Gustave Flaubert

Gustave Flaubert

Gustave Flaubert

Gustave Flaubert


A collection of fourteen critical essays on the French writer, arranged in chronological order of their original publication.


At six o'clock this evening, as I was writing the word "hysterics," I was so swept away, was bellowing so loudly and feeling so deeply what my little Bovary was going through, that I was afraid of having hysterics myself. I got up from my table and opened the window to calm myself. My head was spinning. Now I have great pains in my knees, in my back, and in my head. I feel like a man who has _____ed too much (forgive me for the expression)—a kind of rapturous lassitude.

(Flaubert to Louise Colet, letter of 23 December 1853)

I will not echo the Lycanthrope [Petrus Borel], remembered for a subversiveness which no longer prevails, when he said: "Confronted with all that is vulgar and inept in the present time, can we not take refuge in cigarettes and adultery?" But I assert that our world, even when it is weighed on precision scales, turns out to be exceedingly harsh considering it was engendered by Christ; it could hardly be entitled to throw the first stone at adultery. A few cuckolds more or less are not likely to increase the rotating speed of the spheres and to hasten by a second the final destruction of the universe.

(Baudelaire on Madame Bovary)

The societal scandal of Madame Bovary is as remote now as the asceticism of the spirit practiced by Flaubert and Baudelaire, who seem almost self‐ indulgent, in the era of Samuel Beckett. Rereading Madame Bovary side-by‐ side with say Malone Dies is a sadly instructive experience. Emma seems as boisterous as Hogarth or Rabelais in the company of Malone and Macmann.

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