
957 reviews1,623 followers
October 26, 2020
Will be top contender for novel of the year for me. Or, err... anti-novel? It is intelligent literary analysis at its most intimate, at its most arresting and brilliant; this may be one of the best literary dissertations of all time. & that is, well, bizarre; the last time I had declared this so recalcitrantly, was for Mario Vargas Llosa's "The Perpetual Orgy," another immersive "lit. paper" of the 19th century Flaubert, and specifically on his megapopular diva M. E. Bovary.

Barnes merges poetics and juggles myriad miracles in this, a satirical alchemy that hits you out of nowhere. What a trick! He takes the antiquated father of realism by the hand, and jolts him out into our modern day. What fucking balls, this dude! This is nothing short of madness. Playful and overarticulate, "Flaubert's Parrot" is an out-of-this-world experience, where fiction (biography) and more fiction (apocrypha) interplays with history and the drama it all is to finally unravel it. There is a certain V.I.P.ness to the whole endeavor, oh exalted reader! You are being shown celestial things and "the sky is a theater of possibilities" (83)!

"Flaubert's Parrot," I shit you not, LITERALLY grabs the reader by the lapels and yells brilliant miscellany right at his face. This, to my knowledge, is the first novel to EVER do this--to affect the brain and heart and lungs alike.

And what, finally is Flaubert's Parrot? (This is NO SPOILER:) An "elusive emblem of the writer's voice." It's a search for art in objects-- which is what a novel actually is. (Shivers down the back...)


Here are just two of my favorite things maestro Flaubert once wrote:

(and of course, they deal with class & society:)

"The whole dream of democracy is to raise the proletariat to the level of stupidity attained by the bourgeoisie."


"The greatest patriotism is to tell your country when it is behaving dishonorably, foolishly, viciously."

...Thanks Barnes-dude. Thanks for smashing Novel Conventions to smithereens; further, for making me fall in love with the writing-out of ideas, of the dissection of the anatomy of great art.
Profile Image for Guille.
785 reviews1,754 followers
February 6, 2020
“La vanidad es un loro que salta de rama en rama y parlotea a la vista de todos." Flaubert
Con aires del mejor Vila-Matas, “El loro de Flaubert” es un ensayo que pudiera ser una novela que pudiera ser un ensayo en el que, combinando múltiples y eficaces formas de expresión, Barnes indaga en el Flaubert escritor y en el Flaubert persona, dos Flaubert como lo dos loros disecados que se disputan el honor de ser aquel que sirvió de inspiración al autor para escribir su relato “Un corazón sencillo”, aunque sin descartar que el verdadero bien pudiera ser otro.

El propio autor define en un pasaje del texto lo que es “El loro de Flaubert”:
“Siento la tentación de escribir un Diccionario de tópicos sobre el propio Flaubert. Un diccionario cortito: una guía de bolsillo que oculte una bomba de relojería; un texto de aspecto serio pero al mismo tiempo engañoso. La erudición heredada, pero en forma de píldora; y con algunas de las píldoras envenenadas. Este es el atractivo, y también el peligro, de la ironía: la facilidad con que permite al escritor estar en apariencia ausente de su obra, pero, en realidad, presente con sus indirectas.”
Y no cabe duda de que un gran punto a favor de Barnes es la forma en que ha conseguido hacerme interesantes y muy amenas todas esas disquisiciones sobre el autor de Madame Bovary. Como interesantes son todas esas cuestiones sobre literatura y su relación con la vida, e ingeniosas las irónicas puyas que descarga sobre esos críticos capaces de discutir seriamente acerca del lugar exacto en el que el autor besó a un perro buscando coincidir con el beso que previamente su amante había estampado en el mismo animal.

Pero, evidentemente, para mí no es esto lo mejor de este libro. Barnes, con quien comparto pesimismo, …
“No se puede cambiar a la humanidad, sólo conocerla”
“Para ser feliz había que cumplir tres requisitos previos, ser estúpido, ser egoísta y gozar de buena salud.”
… nos presenta aquí a Braithwaite, un inglés apático, médico de profesión, que, tras la muerte de su esposa, se vuelca en resolver el asunto del loro (“Más vale malograr la ancianidad que no saber qué hacer con ella”) mientras especula acerca de la vida del autor de esa famosa novela en la que una mujer engaña a su marido, de profesión médico, dándole pie a reflexionar sobre la vida en general y sobre la suya en particular,…
“No hay que participar: la felicidad está en la imaginación, no en el acto. El placer se encuentra primero en la ilusión, y luego en el recuerdo… Hay quienes se abstienen y observan, pues le tienen tanto miedo a la decepción como a la satisfacción. Otros se lanzan, disfrutan, se arriesgan a conciencia… Sé muy bien a cuál de las dos categorías pertenezco; y sé en cuál estaba Ellen.”
… así como acerca de la dificultad de conocer profundamente a alguien…
“Ellen. Mi esposa: una persona a la que tengo la sensación entender mucho peor que a un escritor extranjero que lleva cien años muerto… En los libros las cosas quedan explicadas; en la vida, no. No me extraña que la gente prefiera los libros. Los libros le dan sentido a la vida. El único problema radica en que las vidas a las que dan sentido son las de otros, jamás a la del lector.”
... y la peligrosa curiosidad que nos empuja a querer hacerlo…
“¿La curiosidad es siempre un obstáculo que se opone a los propios intereses? O bien, más simplemente, ¿no será que nuestro deseo de conocer lo peor es la perversión favorita del amor?... Yo amé a Ellen, y quise saber lo peor… Ellen no me devolvió nunca esta caricia. Me apreciaba, siempre estaba automáticamente dispuesta a aceptar, como si fuese un asunto que no valiese la pena discutir, que me amaba pero siempre pensaba, sin dudarlo, lo mejor de mí. Esa es la diferencia. Ni siquiera trató de buscar ese panel deslizante que da paso a la cámara secreta del corazón, la cámara en la que se guardan los recuerdos y los cadáveres.”
… y lo mal pensada que está esta vida nuestra.
“Se pueden enmarcar las verdades acerca de la literatura antes de haber publicado un solo libro; pero las verdades sobre la vida sólo pueden enmarcarse cuando ya es demasiado tarde y todo da igual.”
Profile Image for Jaline.
444 reviews1,652 followers
August 21, 2018
Geoffrey Braithwaite, a doctor with three children, takes a vacation to Rouen in France to pay homage to his literary hero, Gustave Flaubert, most famously known for his novel Madame Bovary. On this pilgrimage, Dr. Braithwaite is stimulated to think of the many arguments and critiques of his hero and we are drawn along with him. An example of his arguments is in his response to critics who claimed Flaubert was not patriotic:

“The greatest patriotism is to tell your country when it is behaving dishonourably, foolishly, viciously. The writer must be universal in sympathy and an outcast by nature: only then can he see clearly.”

