Novel versus reality

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Yonville l'abbaye / Ry today

Animated scenes from the novel

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From the conception of his novel (around 1849), Flaubert was met with difficulties... First, he was hesitating: could he make public, even covertly and as a work of fiction, the private life of a couple of his friends, even if both where now dead?

And then, after few years of a very hard and steady work, and as soon as it had been published, in 1856, this stupid court case...

Like it's always the case, all based on hearsay, and without even taking the "trouble" to read completely the documents since others had done it before...

Oh, this famous scene of hackney coach ! How many words were written because of it ! How many hypocritical tongues went busy criticizing it, avid to spread the scandal mongering, and especially to reduce all that could be a sign of genius, therefore dangerous...

The newspaper that first published the novel, as was often the case in those days, had peremptorily removed these lines (written by a small and unknown writer!), finding them totally without interest. In fact, Flaubert only enumerated the places where the coach had been seen, with however this detail halfway through its run, of a bare white hand throwing out of the window one instant opened the small pieces of a torn message..

All this, in the newspaper, appeared only in the form of  a few dots between brackets, indicating quite evidently a censure...

What could have happened inside this coach?... a heated polemic arose on this question: what was it that the censors refused to let be seen by the public? What actions, what gestures had Flaubert described and what obscenity would have shocked its readers?

Finally, the case was won, but all the noise around the novel  did not reassure Flaubert about keeping the anonymity of his models, especially since his descriptions had the same precision as those of a botanist describing a new variety of foxglove or deadly-nightshade...

As a result, all his additions, affirmations about the work, these false leads, these assertions of a completely imaginary story...

But yet!...

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