Who was the Pale Woman from Barcelona and what had she to do with Madame Bovary?

Una flor del mal

 

Gustave Flaubert, acaso sin proponérselo, dejó una pregunta sin respuesta cuando escribió que su Emma Bovary se parecía a «la mujer pálida de Barcelona».¿A quién se refería? ¿A un personaje real? ¿A un dicho popular? ¿A la modelo de un cuadro? ¿Existió realmente una Bovary de Barcelona? El azar quiere que sea un profesor barcelonés de secundaria quien intente resolver el enigma, siglo y medio después de que Flaubert describiera así a su heroína. El catedrático de literatura Guillermo Jiménez busca la respuesta entre Filadelfia, Lyon y Barcelona. Será precisamente en esta última ciudad donde la aparición en una misteriosa casa de un cuadro expoliado por los nazis instigará su búsqueda. Gustave Courbet, Baudelaire, damas francesas del xix adictas al opio, Hermann Göring y una perturbadora mujer de nuestros días dan cuerpo a una investigación sobre el deseo y la obsesión, la historia y el arte, la verdad y la ficción.

The pale woman from Barcelona

 

Could the fictional character of Emma Bovary have been based on a real-life woman from Barcelona in the 19th century? Debut literary novel A Flower of Evil (Una flor del mal) by Barcelonian journalist Miquel Molina, published by Destino in early March 2014, craftily unveils this highly realistic mystery through a sophisticated plot set in present-day Barcelona and in Flaubert and Courbet's Paris and Lyon at the end of the 1800's. The Girl With the Pearl Earing for heart-broken fans of Madame Bovaryand is its timeless protagonist. Eduardo Mendoza, one of the first followers of the novel has said: “A mysterious and elegant story I read with much pleasure”.Gustave Flaubert left a question unsanswered, probably unintededly, when he wrote that his Emma Bovary looked like “the pale woman of Barcelona”. Whom was he referring to? A real woman? A popular saying? A model in a painting? Did a Catalan Emma Bovary really exist? How was she? Where was she buried? As fate would have it, a teacher from Barcelona is now willing to uncover the mystery. A century and a half has gone by since Flaubert described his heroine in those words. The Professor of Literature Guillermo Jiménez starts seeking for the answer somewhere within the triangle formed by the cities of Philadelphia, Lyon and Barcelona. The appearance of a Nazi-sacked painting in a house in the Catalan capital will only increase his excitement to find out who she was. Gustave Courbet, Baudelaire, 19thcentury ladies addicted to opium, Herman Göering and an enigmatic woman of our days constitute this intriguing combination of fiction and real facts. Editor Silvia Sesé at Destino shared these words with the author that lead her to acquire rights of the novel: “it has been a really pleasant surprise. Added to the many attractive features in the story, you managed to recreate and convey the fascination for the dark side of an entire generation, as well as the achievements and artistic possibilities that that exploration fostered. But above all you have managed to make that impulse lively and close to the reader, far from seeming museum flesh”.

"Spanish woman". Gustave Courbet 1854. Philadelphia Museum of Fine Arts

"The Amazon",

Gustave Courbet, 1856. Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. New York

"Portrait of Juliette". Courbet, 1860. Saint Louis Museum of Art

La última cena de Courbet

De izquierda a derecha: Olivia Saint Hilaire, Charles Baudelaire, Apolonia Sabatier, Gustave Courbet, Caroline Gaillard, Gustave Flaubert, Pierre Dupont y un camarero sin identificar, en ilustración aún inacabada de NORA MOLINA SEGURA (ver sus trabajos aquí)

Un misterio artístico que es al mismo tiempo una apasionante historia de búsqueda personal. Un insólito triángulo marcado por los secretos, la diferencia generacional y el deseo.

SERGIO VILA-SANJUÁN

 

Un relato misterioso y elegante que he leído con placer.

EDUARDO MENDOZA

"¿Os interesa saber cómo fue que ayudé a Jagger y Richards a componer el tema 'Rocks Off'?"

 

Guillermo Jiménez

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