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Ayer on Flaubert on Arnoux

posted by Bob Lawless

Jack Ayer, who made a series of interesting posts here on literary explorations of credit and bankruptcy while he was a guest blogger, has a new post on his own blog (Underbelly) about Flaubert's L'Education Sentimentale and its antagonist, Jacques Arnoux. Ayer calls Arnoux one of the most important literary bankrupts. Who are the most important literary bankrupts?


the most famous may be Cesar Birotteau, in "The Rise and Fall of Cesar Birotteau," by Honore de Balzac. A wonderful book by the great 19th century French novelist.

I would add the protagonists of the great and very sad Raymond Carver short story, "Are These Actual Miles?" The story's about a couple on the eve of bankruptcy, trying to sell a convertible they bought when they were flush. For a smart critique of the story, see Vivian Gornick's N.Y. Times essay, "Tenderhearted Men." She points out some of the flaws in the story, and her points are well taken, but the piece nevertheless captures the emotional wallop of bankruptcy better than anything else I've read . . .

Can't think of one offhand. But in Anthony Trollope's "The Way We Live Now," Augustus Melmotte commits suicide rather than face the prospect of imminent financial ruin. In so doing, he receives what I've heard chapter 7 trustees occasionally call "the ultimate discharge."

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