As he visits the points of interest in Rouen, he notices something strange. In Flaubert’s story, Un coeur simple there is a parrot. It is said that Flaubert borrowed this parrot from the Museum so he could further study “parrotism” while he writes the story. Yet, as Dr. Braithwaite continues on, he discovers two parrots, in two different locations within the city – both allegedly the parrot that inspired (and annoyed) Flaubert. Now he is on a mission. How do you compare two parrots, one already idealized by memory and metaphor, the other a squawking intruder?

Dr. Braithwaite has this to say about the story with a parrot:

The control of tone is vital. Imagine the technical difficulty of writing a story in which a badly-stuffed bird with a ridiculous name ends up standing in for one third of the Trinity, and in which the intention is neither satirical, sentimental, nor blasphemous. Imagine further telling such a story from the point of view of an ignorant old woman without making it sound derogatory or coy. But then the aim of Un Coeur simple is quite elsewhere: the parrot is a perfect and controlled example of the Flaubertian grotesque.

While in a bookstore, Dr. Braithwaite hears, through a fellow named Ed Winterton, of the existence of letters between Flaubert and a governess who had left France to live in England. He envisions now a book, his book: ‘Juliet Herbert: A Mystery Solved, by Geoffrey Braithwaite’, illustrated with one of those photographs in which you can’t quite read the handwriting. And he muses, “ . . . perhaps the sweetest moment in writing is the arrival of that idea for a book which never has to be written, which is never sullied with a definite shape, which never needs be exposed to a less loving gaze than that of its author.”

In contrast to that thought, Flaubert says: ”I am bothered by my tendency to metaphor, decidedly excessive. I am devoured by comparisons as one is by lice, and I spend my time doing nothing but squashing them.” Words came easily to Flaubert, but he also saw the underlying inadequacy of the Word. Remember his sad definition from Madame Bovary: “Language is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, while all the time we long to move the stars to pity.” So you can take the novelist either way: as a pertinacious and finished stylist, or as one who considered language tragically insufficient.

This novel has so many quotable quotes. So much to think about, to ponder, to jostle for priority. I found myself, again and again, drifting off into my mind to think and reflect on what I had just read. I had over 5 pages of highlights on my eReader. Unfortunately, I could only include the few that would illustrate my own humble description of this incredible novel.

I loved the way this book was laid out. There is a section of brief biographical notes, a section of arguments with various points critics of Flaubert have made, a section of highlights A to Z in the life of Flaubert, and so many other little landscapes to discover.

At one point Geoffrey Braithwaite states: ”What happened to the truth is not recorded.” From his vantage point of just over a hundred years after Flaubert’s death, it is harder than ever to gather together facts from the sources remaining.

Flaubert wrote to Du Camp: ‘Pride is one thing: a wild beast which lives in caves and roams the desert; Vanity, on the other hand, is a parrot which hops from branch to branch and chatters away in full view.’

In reading his surviving letters and his books, are we truly any wiser about who the real Gustave Flaubert was? Maybe he was a series of blank or partially painted canvases and we are left to paint them in as we choose. If that is the case, Dr. Braithwaite did such an excellent job that we can admire all of his canvasses for days and weeks and months. We may never come closer to the truth than this.

And lest we forget, accolades must be accorded to Julian Barnes for creating this amazing character, Dr. Geoffrey Braithwaite, and the excursion we were able to share with him.
Profile Image for Lori.
371 reviews439 followers
August 27, 2021
This is now among my Favorite novels.
And you don't need to admire or even have read Flaubert to appreciate it.
It's ingenious: composed of crisp and clear prose, clever, intelligent, literary.
With parrots, crab lice and a five-legged sheep.
Intriguing and at times hilarious -- a light-hearted novel with intellectual heft that's a party between the pages.
Julian Barnes, I bow to what you've done here.
More detailed review to come sometime -- or maybe this is It.

Thanks, Numidica!
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,219 reviews9,923 followers
May 17, 2011
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, one of the handful of authors about Not One Bad Word Has Ever Been Spoken. As he muses and mumbles and huffs and puffs his way about France, gradually little fragments of his own life bob to the surface and are quickly shoved back down. He doesn't want to think about that stuff. he's over in France on this Flaubert tour to get away from all that. But back they come and gradually you get this feeling of dread creeping over the somewhat amusing observations about Flaubert and his life and times, and his gentle monologue becomes like trying to focus your eyes on something below the water and realising it might be something really...gruesome.
Profile Image for Maziyar Yf.
533 reviews280 followers
August 10, 2022
جولین بارنز نویسنده سرشناس انگلیسی در کتاب طوطی فلوبر ، زندگی نامه و آثار ادبی گوستاو فلوبر نویسنده فرانسوی و خالق مادام بوآری را در هم آمیخته و نتیجه آن کتاب متفاوت طوطی فلوبر شده است .
کتاب او از آن جهت متفاوت است که نه داستان است و نه زندگی نامه . کتاب او خط داستانی مشخص ندارد و اگرپرداختن به زندگی و کتاب های فلوبر را همانند بخشی از زندگی نامه او بدانیم ، آن هم بی طرفانه نبوده و راوی داستان با شور و علاقه و شیدایی آن را نوشته است .
از آن جایی که آشنایی چندانی با فلوبر و کتاب ها و اندیشه های او ندارم و خواندن این کتاب هم با خستگی و بی حوصلگی مفرط ناشی از کرونا همراه شده بود آنچه تنها مرا مشتاق به خواندن کتاب تا پایان نگه داشت لطافت کلام جولین بارنز بود که به لطف ترجمه استادانه الهام نظری اگرچه به شیوایی و فصاحت کتاب اضافه کرده بود اما برای لذت بردن و همراه و همگام با جولین بارنز شدن ممکن است دست کم برای من چندان کافی نبوده باشد .
Profile Image for ·Karen·.
617 reviews768 followers
December 5, 2015
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, but finds himself overwhelmed by the wealth of material, none of which is to be trusted. When writing the biography of a writer, is his work a legitimate source of material to make assumptions about the man, even if he does famously, infamously say "Madame Bovary, c'est moi"? I'd say no, definitely not, but then his letters? Are they any more reliable as a key to The Real Flaubert? He was a writer after all, so was he writing letters as a screen onto which he could project a better version of himself, more virile, more unconventional, more charismatic, more amusing, more more? Just more.

