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Flaubert’s Camel: Said’s Animus

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Abstract

Camels feature in one of the greatest novels of the nineteenth century, Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (1857). In Chapter 6, where the imagery of Emma Bovary’s trashily romantic reading is being discussed, we find the following:

And the sultans with long pipes were there too, swooning in arbours, in the arms of dancing-girls, the djiaours, the Turkish sabres, the Greek fezzes, and, especially, the monochrome landscape of Dithyrambia, which often blend in a single image palm trees and pine trees, tigers to the right, a lion to the left, Tartar minarets on the horizon, Roman ruins in the foreground, then some camels [my italics] kneeling; - the whole thing framed by a nicely hygienic virgin forest, with a great perpendicular sunbeam trembling on the water, steel grey, with white-etched signs, here and there for floating swans.1

Keywords

  • Middle East
  • Palm Tree
  • Literary History
  • Muslim World
  • Gold Bead

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Notes

  1. Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary, trans. Geoffrey Wall (London: Penguin, 1992), 36.

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  2. Gustave Flaubert, ‘Correspondance, I (janvier 1830 à avril 1851)’, in Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, ed. Jean Bruneau (Paris: Gallimard, 1973), 539; c.f. Julian Barnes, Flaubert’s Parrot (London: Jonathan Cape, 1984), 54; Robert Irwin, Camel (London: Reaktion, 2010), 121–2.

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  3. Frederick Brown, Flaubert, A Life (London: Pimlico, 2007), 242.

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  4. Maxime du Camp, Literary Recollections (London: Remington, 1893), 337.

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  5. Gustave Flaubert, Voyage en Orient, ed. Claudine Gothot-Mersch (Paris: Gallimard, 2006), 158; cf. Steegmuller, ed. and trans., Flaubert in Egypt, 142.

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  6. Flaubert, Voyage, 172; Steegmuller, ed. and trans., Flaubert in Egypt, 151. On Flaubert and boredom more generally, see Guy Sagnes, L’Ennui dans la littérature française de Flaubert à Laforgue (1848–1884) (Paris: A. Colin, 1969).

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  7. Gustave Flaubert, Sentimental Education, trans. Robert Baldick (Harmonds worth: Penguin, 1964), 411.

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  8. William Beckford, Vathek and Other Stories, ed. Malcolm Jack (London: Penguin, 1995), 30.

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  9. Patricia Meyer Spacks, Boredom: The Literary History of a State of Mind (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995).

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  10. Peter Toohey, Boredom: A Lively History (New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 2011).

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  11. Spacks, Boredom, 46–50. See also Ros Ballaster, Fabulous Orients: Fictions of the East in England 1662–1785 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 218–27 for interesting remarks on Western perceptions of China as the ‘empire of dulness.’

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  12. Hilary Spurling, The Unknown Matisse: A Life of Henri Matisse; The Early Years, 1869–1908 (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1998), 358.

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  13. Christine Peltre, L’Atelier du voyage: Les peintres en Orient au XIXe siècle (Paris: Gallimard, 1995), 39–42.

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  14. For a different but highly critical account of Said’s version of Flaubert’s encounter with Kuchuk Hanem, see Daniel Martin Varisco, Reading Orientalism: Said and the Unsaid (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2007), 158–62.

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  15. Edward Said, Orientalism (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978), 187.

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  17. Edward William Lane, An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians (1836) (London: Minerva Library, 1890), 173, 325, 463–4; cf. Jason Thompson, Edward William Lane: The Life of the Pioneering Egyptologist and Orientalist (London: Haus, 2010), 64–6. For a conclusive account of Said’s multiple errors regarding Kuchuk Hanem’s location and status, see Rodenbeck, ‘’Awalim,’ 115–16.

