Antiquated tales leave me cold

This is my review of La Légende de Saint Julien l’Hospitalier-The Legend of Saint Julian the Hospitaller (French/English) [Annotated] (Rafael Estrella’s Dual Language Library) (French Edition) by Gustave Flaubert.

This omits "Un Coeur Simple", for me the first and best of Flaubert's "Trois Contes". Although very different from the former and each other, these two tales share a kind of overblown Gothic violence and romanticism which I believe was popular in the C19, but which now seems mawkish and dated. La Légende de Saint Julien l'Hospitalier is the tale of a spoilt young man who develops a craving for violence, and then suffers the effects of a curse; Hérodias is based on the story of the beheading of St.John the Baptist, approached in a rather oblique way. I understand that Flaubert wanted to create "reveries" on imagined religious characters,and was keen to write stories with very little subject matter, so that all the emphasis is on the words used. He succeeds in this for me with "Un Coeur Simple", the tale of a simple servant who becomes obsessed with a parrot, but the two fables included here left me cold. The sentences are so pared down in places for the style to seem disjointed, as if passages are missing. The language also seems far from plain and direct but rather convoluted, with a good deal of archaic language to do with say, different types of falcon, or items of Roman clothing.

As for the translation, if you can discipline your eye to read the French in bold text and only consult the English when necessary, this is quite a useful aid, particularly since some of the antiquated specialist vocabulary on, for instance, hunting dogs or medieval arms, may not be in your dictionary. However, it seems to me that translations of some phrases and sentences have been omitted, whereas on other occasions bits are added "by way of explanation". Also, the quality of translation is very uneven: some passages are crude literal translations, but others seem very loose and inaccurate, perhaps in an attempt to capture the meaning of Flaubert's often oddly condensed style.

⭐⭐⭐ 3 Stars

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