So, it's not about parrots, or Flaubert, but about biographies and how to write them? Well, it goes even further, I'd go further, I'd go a long way with Mr. Barnes: it's a biography that questions the whole dubious undertaking of writing a biography. The initial choice of subject - what questionable motives are involved there? The crass mistakes that can be made because of the biographer's lack of understanding of a foreign language, or an alien culture (or both). Tendentiousness, bias, the biographer wanting to make some point about the past or the present that can best be proved by skewering a famous icon of an age. Getting bogged down in futile searches for the genuine detail, the documented evidence - which parrot? (does it matter at all?). How much of the biographer is allowed to be in there, anyway? None? Not possible; then there would be no biography, the writer could just open the archives and ask the reader to get on with it. There is a biographer behind every biography, (duh) giving it form, structure, shaping it, patting it and cutting bits off there and lopping a bit off here, and adding a comment here and a slightly disapproving intake of breath there: how much is (s)he allowed to intrude?

So it goes further, again: a book that isn't about parrots, or Flaubert, or his works, or Geoffrey Braithwaite, or the art of biography, or writing generally, but in fact manages to tell you an awful lot about all of those things, within 190 pages. You know what I think this is about? It's about irony.
Profile Image for Ailsa.
168 reviews221 followers
June 11, 2018
"I attract mad people and animals."

A novelised biography of Gustave Flaubert. But better than that sounds.
I get the feeling that while Julian Barnes was stalking his favourite author, he found so many oddities and pleasing coincidences (les perroquets !) that he kept a journal entitled “Cool shit I know about Flaubert and other musings” which became this book.
The obsession rubs off. You’re lying if you enjoyed this and didn’t contemplate ordering “A Simple Soul”.

This quote cut too close to home: “Even what art is escapes them. They find the annotations more interesting than the text. They set more store by the crutches than the legs.” - Gustave Flaubert (via Julian Barnes, now via me in a goodreads review you are now reading)
“Why does writing make us chase the writer? Why can’t we leave well alone? Why aren’t the books enough?”

“as for coincidences in books - there’s something cheap and sentimental about the device; it can’t help always seeming aesthetically gimcrack.”

“the common but passionate reader is allowed to forget; he can go away, be unfaithful with other writers, come back and be entranced again.”

“the lazy rush to understand”

“How do we seize the past?... We read, we learn, we ask, we remember, we are humble; and then a casual detail shifts everything.”

“He finds himself by looking into the works of others.”

“you trust the mystifier more if you know he’s deliberately choosing not to be lucid. You trust Picasso all the way because he could draw like Ingres.”

“Do the books that writers don’t write matter?”

“perhaps the sweetest moment in writing is the arrival of that idea for a book which never has to be written… which never needs to be exposed to a less loving gaze than that of its author.”

“Is your PhD from Bucharest?” (haha)

“pleasure is found first in anticipation, later in memory”
Profile Image for Ian "Marvin" Graye.
875 reviews2,272 followers
November 29, 2022
[I Remember Guildford]:

I bought my copy of this novel in a second-hand bookshop in Guildford (in Surrey, England), in late 1984. It's a first edition hardback.

I don't recall the exact location of the bookshop. Was it High Street or Jenner Road? I suppose I could Google it, but that would probably result in more information than is necessary to tell my story. There's no need to remember the precise address, or the cathedral or the pool, if there was a pool. I'd prefer to hold on to the concrete memories that I have, rather than fabricate more.

Nothing struck me as unusual about the book when I first picked it off the shelf, although I was attracted to the illustration on the front cover. It consisted of a black and white drawing of a man, presumably Flaubert himself, and a water colour of a parrot. I've always been fascinated by parrots, most likely since, when in the Boy Scouts, I had been the patrol leader of Rosella Patrol.

I quickly decided to purchase the book, and, when I walked up to the front counter, I was served by a gentleman who was probably aged in his late 40's or early 50's. When I handed the book to him, he responded, "This was my daughter's copy. She's just finished reading it, and she loved it."

It was then that he opened the book and revealed what appeared to be two letters tucked in behind the back dust jacket, one hand-written, and the other type-written. He spread them both out on the counter.

I focussed on the type-written letter first, because it was easier to read upside down. It was only one page long, and I could see that it was signed by Julian, and addressed to Louise.

The hand-written letter was a carbon copy of a letter addressed to Mister Barnes, and was evidently signed Louise. The hand writing was neat cursive. I suspected that Louise must have been in her mid-teens.

I responded to the owner, "I don't mind, if you don't want to sell it."

He jokingly answered, "We wouldn't put it on the shelf, if we didn't want to sell it."

Just then, a girl, who I assumed was Louise, joined him at the counter.

I said to her, "You can keep the letters, if you'd like to."

She replied, "Oh, no, they belong with the book."

I took her word for it, and quickly completed my transaction with her father. I didn't even know what was in the letters at the time.

Julian Barnes' Parrot Source


Dear Mr. Barnes,

I just finished reading your novel, and I loved it.

If I was you or Doctor Braithwaite, I wouldn't worry about what critics might say about it. Please excuse the French, but my father always says, "Opinions are like a_ _e-h_ _ _s, everybody has one."

