By Stuart Mitchner
According to Merriam-Webster, the “full definition” of anomaly is “something different, abnormal, peculiar, or not easily classified.” My first column of 2022 brings together Gustave Flaubert’s A Simple Heart, a 72-page novella published in 1877, with Hervé Le Tellier’s The Anomaly, a 389-page novel published last year. By definition, then, Flight 22, Paris to Princeton, will be an anomaly about an anomaly, fueled by the fact that the only thing these two enterprises appear to have in common is that both were translated from the French and are landing on the same page at the same time.
Le Tellier’s novel begins, “It’s not the killing, that’s not the thing.” The speaker is a passenger on Air France Flight 006, a hired assassin “who builds his life on other people’s deaths.”
Flaubert’s novella begins, “Madame Aubain’s servant Félicité was the envy of the ladies of Pont-l’Évêque for half a century.”
When I first read that sentence, I was a college sophomore on the rebound from Madame Bovary. So I put the book aside, figuring that the life of a servant in the provinces could not compare with the story of a star-crossed adulteress. 145 years from takeoff, A Simple Heart has arrived. The question now is how can it compare with a literary mystery timed for the misinformational, confrontational turbulence of the current Omicron moment, on the eve of the first anniversary of the January 6 assault on democracy? more