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  18. Gustave Flaubert, La Tentation de Saint Antoine, ed. Emile Faguet (London: Dent & Sons; Paris: Crès et Cie, 1913), 34: ‘Je pince le lyre, je danse comme une abeille…’

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  19. On this particular point, see Geoff Dyer, ‘The Goncourt Journals,’ in Working the Room, ed. Dyer (Edinburgh: Canongate Books, 2010), 200. For the Goncourts on Flaubert’s sexual vulgarity, see Brown, Flaubert, 384. See also Jacques-Louis Douchin, La Vie érotique de Flaubert (Paris: Pauvert, 1984).

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  20. Mary Orr, ‘Flaubert’s Egypt: Crucible and Crux for Textual Identity,’ in Travellers in Egypt, eds. Paul Starkey and Janet Starkey (London: Garnet, 1998), 194.

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  21. Geoffrey Wall, Flaubert: A Life (London: Faber and Faber, 2001), 181.

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  22. On the complex issue of the chronology of the domestication of the camel in North Africa, see Richard W. Bulliet, The Camel and the Wheel (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1975), 111–40.

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  23. A. J. Krailsheimer, ‘Introduction,’ in Flaubert, Salammbô, ed. and tr. Krailsheimer (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977), 15.

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  24. Michael Tilby, ‘Flaubert’s Place in Literary History,’ in The Cambridge Companion to Flaubert, ed. Timothy Unwin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 14.

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  25. Lisa Lowe, Critical Terrains: French and British Orientalisms (Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, 1991), 9; Anne Green, Flaubert and the Historical Novel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 114.

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  26. Brown, Flaubert, 278; Wall, Flaubert, 194; cf. Gustave Flaubert, Flaubert à l’Exposition de 1851, ed. and trans. Jean Seznec (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1951). Flaubert took careful notes on the ornamental picturesque in Chinese and Indian displays.

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  27. On the Great Exhibition and its Oriental displays, see John M. Mackenzie, Orientalism: History, Theory and the Arts (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995), 119–20. On the relationship between international exhibitions and Orientalism more generally, see Timothy Mitchell, Colonising Egypt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988); Zeynep Çelik, ‘Speaking Back to Orientalist Discourse at the World’s Columbian Exposition,’ in Noble Dreams, Wicked Pleasures: Orientalism in America, 1870–1930, ed. Holly Edwards (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000), 77–97; Nicky Levell, Oriental Visions: Exhibitions, Travel and Collecting in the Victorian Age (London: The Horniman Museum & Gardens, 2000); Roger Benjamin, Orientalist Aesthetics: Art Colonialism and French North Africa (Berkeley, CA and London: University of California Press, 2003), 210–19.

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  28. Rana Kabbani, Europe’s Myths of the Orient: Devise and Rule (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1986), 69. For the actual story, see Gustave Flaubert, Three Tales, trans. A. J. Krailsheimer (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 71–105.

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  29. On Said’s multiple misrepresentations of British novels, see Robert Irwin, ‘The Muslim World in British Fictions of the Nineteenth Century,’ in Britain and the Muslim World: Historical Perspectives, ed. Gerald MacLean (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2011), 131–42. On Said’s misrepresentation of Byron, see Peter Cochran, ‘Edward Said’s Failure with (Inter Alia) Byron,’ in Byron and Orientalism, ed. Cochran (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2006), 183–96. On Said’s misreading of Austen’s Mansfield Park, see Gabrielle D. V. White, Jane Austen in the Context of Abolition: ‘A Fling at the Slave Trade’ (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006). On Said’s misrepresentation of George Eliot, see Nancy Henry, George Eliot and the British Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).

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  30. Joseph Conrad, The Nigger of the ‘Narcissus’/Youth (London: Pan Classics, 1976), 177. Youth was first published in 1902.

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  31. Gertrude Bell, Safar Nameh, Persian Pictures: A Book of Travel (London: R. Bentley and Son, 1894), 26–7.

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© 2013 Robert Irwin

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Irwin, R. (2013). Flaubert’s Camel: Said’s Animus. In: Elmarsafy, Z., Bernard, A., Attwell, D. (eds) Debating Orientalism. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137341112_3

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