Here we have Gustave Flaubert’s bewitching Three Tales. You can purchase an edition of this excellent boom with a picture of an ace parrot on the front. Boy, do we recommend you go for this version! You can see it there on the right, perhaps suggesting to you this story is a jaunty, amusing romp. So very wrong, Siegfried. So very, very wrong.
Published in 1877 (yes, not 1977, but 1877 – other centuries did exist, you know) which is, like, a proper long time ago, Flaubert (probably most famous for Madame Bovary) spins together themes on love, solitude, loss, desolation, and extreme violence.
We’re not making the latter up, either, as second story The Legend of Saint Julian Hospitator is hellishly bloodthirsty as it follows a sadistic hunter who, pretty much literally, goes mad and starts annihilating the animal kingdom. Gloriously written, one can feel the Middle Ages dripping from every word. The only thing missing is Robin Hood and his Merry Men (i.e. psychopathic hoodlums) played by Kevin Costner (if you remember the ’90s film) or Russell Crowe (if you stayed awake during the 2014 version).
Our favourite, however, is the book’s opener – A Simple Heart. In this tale we have Felicite who, bereft of any education, lives out her life in a village. She spends her youth seeking love but, upon her relationships with men failing, she acquires a pet parrot and becomes increasingly pious, eventually suffering all manner of delusions as dementia develops. It’s a brief, but brilliant, bit of writing and well worth buying the book for this story alone.
The final story is called Herodias and, well, unless you have a good understanding of Antiquity this one will leave you massively confused. It’s a reworking of the tale of Salome and John the Baptist and has lots of complexities which we have decided to forget. Give it a whirl if you’re brave enough, fool!