Sunday, October 29, 2006

Manolo Blahnik & "Madame Bovary"

To celebrate its 60th anniversary, Penguin Classics invited some leading designers to create new covers for their favorite novels.

The shoe designer Manolo Blahnik designed the cover for Madame Bovary. Here's his explanation behind the cover:
I love Penguin. I had the orange and white paperbacks on my shelf when I was a boy in the Canary Islands, so I have a strong affection for them. As a child I used to hear my mother say how wonderful Flaubert was, and Madame Bovary was her favourite of his novels, so I read it when I was about 12, but didn't enjoy it that much at all. Later, when I was living in Geneva, I saw a wonderful movie of L'Éducation sentimentale that pushed me to read Madame Bovary again, and I was absolutely enchanted by it. It gave me an incredible passion for Flaubert's writings. Madame Bovary is particularly attractive to me because it is a very dramatic story, with this woman's incredible desire, and a compulsion to dress all the time. She didn't have much money and had to borrow from the draper, but she spent everything she had on wonderful, beautiful textiles and dresses. It is something that a modern woman can understand.

Doing illustrations for books isn't familiar terrain to me, but I love challenges. My cover is a picture of a lady with a man's hands stretching from behind a curtain to touch her lovely bottom. She is dressed in a wonderful chiffon peignoir, or dressing-gown, and mules - like the slippers ladies put on before they went to bed in those days. It's a fun cover. Maybe I should have been more respectful, done a more solemn drawing in homage to Flaubert - but it isn't a solemn novel. My design was inspired by the golden era of English drawing typified by Cecil Beaton and Oliver Messel. I tried to remember the kind of illustrations that Beaton did in the 1940s to 1960s, like those for Nancy Mitford's Don't Tell Alfred, and this is what I tried to re- create. At the same time, I tried to make it like a cheap novelette from nowadays. I don't know if it is very good or not, but I quite like it.
The price on the Blahnik-covered Madame Bovary: £100.00.

Tender Is the Night, Crime and Punishment, Lady Chatterley's Lover, and The Idiot also get the designer treatment. Read all about it here.

Related items here on the blog:
A fashion editor's top books on shoes
Attractive author, seductive book
Books and their covers
Judging a book by its cover

--Marshal Zeringue