These are short extracts of a larger text comissioned by Anna Colin at Gasworks to accompany an exhibition of Olivia Plender. The full text will be online shortly, the publication was launched by A Prior
In Bouvard and Pécuchet, Gustave Fluabert distills the curse of the middle class into a deadly poison. Comfortable after a financial windfall, the two leisured bureaucrats, Bouvard and Pécuchet retire to the countryside to indulge their pleasure in knowledge. They buy, devour and study books on every subject that drifts through their attention. They read on agriculture, landscape gardening and food preservation, whereupon every animal they buy dies, crops wither, rot or burn, fruits waste and preserves are not. They read chemistry, anatomy, medicine, biology and think themselves doctors, whereupon they fail to treat or cure any patients, make themselves ill and estrange the local doctor. They read Romances, have romantic interests and quickly contract venereal disease. They study gymnastics, occultism, theology, philosophy and religion; they adopt an orphan to ‘improve’ who runs-away, they fall-out with the parish priest, argue with everyone around them, and finally contemplate suicide.