Lui, a View of Him

Louise Colet, Author University of Georgia Press $24.95 (317p) ISBN 978-0-8203-0859-3
The mid-19th century Parisian beau monde may have speculated salaciously about the characters in a novel by the mistress of Flaubert, but most Americans reading this first English translation, verbose and artificial, will find it hard to credit. The narrator, Stephanie de Rostan, protests her love for Leonce, Flaubert's thinly disguised clone, whose own passions are clearly reserved for his work. At the same time, she accepts the attentions of the poet Alfred de Musset, here masquerading as Albert de Lincel. Albert has grown old and frail, but his memories run riot as he regales Stephanie with the details of his liaison with George Sand, about whom he alternately rhapsodizes and complains. Sand, in fact, is the one who captures the reader's sympathy by selflessly ministering to Albert, when debauchery during their stay in Venice has all but killed him. His own faithlessness not withstanding, he thrusts her aside when she starts an affair with the young Venetian doctor attending him; meeting her again years later, he is repelled by the aged face that was once so beautiful. Stephanie is nonetheless enchanted by him and when he dies becomes aware that Albert has replaced Leonce in her heart. While a number of world-renowned literary and artistic figures plod about here on feet of clay, their loose morals and petty backbiting justify neither the novel's length nor the woodenness of its characters. (December)
Reviewed on: 03/31/1987
Release date: 04/01/1987
Genre: Fiction
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