The Parrot

Here’s a short story that was in Flaubert’s Parrot – Julian Barnes. It was found among some press cuttings that Flaubert collected over his life time.

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In Gerouville, near Arlon, there lived a man who owned a magnificent parrot. It was his sole love. As a young man, he had been the victim of an ill-starred passion; the experince had made him misanthropic, and now he lived along with his parrot. he had taught the bird to pronounce the name of his lost love, and this name was repeated hundred times a day.This was the bird’s only talent, but in the eyes of his owner, the unfortunate Henery K-, it was the talent worth all the others. Every time he heard the sacred name pronounced by this strange voice, Henery thrilled with joy; it seemed to him like a voice form the grave, something mysterious and superhuman.

Solitude engulfed the imagination of Henery K-, and gradually the parrot began to take on a rare significance in his mind. For him it became a kind of holy bird: he would handle it with deep respect and spend hours in rapt contemplation of it Then the parrot returning his master’s gaze with an unflinching eye, would mummer the cabbalistic word, and Henery’s soul would be filled with memory of his lost happiness.This strange life lasted several years. One day, however, people noticed that Henery K – was looking gloomier than usual; and there was a strange,  wild light in his eyes. His parrot had died.

Henery K-continued to live alone, now completely so. He had no link with the out side world. He became more and more wrapped in h8mself. Sometimes he would not leave his room for days on end. He would eat whatever food was brought to him, but took no notice of anyone.

Gradually he began to believe that he himself had turned into a parrot. As if in imitation of the dead bird, he would squawk out the name he would love to hear; he would try walking like a parrot, perching on things, and extending his arms as if he had wings to beat.Sometimes, he would loose his temper and start breaking the furniture; and his family decided to send him to the masion de sante at Gheel. On the journey there, however, he escaped during the night.The next morning they found him perched on a tree. Persuading him to come down proved very difficult, until someone had the idea an enormous parrot cage. On seeing this, the unfortunate monomaniac climbed down and was recaptured. He is now in the maison de sante at Gheel looking for the eyes that would  loving gaze so that he may be able to utter those holy words.

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