Everything began on 29 March 1862, when Monsieur Gustave Flaubert began to manifest his dreams, his plans for a novel. He had a great desire, which he was unable to renounce, to write a book on the Orient… a book he had just sketched out, a book he would have entitled “Harel Bey”.
This is how the character Harel Bey was imagined and, in truth, created from a diligent and scrupulous reflection by a writer usually seduced by eccentric fables, even though they were always original.
Here then was Harel Bey, forged in a manner similar to how the Christians would mold a man, making use of a prodigious but tried and true formula.
From there the inspiration for my book, in which it was necessary to use a literary form that would allow me to create a story involving real characters and unreal characters.
This in synthesis is my creation.
But who is Harel Bey?
Harel Bey is a blind Bedouin who wishes to avenge the affront made to him by Gustave Flaubert.
Harel Bey is a blind Bedouin introduced into the story, but who does not have, in truth and at an attentive reading, an existential logic of his own. He rambles amidst the pages and abruptly appears and disappears without reason or merit, indeed he is even able to strike terror without any apparent motive.
Often Harel Bey basks in his blindness, in his loose and idle way of walking, in his unbeliever’s clothes in vivid colours and bizarre forms which recall countries clinging to doctrines feared by many through evil reputation, through vexatious orthodoxy, through narrow-minded hagiography practiced with conviction.
Often Harel Bey becomes serious, his face marked by serious attention, by a disturbed conscience. He speaks with unexpected honesty and, shaking his head, pronounces bitter rebukes in relation to Gustave. He invokes as testimony the disconcerting writings and notes of this same Gustave, who had veiled, with improper words, very explicit sequences of certain events and actions. Harel Bey recites false and inopportune memories, skims over intricate itineraries fudged from Gustave’s mind so that he could obtain narratives adapted to confound the truth and lies.
Unexpectedly Harel Bey begins to grumble with verbose agitation, to pile question upon question, to interrogate, demanding instant replies: whether it was true that Gustave’s youth was marked with perilous encounters, with unusual customs, with amorous precocity, with the penetrating odour of death and sex.
Harel Bey, industrious and tireless traveler among Gustave’s books and stories, takes in with curiosity the frenetic flow of a narrative and the melody of incautious bewilderment that often ends in a sneer of febrile excitation. He marks in his memory, amidst words repeated in a whisper with the intention of sealing such touching nostalgia and remembrances, the stories of desperation and anguish.
At the end of the story Harel Bey confesses: “I am afraid of having already heedlessly committed a few too many homicides, of having roamed through the writings of Gustave and of having devastated, with impunity and with brazen ribaldry, certain thugs collected in extremely boring fictionalized existences.
At the moment I have taken up lodgings, in truth in an irresponsible manner since I was obliged by the force of robust and sinister gendarmes and nurses, at Charenton Hospital, St. Maurice. Pavilion 4: Notarial archives of time regained. Sub-pavilion 2: bastards and assassins”.
– Giuseppe Cafiero
What would happen if a character, even if only roughly sketched in the mind of a writer, decided to take on a life independent of his creator in order to take revenge against all the other characters that this author had created in his other books?
This is what happens to the legendary writer Gustave Flaubert, when his character Harel-Bey comes to life with a grudge to bear. Even the imaginary characters of books that Monsieur Flaubert has never actually written, but had long pondered and discussed with his most intimate friends, begin to stir with their own motivations.
Quite unexpectedly, Harel-Bey begins a long and difficult journey through the writings of Monsieur Flaubert to try to understand the reasons that induced the writer to write so many books and stories, but never the one that would have had him as leading protagonist. As a vengeful killer, Harel-Bey is determined to murder all of the protagonists of the books and stories Flaubert has written.
In the company of a certain Monsieur Bouvard, himself the star of another book which Flaubert had started but never finished, Harel-Bey seeks his revenge. There’s will be a mission rich in disturbing discoveries, revealing the reasons and the irrationalities of fictionalised reality and unreal fiction.
Giuseppe Cafiero is a prolific writer of plays and fiction who has produced numerous programs for the Italian-Swiss Radio, Radio Della Svizzera Italiana, and Slovenia’s Radio Capodistria. The author of ten published works focusing on cultural giants from Vincent Van Gogh to Edgar Allan Poe, Cafiero lives in Italy, in the Tuscan countryside.