Sugary excerpt of the weekend from Kate Summerscale :
Writers before [Flaubert] had agonised about style. But no novelist agonised as much or as publicly, no novelist fetishised the poetry of “the sentence” in the same way, no novelist pushed to such an extreme the potential alienation of form and content (Flaubert longed to write what he called a “book about nothing”). No novelist before Flaubert reflected as self-consciously on questions of technique. With Flaubert, literature became “essentially problematic”, as one scholar puts it.
Or just modern? Flaubert himself affected a nostalgia for the great unselfconscious writers who came before him, like Molière and Cervantes; they, said Flaubert in his letters, “had no techniques”. He, on the other hand, was betrothed to “atrocious labour” and “fanaticism”. In different ways, the modern novelist is shadowed by that monkish labour. [...]So what did Flaubert mean by style, by the music of a sentence? This, from Madame Bovary – Charles is stupidly proud that he has got Emma pregnant: “L’idée d’avoir engendré le délectait.” So compact, so precise, so rhythmic. Literally, this is “The idea of having engendered delighted him.” Geoffrey Wall, in his Penguin translation, renders it as: “The thought of having impregnated her was delectable to him.” This is good, but pity the poor translator. For the English is a wan cousin of the French. Say the French out aloud, as Flaubert would have done, and you encounter four “ay” sounds in three of the words: ‘l’idée, engendré, délectait.’ An English translation that tried to mimic the untranslatable music of the French – that tried to mimic the rhyming – would sound like bad hip-hop: ‘The notion of procreation was a delectation.’
I have always wonder whether Emma Bovary was stylish because she was real or real because she was stylish. I am making the assertion that Gustave Flaubert filtered his style to make reality 'artistic' as some filter their wine to make it more palatable by erasing its imperfections and often diluting its complexity.
To put it differently, I have always preferred Anna Karenina to Emma Bovary because I sensed that the former wasn't just a stylish idea of what female amorous angst ought to be.