12 Days of Clink Street Christmas - a Festive #GuestPost by Giuseppe Cafiero, author of Gustave Flaubert: The Ambiguity of Imagination

I'm delighted to be posting my next 12 Days of Clink Street Christmas special today. To celebrate Christmas, seventeen very different Clink Street authors will be delivering Christmas treats from a variety of genres that will cater to every wish list! Today I'm welcoming Giuseppe Cafiero,  who has kindly written a festive guest post for us to enjoy. First though, here's the description for his book, Gustave Flaubert: The Ambiguity of Imagination, which I'm sure you'll agree sounds intriguing...

What would happen if a character, even if only roughly sketched in the mind of a writer, decided to take on a life independent of his creator in order to take revenge against all the other characters that this author had created in his other books?

This is what happens to the legendary writer Gustave Flaubert, when his character Harel-Bey comes to life with a grudge to bear. Even the imaginary characters of books that Monsieur Flaubert has never actually written, but had long pondered and discussed with his most intimate friends, begin to stir with their own motivations.

Quite unexpectedly, Harel-Bey begins a long and difficult journey through the writings of Monsieur Flaubert to try to understand the reasons that induced the writer to write so many books and stories, but never the one that would have had him as leading protagonist. As a vengeful killer, Harel-Bey is determined to murder all of the protagonists of the books and stories Flaubert has written.

In the company of a certain Monsieur Bouvard, himself the star of another book which Flaubert had started but never finished, Harel-Bey seeks his revenge. There’s will be a mission rich in disturbing discoveries, revealing the reasons and the irrationalities of fictionalised reality and unreal fiction.

Now, settle down with a mince pie and a hot drink and take a few minutes to relax and enjoy this seasonal guest post.


It's Christmas! May this Christmas bring happiness to Mr Flaubert.  Which Christmas? What happiness? Flaubert is always alone! It looks like Mr Flaubert has to spend Christmas on his own. Go on then! Go on Mr Flaubert! Go and look for a friend you can spend a different Christmas with. There has to be someone waiting for you, Mr Flaubert. Who? Maybe even a character from one of his books. Merry Christmas, Mr Flaubert! Mr Flaubert must absolutely go to Paris. Christmas in Paris is different! You have to leave your refuge in Croisset immediately. You have to run to Paris. You have to spend Christmas in Paris! You have to go to Paris, Mr Flaubert. Christmas in Paris is different. You have to leave Croisset and run to Paris. A Christmas in Paris! Goodbye Croisset, goodbye!
Ah, Croisset, Croisset! The unassailable and untouched stronghold of Croisset. Mr Flaubert, you used to celebrate your ambiguous rituals at Croisset. Croisset is a large country house encircled by boulevard of linden trees, overlooking the wide curve of the Seine. The rooms in the house, though numerous, are large. A long corridor divides them. On the ground floor there is a large bright studio with five windows that open out onto the garden, where you spend most of your time. 
Solitude is certain, and so is melancholy. Croisset is basically a delirium of an agony, where you dragged your soul to capture that dark assassin that made your youth fall into terrible barbarity. A dark evil. Do you remember Mr Flaubert? It was January 1844 and you were 23 years old. You fell, lost and unconscious, overwhelmed by a burning stream, between inscrutable dreams, disturbing visions and fake realities, on a dark night, on the road that leads from Deauville to Rouen, near Pont-l'Evêque. Your deliberation was agonising, paralysed with feelings and desires. Why did you try to commit suicide on your way home in a horse-drawn buggy? 
You were abducted by the uneasiness of a sudden mourning, of a lacerating loneliness, of an uncontrollable misery on a Norman evening, in the blinding light of a distant sign, against the thundering sound of another buggy that made the space narrow, that arrived in the cold and sweat of an indefinable anxiety, between horses and the silent sky, in front of a stunning glare of fear and transparency from the night sky, wounded by a flash of lightning. Then smells. Malicious, suffocating, and murderous. The pungent stench of the dung, the heavy stink of human urine, and the sated waft of humid ground. Since then, punishment and torment in a violent crisis of anguish.  
Go far away from Croisset, Mr Flaubert. Paris is waiting for you. Go on a journey now, a journey to take you away from your fears and nightmares. Get away from Croisset, Mr Flaubert, go and spend Christmas in Paris. Flee, Mr Flaubert, flee! Say goodbye to Croisset, say goodbye! A train is waiting for you. It's the train to Paris. 
Two men are now waiting for Mr Flaubert at Saint-Lazare station in Paris. Two men or two ghosts? They look like two characters from one of Flaubert's books. In fact, it is Mr Bouvard and Mr Pécuchet, the main characters of an unfinished book.
They don't say a word, they simply exchange glances when they meet at Saint-Lazare station. All three realise that they have to spend Christmas together. Why? Why, oh why? It is the last Christmas that Mr Flaubert will celebrate. It is 1879. Mr Flaubert will die in 1880. Therefore it is not necessary to speak. It is necessary to be together. To be together at the table on Christmas Day. Taking part in this final Christmas together reminds Mr Flaubert that he has a duty to end their adventures, so they can have a free life even when the book that created them comes to a close. 
They eat at "Paillard ": a luxury restaurant in rue de la Chaussée-d'Antin 2. In fact, it is only Mr Flaubert who eats lunch there. And the other two diners? They sit there silently and spy on Mr Flaubert with a certain worry. It is important, they think, that Mr Flaubert is eating well and being satisfied because once he returns to Croisset, he can go back to, with immediacy and imagination, writing about their life, about Bouvard and Pecuchet's life. It is important, in fact, that the story of their life has an end, so that Mr Bouvard and Mr Pécuchet can finally be people forever and not characters. So that they can live beyond the fervent and hypocritical imagination of Mr Flaubert.
Mr Flaubert, meanwhile, eats ravenously. He leaves nothing on his plate. He doesn't look around. Does he know that two other diners are sitting at his table? Perhaps, but it doesn't matter. The waiters, meanwhile, cannot keep up with Flaubert's gluttonous eating. He furiously swallows superb foods. 
For example: "Consommé de tire-fiacre, galantine de mufles, civet de lapin, gigot d'antilope, andouillettes frites, salade de céleris et barbe de capucin, morue au beurre de cacao et merluche au cèrat, bombes glacées et crepe au suif, confeture de gélatin”. Wines: "Lafite Rothschild " and "Haut Brion blanc".
Ghosts do not eat. The ghosts are there to watch Mr Flaubert eating his Christmas lunch. But are Mr Bouvard and Mr Pecuchet really present at this Flaubert's Christmas or do they only exist in his imagination. Perhaps Mr Flaubert is alone. Perhaps he is in the company of his own imagination. Merry Christmas, Mr Flaubert!

Many thanks to Giuseppe Cafiero for this fantastic post, and to Rachel Gilbey for inviting me to take part in the 12 Days of Christmas. If you've been tempted to try Gustave Flaubert: The Ambiguity of Imagination, it can be purchased here.

Don't miss the rest of the  Clink Street festive fun!

About the Author

Giuseppe Cafiero is a prolific writer of plays and fiction who has has produced numerous programs for the Italian-Swiss Radio, Radio Della Svizzera Italiana, and Slovenia’s Radio Capodistria. The author of ten published works focusing on cultural giants from Vincent Van Gogh to Edgar Allan Poe, Cafiero lives in Italy, in the Tuscan countryside.
Website: http://giuseppecafiero.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/giuseppe.scrittore