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Flaubert's Parrot

Julian Barnes


Created from a jumble of non-narrative forms--from anecdote to glossary to literary criticism to timetable--Flaubert's Parrot is a showcase of postmodern fiction and its devices. What makes it so special and so rich is its central character, or rather the respect and sensitivity Julian Barnes brings to the creation of that character. In many ways, the pyrotechnical brilliance that shapes Flaubert's Parrot can be seen as an ingenious method of description created for the sole purpose of NOT belittling the novel's protagonist, Geoffrey Braithwaite, a Flaubertophile with a past. Much like Flaubert, Barnes champions the butt of jokes. But where Flaubert could only see unhappy endings, Barnes finds it in his heart to imagine Geoffrey Braithwaite a meaningful if eccentric survival. No cynicism, no surprise endings, just a firm and gentle belief that acceptance is a measured life's crucial virtue and a life story to prove it. I'm not so sure that I love Geoffrey Braithwaite after reading Flaubert's Parrot, but I adore Julian Barnes for taking his side. In doing so, he gently proposes that the interconnected narratives of life and art find ways to sustain each other in the humblest of circumstances and through the least auspicious among us.

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