Sometimes, it seems like critics are being paid to find fault with a book, rather than to show how good it is (and why).

I've already told all of my friends at school how much fun your book is. It was a gift from my father, and I'm so grateful. He owns a bookshop, so we can read just about anything we want.

Yours sincerely,

Louise C_ _ _ t
Year 10, Guildford High School

Dear Louise,

Thank you for your kind letter.

I have to say that your letter means more to my narrator and me than the opinion of any critic, whether positive or negative (obviously, in the latter case, I suppose).

I hope your friends enjoy our playful little novel as much as you did. It's nice to know that there are readers like you around.

Yours sincerely,




"...my nerves were finally calmed by the first letter I got from someone not professionally (or amicably) involved with the book. It came not from a university lecturer in French literature, but from a 15-year-old schoolgirl working in her father's bookshop in Guildford. She had never read a word of Flaubert, but had picked up my novel and raced through it, finding hindrance in neither the unfamiliar subject matter nor the peculiar structure. So, perhaps, I thought, the book wouldn't be condemned to a coterie readership; perhaps, after all, my Parrot might fly."

Julian Barnes, "When Flaubert Took Wing"

Profile Image for Théo d'Or .
385 reviews184 followers
September 6, 2021
Through the first books I read of Barnes, I met a Barnes consumed by love in its purest and most devastating sense. I would not have thought, however, that he could be also a victim of another kind of love, one of deification, and the force of deepening his own feelings to be as strong as in the case of love for his wife, after her dissapearance, a chapter that marked him overwhelmingly.

Barnes dedicates an unusual novel to Flaubert - " Flaubert's Parrot" - a book marked by orality, ( almost ) a biographical novel, which materializes the quest of one author into another deified author. At the same time, it is a novel that uses " trompe- l'oeil "strategies, focusing on what Flaubert did, didn't - or could have done, in - and with - his life/ writing. I see the premise of this book as approaching the past in such a way that it is presented uncanonizingly.
Barnes is looking for old and new traces of his favorite subject, but the paradoxe is revealed even from the beginning : Flaubert left nothing for the future to reveal his private life.
The question that arises, instinctively, would be - of course, who or what is this Flaubert's parrot, is it just a title, or a trick ?

Barnes tells us that the parrot is a perfect, well-controlled example of the grotesque flaubertian.
But that raises another questioning concern : " Is the writer much more than a refined parrot ? "
There are, in fact, two Flaubert's parrots. At the end of the book, I realize that they are both fake, the deduction being relatively simple : the parrot becomes a lyrical leit-motif, as it metaphorizes Flaubert, through the lens of Barnes. The fetish parrot could explain ( unacceptable to critics, but perfectly viable for supporters of the postmodern novel ) - Flaubert's writing.

The novel is written according to the technique of the net made of holes tied with twine between them.
We have two differently nuanced chronologies of the French writer's life, but also a chronology made up only of essentials quotations from Flaubert, depending on the years in which they were written .
Interesting and funny is Barnes's proposal for a ( playful ) decalogue for the interdiction of some novel subjects, such as man's régression to the wild, incest, the theme of slaughterhouses, the spatialization of the novel at Oxford or Cambridge, zoophilia scenes, erotic scenes in the shower ( yikes ! ) , the wars in the British Empire, novels with characters without exact names....

As Flaubert's swordsman, Julian Barnes distinguishes between love for a woman, and love for a writer :
" You love a woman anyway, ( her mistakes and abuses relieves you ), but you don't love a writer anyway, but always defending him," hence the sentence " Is it possible that the love for a writer to be the purest, most constant form of love ".

Profile Image for Bianca.
1,084 reviews925 followers
October 7, 2017
Is it splendid, or stupid, to take life seriously?

When I began listening to this audiobook, I wasn't in the right state of mind, as I was distracted and couldn't concentrate, so I was about to give up on it. I'm glad that I stuck it out, because, it turned out to be brilliant, delightful, surprising, and altogether original. I shouldn't be surprised, after all, the previous six Barnes books I listened to this year were of the highest quality - always extremely eloquent.

I am awed by Barnes' brilliance and literary prowess. The way his mind works!!! How he takes some obscure fact - Flaubert's parrot and then constructs such an interesting book, part biography - part novel, a very interesting concoction that melds fact with fiction in a very original way.

It is mainly about Flaubert (I knew almost nothing about the famous French writer, although I promised myself that this is the year I finally read Madame Bovary). It's also about art, personality, fame, critics, and relationships.

All the biographical details about Flaubert's life are delivered via our narrator, a retired British doctor, who's a Flaubert amateur scholar. Many of the biographical entries are from correspondence to and from Flaubert or his journal entries.

I've come to the conclusion that more often than not we shouldn't know too much about geniuses or prestigious artists, scientists, writers etc. Their human selves are more often than not quite disappointing, with their human failings, proclivities and other unsavoury traits. How dare they?
It's probably my fault for putting people whose works/creations I admire on a pedestal. It should be interesting to find out how all the things I've learnt about Flaubert and Madame Bovary will affect/influence my reading of his masterpiece. I can't wait to find out for myself.

Anyway, I should stop my ramblings. If you're looking for proper, more articulate reviews, there are plenty on GR.

My love affair with Barnes continues and it stays interesting and challenging - but in a good kind of way.

NB: Richard Morant, the narrator of this audiobook, was excellent.
Profile Image for Marc.
3,110 reviews1,177 followers
December 26, 2020
SPOILER ALERT! It takes a while to realize what this little book is about: at first you have the impression Barnes lets us share his passion for the 19th Century French author Flaubert, master of the realistic school. We seem to follow Barnes in a visit to Rouen and other places, and learn to know the mystery of the two stuffed parrots, of which at least one (well, perhaps...) stood on the desk of Flaubert and which was his model for a short story. But then, gradually, it becomes clear that not Barnes, but someone else, a doctor Geoffrey Braithwaite, is the author of this novel, a man wrestling with the death of his wife. In the meanwhile a lot of information is passed on: big and little details of the life and personality of Flaubert, both interesting and detestable; this is done in different ways and styles.

