From The Guardian:
The first episode of Madame Bovary appeared in the Revue de Paris 150 years ago tomorrow. Here, Julian Barnes reimagines the novel’s ending, and allows Emma to correct her own story …
“Listen. A woman – a married woman – takes a lover. Then another, perhaps. What is so surprising about that? It happens in every town and every village in France. Sometimes the woman is happy, sometimes she is sad. Sometimes the husband finds out, sometimes he does not. But when her story is told to the great public, in books, on the stage, then the woman must be punished. She must die! Her husband might kill her, for instance. Or, she might throw herself in front of a train. Or die of some lingering disease. But how often does this happen in the real world? Oh, to be sure, a case or two, here and there. But the men who tell stories in which women who stray are punished – they are indulging their own fantasies just as much as those who write about gloomy forests and skiffs in the moonlight, about troubadours singing at the base of castle walls to some unseen mistress.
The man who told you my story thought he understood women. He thought that women would smile in sad recognition when they heard my story – or rather, what he had done with my story. He said it would gently caress many a feminine wound – which is an arrogance as well as a displeasing phrase.
No, perhaps I am being unfair. In my opinion, he understood many of women’s sufferings, but he underestimated our ability to overcome them. He believed that because human society placed women in a weaker position than me, this made us weaker in ourselves. On the contrary – this makes us stronger. We may suffer, but we survive. Men are more hysterical than women, in my opinion, and also more cowardly. And far less practical. And as I said, I was practical. I paid what I owed. And then I arranged matters”.