Essays by Alan Raitt
Edited By Francesco Manzini
CHAPTER 6: The date of the projected epilogue to Madame Bovary
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The date of the projected epilogue to Madame Bovary
Since the publication in 1949 of the pioneering study of the manuscripts of Madame Bovary by Jean Pommier and Gabrielle Leleu,1 it has been known that at some stage Flaubert contemplated appending to the novel, after the award of Homais’s decoration, an epilogue in which the pharmacist, delirious with joy, would have had doubts about his own existence and would have wondered if he was not just a character in a novel, ‘le fruit d’une imagination en délire, l’invention d’un petit paltoquet2 que j’ai vu naître et qui m’a inventé pour faire croire que je n’existe pas’.3 Clearly, had Flaubert used this epilogue, it would have entirely changed the nature of the work and the way in which we read it: since Homais is of course only a character in a novel, the reader would have been forced to reflect on the conditions of fictional illusion and Madame Bovary would have forfeited a good deal of its ‘realistic’ appearance and become, in extremis, notably self-conscious and self-referential.
Despite the potential significance of this, the epilogue has not received much critical attention, apart from an excellent analysis by Christopher Prendergast.4 It is mentioned, as an aberration rightly rejected by Flaubert, ← 91 | 92 → by Claudine Gothot-Mersch,5 Claude Digeon,6 and Enid Starkie,7 and briefly alluded to by Alison Fairlie,8 Jacques Neefs,9 Rosemary Lloyd,10 and...
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