The booklet is quite amusing and humorous. In postmodern sense it illustrates that it is almost impossible to get a grip on the real Flaubert, just as doctor Braithwaite in the end has to admit he did not really know his wife. As a bonus literary critics are satirized, philosophical reveries on art and reality are served and the British and French soul are exposed. Quite interesting, but also with some flaws (not all chapters are succesful). All in all a very fine novel, written in a clever, efficient style.
Profile Image for بهمن.
Author 12 books763 followers
November 4, 2018
طوطی فلوبر کتابی است درخشان که نه می‌شود گفت رمان است و نه می‌شود گفت نیست. نه می‌شود گفت نقد ادبی است و نه می‌شود گفت نیست. ظاهرا آن را در رده «رمان‌های پست‌مدرن»‌ طبقه‌بندی می‌کنند و خیلی‌ها آن را از بهترین نمونه‌های این نوع رمان می‌دانند. شخصیت اصلی کتاب یک منتقد معمولی انگلیسی است که درباره یک نکته پیش‌پاافتاده در زندگی گوستاو فلوبر تحقیق می‌کند و از این راه جنبه‌های مختلف زندگی فلوبر را روایت می‌کند. در عین حال هم زندگینامه فلوبر است و هم نیست.
این را هم بگویم که برای لذت ��ردن از کتاب نیازی نیست کتاب‌های فلوبر را خوانده باشید (من خودم فقط «تربیت احساسات» را خوانده‌ام)، گرچه طبعا هرچه بیشتر از او خوانده باشید کتاب برایتان جالب‌تر خواهد بود.
ققط حواستان باشد که طوطی فلوبر ربطی به کتاب‌های دیگر بارنز که به فارسی ترجمه شده (هیاهوی زمان و درک یک پایان) ندارد و فضایش به‌کل متفاوت است، گرچه نویسنده‌اش همان نابغه است و نبوغش در این کتاب حتی بیشتر از آن دو کتاب هویداست.
کتاب را الهام نظری ترجمه کرده که فکر کنم دومین کارش باشد. واقعا مترجم شجاعی است که در اوایل کار سراغ کتابی به این پیچیدگی رفته و کارش را هم خوب انجام داده. طبعا این کتاب هم نیاز به ویرایش مفصل داشت که مهدی نوری و علیرضا اسماعیل‌پور انجامش دادند و به گفته خودشان یکی از سخت‌ترین کتاب‌هایی بود که در این سال‌ها ویرایش کرده‌اند.
خلاصه کلام این‌که اگر فقط قصه‌گویی برایتان مهم نیست و از پیچیدگی‌های ادبیات لذت می‌برید، طوطی فلوبر را از دست ندهید، ولی اگر دنبال رمان خوشخوان هستید طوطی فلوبر انتخاب خوبی نیست.
Profile Image for Argos.
1,032 reviews315 followers
December 15, 2020
Fransız sanat ve kültürüne aşık olan İngiliz Julian Barnes, kapsamlı bir araştırmaya dayanan denemelerini roman tarzında ve mükemmel bir estetik kurguyla yazmış. Araştırma konusu ise sıradışı kişiliği ile dikkat çeken bir Fransız yazar; Gustave Flaubert. Kitabın konusu arka kapak tanıtım yazısında çok iyi özetlenmiş, bu nedenle hiç değinmeyeceğim.

İki öykünün parelel seyrettiği bu deneme-romanının kurgusu ilginç, Barnes’in imzası niteliğinde olan ironi faktörü çok net, ayrıca dedikodu, abartılı yorumlar ve kronolojik hatırlatmalar metni akıcı ve heyecan verici hale getiriyor. Anlatıcı, romanın kahramanı Flaubert takıntılı bir doktor, ancak Barnes kendisi de kitapta huysuz bir eleştirmen olarak anlatıcı rolü üstlenmiş.

Modern romanın hatta gerçekçiliğin öncüsü sayılan G. Flaubert hakkında A. Gide’den J. P Sartre’a kadar çok sayıda yazın ve düşün insanı kitaplar yazmış, görüşlerini belitmişler, sanırım en yetkin olanı Barnes’in bu deneme romanı. Her ne kadar objektifliği bir kenara bırakmış hatta Flaubert’in avukatlığına soyunacak bir taraflılıkla yazmış olsa da insanların bugün yazar hakkında ne düşünecekleri veya onu nasıl biri olarak hayal etmeleri gerektiğini dikte ettiriyor adeta.

Bu kitabı okuyanların Flaubert’i resimlerdeki sarkık bıyıklı, şişmanca, kel bir adam olarak düşünmeyecekleri açık bence. Hatta “Madam Bovary”i yazan bu insanı daha da merak edecekleri kesin.

Kitapta iki bölüm çok etkiledi beni, ilki uzatmalı sevgilisinin kurgusal mektubunu içeren “Louise Collet’in Yorumu” başlıklı 11. bölüm, ikincisi ise anlatıcının (Dr Braithwaite'in) eşini Madam Bovary, kendisini ise G. Flaubert olarak özdeşleştiren “Saf Öykü” başlıklı 13. bölüm. Zaten bu bölümden sonra ben de Flaubert ‘i, "Madam Bovary, c'est moi,"' diyen adam ola­rak kabul ettim.

Julian Barnes okumak isteyenler “Flaubert’in Papağanı” ile başlayabilirler, bu yıl okuduğum “en iyiler”den biri.
Profile Image for Edward.
419 reviews404 followers
April 10, 2017
There's something about Barnes's prose that just feels so flawless. Rarely do I trip on an ill-suited word or poorly formed sentence. Flaubert's Parrot was a pleasure to read for its use of language, for its playful tone, and for its exhaustively researched expedition through literary history. The central conceit regarding obsession (though the thread was expertly woven into the fabric of the novel) was not entirely successful: one is left impressed with the effort, but not particularly moved by it. Nonetheless, Flaubert's Parrot, for all its gimmickry and pretentiousness is really quite brilliant. It is serious, literary, postmodernist, and deeply biographical, while at the same time managing to be genuinely funny, offbeat and entertaining.
Profile Image for Jasmine.
104 reviews190 followers
October 4, 2020
"Why does the writing make us chase the writer? Why can’t we leave well alone? Why aren’t books enough?”(p. 12)

I have so many questions about Julian Barnes’ 'Flaubert’s Parrot':

Does this book deal with Flaubert’s life? Yes – to some extent. It has an odd structure – somewhere between fiction and nonfiction. The book is confusing and enlightening at the same time, and I’m asking myself, where do we draw the line between fiction and nonfiction, and is this even possible?

