Saturday, 28 September 2013

Book review: La Mare au Diable by George Sand

What I like more than a book with natural-flowing narrative and 'panache' is one written by an author with a colourful life.

Surprise surprise, George Sand is the name adopted by Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, as you can guess, a woman. Any professional field before the 20th century was an uncharted and definitely unconventional territory for women so I am always intrigued to read and compare works by female authors during the 1800s and before. George Sand also ticks the box as she lived between 1804-1876.

In many ways, I associate her with Colette, another French female writer I admire and from whose oeuvre I've read 'Le ble en herbe'; they both had quite rebellious lives in terms of going against societal norms and in many ways their works tackled issues such as the role of women, sex and etiquette. However, she's much more gutsy than Jane Austen so I guess one could argue that women's voices in literature (and not only) was getting louder by the decade.

George Sand had numerous love affairs, including one with famous musician Chopin, and wore trousers and smoked cigarettes... how fabulously modern of her! No doubt though she acquired many enemies along the way and I would think their perception of her as a person took over her professional merits, especially when Flaubert said that 'Comme femme, elle inspire le degout; comme homme, il donne l'envie de rire' (As a woman, she suggests distaste; as a man, he makes us burst with laughter).

'La Mare au Diable' is considered her best work by many and is definitely one of the best known and I was recommended it as a similar read from the point of view of the narrative style with Guy de Maupassant which I still love to this day. The odds were promising and I certainly wasn't let down.

Although the start is a bit slow, I appreciated the introduction and how at the beginning, Sand addresses the reader directly. The story all starts from a Holbein etching of land workers and throughout the book, values such as honesty, hard work and humility are highly praised. Again, I love me some social commentary.

The narrative is pretty simple and spans over 2 days, mapping the development of the relationship between Germain, a 28 year old widowed farmer, and la petite Marie, a 16 year old girl. Along the way, you'll meet archaic language -which I found fascinating in French-, legends, snobbery and inner turmoil, all of which make for a great plot when combined with Sand's sharp storytelling.

There were two episodes that really stood out for me, so much so that I had to use my highlighter on them :

'L'art n'est pas une etude de la realite positive; c'est une recherche de la verite ideale'
'Art is not a study of an optimistic reality but a quest for the ideal truth'

'[...] elle ne se sent pas pressee de devenir la servante d'un homme, quand elle peut comander a plusieurs. Ainsi, tant que le jeu lui plaira, elle peut se divertir'
'she doesn't feel the need to become the servant of a man when she can be in control of many others. And after all, as long as the game amuses her, she can have some fun'

No comments:

Post a Comment

blogger template by lovebird