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An Evening of Madame Bovary with Lydia Davis (10/4/2010)

Following a glowing introduction by translator and essayist Richard Sieburth, the acclaimed author Lydia Davis read several passages from her recent translation of Gustave Flaubert’s classic novel, as well as selections of her own work, at the 92nd Street Y’s An Evening of Madame Bovary. The poetic flow of the writing lends incredibly well to a live reading and the audience was spellbound. As a fan of the novel, I could have listened to Davis read from Madame Bovary for hours, and the event left me eager to purchase her translation so I could compare it to the one I had at home.

Davis told the audience that while working on her translation she read letters Flaubert wrote during the time he wrote the book. She was so taken by the letters that she wrote a collection of ten short stories based on them when she was finished. The collection, Ten Stories from Flaubert, was published by the Paris Review. Those of us in attendance had the wonderful privilege of hearing Davis read an excerpt from the collection. It was a wonderful treat for both fans of the timeless novel, as well as Davis herself.

An Evening of Madame Bovary did not end with the readings. Sieburth joined Davis on stage to engage in a conversation with the audience during a question and answer session. The discussion meandered through various aspects of the translation process, a topic that was of much interest to the crowd, but left me wishing more time had been allotted for questions about the novel itself.

On the whole, this event was great for those who are fans of the novel, and an eyeopening experience for those unfamiliar with Davis’ work. And as always, the 92nd Street Y provided ticket holders with a wonderful experience that was both educational and stimulating.

Written by: Janice Formichella, October 15th 2010