Who is the unreliable narrator of the story who follows the path of Flaubert’s life? How much is the implied author a part of the narrator? There must be a strong connection between the implied author and Flaubert. Julian Barnes must be a Francophile as his love of France shines through in the pages of this novel. I especially loved his description of the respectability of French pharmacies on page 84 which made me smile in agreement.

Who should read this book? I am sure that Flaubert-aficionados get the most out of it. However, at a second glance, there is more to the book. One’s own life and the narrator’s life intertwine and mingle with Flaubert’s life. The narration opens up to life and its unpredictability. Is this book, therefore, about the unreliability of life and thus in literature?

Well, as you can see clearly, Julian Barnes’ small book – shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 1984 – left me with a lot of questions. While reading it, I felt entertained and amused, sometimes a little bit bored, but still very intrigued.

Of course, it is well written but is it a must-read? I don’t think so. However, if you are interested in life and its irony, if you like well-written literature, and if you are interested in Flaubert, France and all that comes with it, you should definitely give it a go.
Profile Image for Janelle.
1,219 reviews168 followers
July 24, 2022
Two Flaubert museums, each has a stuffed parrot. Which one did Flaubert have on his desk while writing A Simple Heart? Geoffrey Braithwaite, English doctor, whose deceased wife was unfaithful, and amateur Flaubert enthusiast, tries to find out. He’s the narrator of this novel that is also an eccentric biography of Flaubert and looks at the nature of art, life, criticism, and much more. It’s an enjoyable and interesting read, it almost made me want to read Madame Bovary again.
Profile Image for Navid Taghavi.
159 reviews62 followers
February 8, 2020
"چه بر سر زرنگ ترین زندگی نامه نویسان می آید، آن گاه که قهرمان کتابشان تصمیم می گیرد کمی سر به سرشان بگذارد؟"

جفری بریث ویت (راویِ رمان) به هنگام بازدید از موزه فلوبر، دو طوطی می بیند و کنجکاو می شود تا بداند کدام طوطی زمانی نزدِ فلوبر بوده است. (فلوبر به هنگام نوشتن داستان کوتاهِ "ساده دل" یک طوطی به امانت می گیرد.) و همین بهانه ای می شود برای ورود به زندگی فلوبر.
ساختارِ بدیع و نسبتا بکر رمان جولیان بارنز از همان صفحات آغازین مشهود است. پس از مقدمه چینی کوتاه در فصل اول، فصل دوم کتاب گاهشماری از زندگی فلوبر است. تقویمی که مقدمه خوب و به جایی برای باز کردنِ پرونده زندگی شخصی و هنری فلوبر است. از این بخش به بعد دیگر خبری از طوطی نیست و زیر سایه فلوبر محو می شود. (تنها در فصل پایانی رمان است که یاد و نام طوطی احیا می شود) راویِ فلوبر شناس، فلوبر را در وسط گود می نشاند و دست نوشته هایش اعم از رمان و نامه را روی زمین پخش می کند.
در مواجهه با چنین رمانی، مساله نسبت خواننده رمان با شخصیت اصلی رمان اهمیت بیشتری پیدا می کند. چه بسا عده ای از خوانندگان شناخت زیادی از فلوبر داشته باشند و چه بسا عده ای تا به حال سراغ نوشته های فلوبر نرفته باشند و چیزی از او ندانند. رمانِ درخشانِ بارنز می تواند هر دو طیف را راضی نگه دارد. بارنز در رمانش درباره فلوبر نه آنقدر پرگویی می کند که مخاطبِ آشنا با فلوبر را دلزده نکند و نه آنقدر کم گویی می کند که خواننده ی غریب با فلوبر، از او و دنیایش سر در نیاورد و برایش گنگ به نظر برسد. در عین حال چنان نکات ریزِ و جذابی از دل زندگی فلوبر بیرون می کشد که حتی خواننده فلوبر خوان را هم به ذوق می آورد و در آن واحد چنان تصویری از فلوبر می سازد که خواننده نا آشنا در پایان رمان، به سختی می تواند در برابر خواندنِ آثار فلوبر مقاومت کند. (یقینا خواننده آشنا با فلوبر، لذت بیشتری از رمان و جزئی نگری بارنز خواهد برد.) بارنز با انتخاب فلوبرِ نکته سنج و وسواس به عنوان سوژه اصلی رمان، سنگ بزرگی برداشت، اما در پایان از این آزمون سخت، سربلند بیرون آمد تا رمانش فقط نام فلوبر را یدک نکشیده باشد و نشانی از هنر و ظرافتِ فلوبر در رمان عیان باشد. فلوبری که زولا در آگهی تسلیت مرگ او می نویسد " چهار پنجم (شهر) روآن او را نمی شناختند و یک پنجم دیگر هم از او نفرت داشتند." و خودِ او هم اینگونه خودش را معرفی می کند :
من چیزی نیستم جز یک مارمولک ادیب که زیر نور خورشید بزرگِ "زیبایی" آفتاب می گیرد. همین و بس.

