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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Gustave Flaubert

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) was born in Rouen to a surgeon and a daughter of a physician.  He first studied law in Paris but turned to writing when his bouts with epilepsy forced him to give up the legal profession.  In his writings, Flaubert sought to  achieve a realistic portrayal of 19th century bourgeois France.  He was known for spending hours on mere sentences, trying to find exact words and phrases that convey his meaning.  His best known work is Madame Bovary, which describes the life of an unhappy, bourgeois wife and for which he was tried and nearly jailed.  He also wrote The Temptation of Saint Anthony and Salammbo, a historical novel set in ancient Carthage.

Sentimental Education (1869) describes the amorous adventures of Frederic Moreau, who prefers the city life of Paris over the rural life of Nogent.  The novel takes place during the July Monarchy and Flaubert spent several years studying the historical period and is exact in his details of events.  Madame Arnoux is based on Elisa Schlesinger, the wife of a music publisher for whom Flaubert had strong feelings.  The title refers to the education of feelings, a lesson Frederic is slow to learn.

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