Dictionary of Accepted Ideas by Gustave Flaubert Download (read online) free eBook (PDF ePub Kindle)

Dictionary of Accepted Ideas

Throughout his life Flaubert made it a game to eavesdrop for the cliché, the platitude, the borrowed and unquestioned idea with which the “right thinking” swaddle their minds. After his death his little treasury of absurdities, of half-truths and social lies, was published as a Dictionnaire des idées reçues. Because its devastating humor and irony are often dependent on th

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    Oct 06, 2012

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    Philistines

    To dissect is a form of revenge
    -Gustave Flaubert in a letter to George Sand

    Flaubert’s Dictionary of Accepted Ideas is an ironic, witty, and outright humorous satire on the minds and manners of the everyday man, the philistines, as Flaubert would call them, that move within a higher society. Alphabetized within its pages are a wide variety of objects, ideas and people with a clichéd definition highlighting the ‘accepted’ opinions on them and instructions as to how to utilize such ideas to give

    Flaubert’s Dictionary of Accepted Ideas is an ironic, witty, and outright humorous satire on the minds and manners of the everyday man, the philistines, as Flaubert would call them, that move within a higher society. Alphabetized within its pages are a wide variety of objects, ideas and people with a clichéd definition highlighting the ‘accepted’ opinions on them and instructions as to how to utilize such ideas to give the appearance of a culture-savvy citizen. For example:
    ‘BEETHOVEN: Do not pronounce Beathoven. Be sure to gush when one of his works is played.’
    As noted on the back cover, much of the ‘devastating humor and irony are often dependent on the phrasing in vernacular French’, making a translation difficult, yet this New Directions edition, with introduction and translation by Jacques Barzun, does a well enough job of getting much of the general ideas, insults and irony across, making this a very funny read.

    Barzun’s introduction offers a useful insight into the workings of this short book and Flaubert’s mindset in creating it. As Barzun points out, Flaubert was outspoken in his disgust with ‘philistines’ and considered the social norms of culture to be a direct affront on education and the educated artist. While there are statements made in this book which are at times necessarily true, Barzun asserts that ‘what damns them is the fact that they are the only thing ever said on the subject by the middling sensual man’. Flaubert, spending most of his time around society which was ‘not simply bourgeois and philistine, but invincibly repetitious and provincial’, created this book to denounce these repetitions of such cliched ideas that drove him mad. He stated that these ‘repetitions proved more than signs of dullness, they were philosophic clues from which he inferred the “transformation of the mind under machine capitalist”’(Barzun). This collection of repetitious ideas paints a comical caricature of this society Flaubert detested, yet offers such humorous depictions of the ideas presented that will have the reader laughing out loud at the bawdy satire. While writing this book, Flaubert stated in a letter, ‘After reading the book, one would be afraid to talk, for fear of using one of the phrases in it.’ The comedy is rich and, like a bad American comedy, desiring of quotation, yet quoting it ironically places you on the side of the philistines. If you can find this collection (especially if you speak French and can find it in it’s original form), I highly recommend flipping through it. It is often offensive, occasionally insightful, and always funny. Someone should remake this for the American redneck.

    3/5 (while there are some gems, much of this is either lost on a modern/english speaking reader or just rather ordinary and un-funny. Worth reading for the funny though!)

    A few gems include:

    ARCHIMEDES: On hearing his name, shout “Eureka!”. Or else: ‘Give me a fulcrum and I will move the world.” There is also Archimedes’screw, but you are not expected to know that.

    ARTIST: All charlatans. Praise their disintrestedness (old-fashioned). Express surprise that they dress like everyone else (old-fashioned). They earn huge sums and squander them. What artists do cannot be called work.

    AUTHORS: One should ‘know a few’. Never mind their names

    BUYING AND SELLING: The goal of life.

    COFFE: Induces wit. Good only if it comes through Havre. After a big dinner party, it is taken standing up. Take is without sugar – very swank: gives the impression you’ve lived in the east.

    EGG: Starting point for a philosophic lecture on the origin of life.

    FAVOR: It is doing children a favor to slap them; animals, to beat them; servants, to fire them; criminals, to punish them.

    GENTLEMEN: There aren’t any left.

    IMMORALITY: Distinctly enunciated, this word confers prestige on the user.

    MACHIAVELLI: Though you have not read him, consider him a scoundrel.

    NEIGHBORS: Try to have them do you favors without it costing you anything.

    NOVELS: Corrupt the masses. Less immoral in serial than in volume form. Only historical novels should be allowed, because they teach history. Some novels are written on the point of a scalpel, others the point of a needle.

    OPTIMIST: Synonym for imbecile.

    PIDGIN: Always talk pidgin to make yourself understood by a foreigner, regardless of nationality. Use also for telegrams.

    RELATIVES: Always a nuisance. Keep the poor ones out of sight.

    REPUBLICANS: “The republicans are not all scoundrels, but all scoundrels are republicans!”

    SELFISHNESS: Complain of other people’s; overlook your own.

    THINK (To): Painful. Things that compel us to think are generally neglected.

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