(بخش هایی از رمان در کامنت)
Profile Image for Sofia.
289 reviews96 followers
December 29, 2017
"Ποια γνώση είναι χρήσιμη, ποια γνώση είναι αληθινή;" Για το συγκεκριμένο βιβλίο δεν μπορώ να δώσω ��άποια θετική απάντηση. Οι γνώσεις μου γύρω απο τον Φλωμπερ περιοριζονται στην Μανταμ Μποβαρυ που μου άφησε χλιαρές εντυπώσεις και στην Αισθητική Αγωγή που μετά τις 10 πρώτες σελίδες άφησα στην άκρη για όποτε. Έμαθα φυσικά κάποιες πληροφορίες για την ζωή του Φλωμπερ (αληθινές ή όχι δεν μπορώ να πω) , αλλά θα μπορούσα να συνεχίσω την ζωή μου και χωρίς αυτές για να είμαι ειλικρινής.
Το βιβλίο έχει μεγάλα σκαμπανευασματα απο άποψη ενδιαφέροντος κάτι που με εκνεύρισε γιατί δεν ήξερα αν έπρεπε να το παρατήσω ή όχι.
Το κομμάτι που αναλύει τα πλεονεκτήματα τη�� ανάγνωσης απο την σκοπιά του αναγνώστη και απο εκείνη του κριτικού ήταν απο τα καλύτερα. Και το μόνο που θα κρατήσω απο όλο το βιβλίο μεταξύ μας.
Profile Image for Numidica.
386 reviews8 followers
October 1, 2022
4.5 stars.

I'm very happy I read Julian Barnes' novelistic homage to Flaubert for a number of reasons, not least because I now realize how badly I misunderstood Madame Bovary in my first reading. Barnes brings Flaubert (his hero) to life in a way that a conventional biography would likely struggle to do. And Barnes knows his subject so well that one can trust him completely in his revivification of the great author. The plot, of an elderly doctor obsessively researching Flaubert, is interesting, but the story of Flaubert himself really takes center stage, and I'm happy it did. The many quotes from Gustave are often hilarious and always carefully spoken. Flaubert was uncannily prescient about what was to come, and he was not an optimist; Barnes uses this to comedic effect in "debating" a critic of Le Grand Homme: the critic charges Flaubert with hating progress, and Barnes' protagonist says, "In his defense, I cite the Twentieth Century". At one point, Flaubert says (to paraphrase), "I occasionally look at a newspaper to see what fresh calamity awaits. I do not say that we are dancing on the edge of a volcano, no, we are dancing on the wooden seat of a latrine, and I believe it is more than a touch rotten, and we will soon fall through into nineteen centuries of shit. There will be quite a lot of shouting."

Flaubert's unique approach to life (he has a sense of humor similar to DeGaulle's) is brilliantly illustrated with quotes and historical fiction that is usually about 90% history to 10% fiction. One of the things that comes through clearly is how hard Flaubert worked to find exactly the right word or phrase, and how seriously he took his craft. Flaubert's desire for clarity rose to the level of frustration with language itself: "Language is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, while all the time we long to move the stars to pity." This book is all the biography I need of Flaubert, and it has inspired me to read Bovary again, with fresh eyes.
Profile Image for Nora Barnacle.
164 reviews103 followers
February 6, 2017
Nije Barns loš pisac.

Odličnu je temu izabrao i sjajno poentirao.

Za naratora je odredio lekara, zaljubljenika u Flobera, koji se razračunava sa književnim kritičarima i svima ostalima koji brutalno seciraju život pisca da bi pronašli nekakve skrivene smislove i značenja u njegovom delu, a još brutalnije njegova dela da bi pronašli makar kakvu tabloidnu bizarnost koja bi dokazala gnusnost piščeve ličnosti.

I sve ih je inteligentno porazio, da. Uključujući i Sartra.

Rekla bih da je bio na vrlo dobrom putu da postigne poslovičnost, pa da Floberov papagaj postane sinonim za sve te besmislene obdukcije i uđe u književne pojmovnike uz oblomovštinu i Dojlov sindrom, na primer.
Mnogo šta je dobro uradio: nepretencioznost za svaku pohvalu, vrlo lepo uvezivanje epizodne teme sa glavnom, solidna su mu i poigravanja sa formom. Lepo je i nafilovao priču vazda zabavnim trivijalnostima, ali mi se čini da je od želje da čitaocu bude udobno i da ga uveri da to o čemu on piše može baš svako da ukapira samo ako se malo potrudi – upao u dosadu.

Zbog (pametne) isprepletanosti svega i svačega sa svim i svačim, sumnjam da je Barns ovo napisao na brzinu. S druge strane, mislim da je imao kapaciteta da se reši tih rupa zbog kojih ovo nije zabavno čitanje u meri u kojoj je moglo da bude da bih mu dala višu ocenu. Zato ga ocenjujem strožije nego što zaslužuje: 3+

Na kraju, čak i ako niste pročitali baš ništa što je Flober napisao, nema veze: objasniće Barns sve što treba i neće upropastiti kasnije čitanje, a reći će vam svašta pametno.

Profile Image for Trevor.
1,302 reviews22.1k followers
October 15, 2014
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, as just about anything I do say will be a spoiler.

The parrot is obviously going to be an important 'character'. And so then you are expected to think of all of the things that parrots stand for - think voices, think repetition, think someone who speaks for some one else - it isn't too hard to make the connection that the guy telling this story - a Flaubert obsessive - is obviously a major candidate for the parrot in question.

The problem is, though, when you read a book about some one who obsesses about an author, it is hard to not wonder what does this book say about the 'actual' author? You know, he has invented a character, that character is interested in another, historical author and then this character starts telling you things about what authors are really like and why he doesn't like critics - well, it is hard not to wonder how much of what is said by the character is the same as what the author himself might have said if you asked him.

Ironically enough, for a book that, at least in part, is about telling the life story of someone we are reputedly assured did not really want to be known for his life, but rather have his novels literally out live him, this book tells you, naturally enough, much more about Flaubert than about his novels.

