Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880), was a French novelist perhaps known best for his novel Madame Bovary (1857).
Flaubert was born in Rouen, France on 12 December 1821, the fifth of six children in a family of doctors.
In the 1830s Flaubert attended the Collége Royal de Rouen, writing for its newspaper, reading Shakespeare, travelling extensively and beginning his own writings.
His first finished work was November, a novella, which was completed in 1842.
In September 1849, Flaubert completed the first version of The Temptation of Saint Anthony. He read the novel aloud to Louis Bouilhet and Maxime Du Camp over the course of four days, not allowing them to interrupt or give any opinions. At the end of the reading, his friends told him to throw the manuscript in the fire, suggesting instead that he focus on day-to-day life rather than fantastic subjects.
In 1850, after returning from Egypt, Flaubert began work on Madame Bovary. The novel, which took five years to write, was serialized in the Revue de Paris in 1856. The government brought an action against the publisher and author on the charge of immorality, which was heard during the following year, but both were acquitted. When Madame Bovary appeared in book form, it met with a warm reception.
Flaubert embarked on a trip to Egypt and the Far East with fellow writer Maxime Du Camp in 1851, sending home a varied assortment of exotic souvenirs. Nearly thirty years old he then took the next five years to write Madame Bovary, working mostly at night, having it published in six instalments by Du Camp’s literary journal Revue de Paris. The ensuing moral outrage in 1857 caused him to be (unsuccessfully) prosecuted on moral grounds.
In 1858, Flaubert travelled to Carthage to gather material for his next novel, Salammbô. The novel was completed in 1862 after four years of work.
Drawing on his youth, Flaubert next wrote L’Éducation sentimentale (Sentimental Education), an effort that took seven years. His last complete novel, it was published in 1869.
Flaubert then published a reworked version of The Temptation of Saint Anthony, portions of which had been published as early as 1857.
Flaubert wrote the Three Tales in 1877. This book comprised three stories: Un Cœur simple (A Simple Heart), La Légende de Saint-Julien l’Hospitalier (The Legend of St. Julian the Hospitaller), and Hérodias (Herodias).
After the publication of the stories, he spent the remainder of his life toiling on the unfinished Bouvard et Pécuchet, which was a grand satire on the futility of human knowledge and the ubiquity of mediocrity. It was posthumously printed in 1881 and received lukewarm reviews.
Le Dictionnaire des idées reçues (The Dictionary of Received/Accepted Ideas) is a short satirical work collected and published in 1911-13 from notes compiled by Flaubert during the 1870s, lampooning the clichés endemic to French society.
At the time of Flaubert’s death, it was unclear whether he intended eventually to publish The Dictionary… separately, or as an appendix to his unfinished novel, Bouvard et Pécuchet. In some of his notes, it seems that Flaubert intended The Dictionary… to be taken as the final creation of the two protagonists.
Flaubert’s letters have been collected in several volumes.
His notes, letters and journal entries written during his sojourn in Egypt have been collated, edited and published as Flaubert in Egypt:
Gustave Flaubert is buried at Rouen Cemetery in Normandy, France.
The Temptation of St. Antony
Bouvard and Pécuchet
A Dictionary of Received/Accepted Ideas
Flaubert in Egypt: A Sensibility on Tour
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