Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice

December 21, 2003|By Michael Pakenham

Madame Bovary, C'est Moi: The Great Characters of Literature and Where They Came From, by Andre Bernard. Norton. 128 pages. $19.95.

"If Godot were God," Samuel Beckett famously and defiantly declared, "I would have called him that." And Beckett thus left the puzzle forever unexplained. Andre Bernard, the trade publisher at Harcourt and a columnist for The American Scholar, has put together a bouquet of literary anecdotes and confections that concentrates on the origins of illustrious names in novels -- but goes delightfully further, including lists, quotes and quips ("I cannot tear myself away from living creatures to bother about imaginary ones." -- Leo Tolstoy). A charming and often genuinely nourishing smorgasbord of bookish lore and speculation. (And, yes, Gustave Flaubert actually did insist that Emma Bovary was himself.)

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