Freud has much to say about these sorts of obsessions - not necessarily obsessions with dead French authors, but that any obsession is really about other things. That we become obsessed with things that perhaps provide us with comfort and that we may not be fully aware, or fully understand, what comfort that really is providing us with, but that digging around in the metaphors and story lines associated with our obsessions is likely to tell us much more about ourselves than about the thing we obsess about. If you haven't read this book and are thinking of reading it, I guess that would be my advice, think about what the obsessions say about the character. I guess my problem with the book was that I didn't really come away from it liking the main character all that much. And that is a shame, as I think we have more in common than not, in some ways. There are lots of little bits to this novel that are meant for the 'second reading'. Things that on a second reading that are meant to make you go, 'Oh, yes, that makes sense now - that fits with ...' Look, this isn't a bad novel, not at all, but it is also not my favourite of maybe six or so of his others I've read.
Profile Image for Miss Ravi.
Author 1 book1,007 followers
November 25, 2018


اینید استارکی، منتقد ادبی ایرلندی در بررسی‌هایی که بر روی «مادام بوواری» انجام داده به این نتیجه رسیده که فلوبر چشمان اما بوواری را یک‌ جا قهوه‌ای، یک جا قیرگون و جایی دیگر آبی توصیف می‌کند. اما به قول راوی کتاب این موضوع چقدر اهمیت دارد؟ بله! ��ا از فلوبر دلخور می‌شویم که با وجود آن تیزبینی، چشمان شخصیت اصلی را چند رنگ توصیف کرده اما دلخوری‌مان زیاد دوام نمی‌آورد چون شیفتگی ما نسبت به یک رمان‌نویس آن‌قدر زیاد هست که حتی این اشتباهات را بپوشاند پس مجبوریم برای این آزردگی نه از نویسنده‌ی محبوب‌مان که از منتقدهای خرده‌گیر و حسود و از خودراضی انتقام بگیریم و حتی متنفر باشیم!

شاید تنها نویسنده‌ای که نسبت به زندگی شخصی‌اش بیش از حد کنجکاو بودم، صادق هدایت بوده باشد. (چه تصادف جالبی!) وقتی نوجوان بودم، به قفسه‌های سالن مطالعه نوجوانان هجوم می‌بردم تا کتابی درباره زندگی‌اش پیدا کنم اما سال‌ها بعد به این نتیجه رسیدم که قرار نیست نویسنده‌ای که شاهکاری را خلق کرده، لزوماً زندگی شخصی‌اش به اندازه‌ی کتابش جذاب باشد. هرگز نفهمیده‌ام که دانستن عادات معمول آن‌ها، گرایشات جنسی‌شان، تعداد ازدواج‌ها و طلاق‌هایشان و ... چه تأثیری باید بر من بگذارد؟ همه‌ی ما آدمیم و خطاکار، مگر نه؟ فقط بعضی‌هایمان در کنار خطاهای بسیار و گناهان نابخشودنی مقادیری نبوغ هم داریم. اگر من بدانم که برتراند راسل چهار بار ازدواج کرده دیگر کتاب‌هایش را نمی‌خوانم و به دیدگاهش شک می‌کنم؟ راستش عده‌ای واقعاً همین‌طورند و من مجبور شدم گروه تلگرامی‌شان را به‌خاطر این شیوه‌ی تفکر ترک کنم.

اما این کتاب؛
با توجه به آن‌چه نوشتم باید این سؤال را پرسید که پس چرا این کتاب برایم جذاب بوده؟ خب راستش کتاب همان اندازه زندگی‌نگاره‌ای از فلوبر است که رمانی‌ست با طنزی ظریف و درگیری‌های راوی با خودش، زندگی‌اش و اندکی هم با طوطی‌هایی که می‌توانند طوطی فلوبر باشند یا نباشد. (حیف است که تحلیل راوی از طوطی و انتخاب این پرنده از سوی فلوبر برای نوشتن داستان ساده‌دل را این‌جا بیاورم). راوی حتی با فلوبر هم بر سر فلوبر جدال می‌کند. او یک طرفدار دو آتشه است و شاید با نزدیک شدن به خالق «مادام بوواری» می‌خواهد زخم‌هایی که از زندگی زناشویی‌اش خورده را تسکین بدهد.

خانه‌ای که فلوبر بعد از بازگشتش از پاریس تا آخر عمر در آن‌جا زندگی کرده -در کرواسه- بعد از مرگش تخریب شده و یک کارخانه‌ی استخراج الکل از گندم جای‌اش را گرفته. حالا تکلیف آدم‌های کنجکاو و عشاق سینه‌چاک چه می‌شود؟ چطور اشتیاق سیری‌ناپذیرشان را به دانستن و واکاوی در زندگی نویسنده ارضا کنند؟ راوی می‌پرسد: چرا کتاب‌ها برایمان کافی نیستند؟ فلوبر می‌خواست آن‌ها برای خواننده کفایت کنند. زیاد نیستند نویسندگانی که بیش از فلوبر به عینیت متن و بی‌اهمیتی شخصیت نویسنده اعتقاد داشته‌اند. آیا به‌قدر کافی به کلمات باور نداریم؟‌ فکر می‌کنیم بازمانده‌های یک زندگی، حقایقی ثانوی را آشکار می‌کنند؟
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,783 reviews1,458 followers
January 17, 2022
Be patient when you start this book. It takes a while to acclimatize oneself to the style. The beginning is confusing. Maybe listening is more confusing than reading. It is unclear how the book is put together. It starts with what feels almost like an index.

The prose is original, witty and thought provoking. I did not always agree with that which is proposed but the lines always kept me thinking. Ideas are piled up next to each other in an unusual manner. One might describe this as a collection of fragmentary tidbits, but they are artistically arranged and always interesting. There is humor implied; the humor is subtle.

As you read you ponder what is this really about. The story is told by a widowed doctor. He says he is searching for the Amazonian parrot that Flaubert had on his desk when he wrote Un coeur simple. There turn out to be not just one, nor two, but in fact several that could have been there on his desk! The question that follows is if it matters. In fact, in studying Flaubert’s life, the widowed doctor is trying to make sense of his own life, now, after the death of his wife. Literary criticism, the art of writing and conjugal relationships are a smattering of the topics covered above and beyond information about Flaubert.

Richard Morant reads the audiobook very well. I did turn down the speed to 90%. His French pronunciation was excellent, and this enhances one’s appreciation of the prose. A joy to listen to. Four stars for the narration.

This book keeps your head busy. It is so thought provoking that it distracts you from your own personal problems. The book fit me to a T at this moment. I recommend it. It is not ordinary; it is different. It is exceptionally well written.
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