Bitten and Stung

Is it me, or does my title look German? Admittedly I’ve been thinking in German a bit recently, but now I’m hallucinating a cross between the languages.


Also, of course Franz Kafka had opinions about biting, stinging books.

I think the last book that bit me, stung me and made me weep was, although I haven’t read it recently, Madame Bovary. I went into it identifying with Emma and her longing for the extraordinary. I understood how she visualized things from books, I got how she would have some great lead-up to a fancy occasion only for it to be a bit flat – and I dearly wanted her to get her happy ending. Kind of, I quite like non-happy endings, and on the one hand I did love the realism of the way things ended. On the other hand, I knew that she wouldn’t – running up debts that she couldn’t repay, trying to get that sparkling wonderful life she wanted… it wasn’t going to happen.

Spoiler alert, it is not happy.

Something about the child at the end, dressed in shabby clothes and living with some distant woman stuck with me. For some reason I could picture it clearly, could imagine the shoddy stitches on her blouse or – right at the end – her thinking her father is joking with her, only to find him dead.

I’ve just skimmed the last chapter and yes – it’s in such plain language, you can feel Monsieur’s despair, can feel that the girl is neglected. Her childish innocence is there still, his mourning of the woman who ruined him is there. It’s mainly this last chapter which gets at me, there’s so much buildup to what they want and what they never get, and in the end things fall in like a pack of cards.

They die, they become alone, desperate and loving and hopeless.

And my word, does it hurt.

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