Quotes by Gustave Flaubert
You can calculate the worth of a man by the number of his enemies, and the importance of a work of art by the harm that is spoken of it.
Our ignorance of history causes us to slander our own times.
The whole dream of democracy is to raise the proletarian to the level of bourgeois stupidity.
Everything one invents is true, you may be perfectly sure of that. Poetry is as precise as geometry.
Axiom: hatred of the bourgeois is the beginning of wisdom. But I include in the word bourgeois, the bourgeois in blouses as well the bourgeois in coats. It is we and we alone, that is to say the literary men, who are the people, or to say it better: the tradition of humanity.
Do not read as children do to enjoy themselves, or, as the ambitious do to educate themselves. No, read to live.
To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost.
The artist must be in his work as God is in creation, invisible and all-powerful; one must sense him everywhere but never see him.
What is beautiful is moral, that is all there is to it.
For some men, the stronger their desire, the more difficult it is for them to act. They are hampered by mistrust of themselves, daunted by the fear of giving offence; besides, deep feelings of affection are like respectable women; they are afraid of being found out and they go through life with downcast eyes.
He is so corrupt that he would willingly pay for the pleasure of selling himself.
The brazen arms were working more quickly. They paused no longer. Every time that a child was placed in them the priests of Moloch spread out their hands upon him to burden him with the crimes of the people, vociferating: "They are not men but oxen!" and the multitude round about repeated: "Oxen! oxen!" The devout exclaimed: "Lord! Eat!"
An author in his book must be like God in the universe, present everywhere and visible nowhere.
One becomes a critic when one cannot be an artist, just as a man becomes a stool pigeon when he cannot be a soldier.
The idea of bringing someone into the world fills me with horror. I would curse myself if I were a father. A son of mine! Oh no, no, no! May my entire flesh perish and may I transmit to no one the aggravations and the disgrace of existence.
One must not always think that feeling is everything. Art is nothing without form.
Gustave Flaubert's Biography
French novelist of the realist school, best-known for MADAME BOVARY (1857), a story of adultery and unhappy love affair of the provincial wife Emma Bovary. As a writer Flaubert was a perfectionist, who did not make a distinction between a beautiful or ugly subject: all was in the style. The idea, he argued, only exists by virtue of its form – its elements included the perfect word, cunningly contrived and verified rhythms, and a genuine architectural structure. Madame Bovary was first translated into English by Karl Marx's daughter Eleanor Marx.

Gustave Flaubert was born in Rouen into a family of doctors. His father, Achille-Cléophas Flaubert, a chief surgeon at the Rouen municipal hospital, made money investing in land. Flaubert's mother, Anne-Justine-Caroline (née Fleuriot), was the daughter of a physician; she became the most important person in the author's life. Anne-Justine-Caroline died in 1872.

Flaubert began to write during his school years. At the age of fifteen he won a prize for an essay on mushrooms. Actually his work was a copy. A disappointment in his teens – Flaubert fell in love with Elisa Schlésinger, who was married and some 10 years his senior – inspired much of his early writing. His bourgeois background Flaubert found early burdensome, and eventually his rebel against it led to his expulsion from school. Flaubert completed his education privately in Paris.

In the 1840s Flaubert studied law at Paris, a brief episode in his life, and in 1844 he had a nervous attack. "I was cowardly in my youth," Flaubert wrote once to George Sand. "I was afraid of life." He recognized from suffering a nervous disease, although it could have been epilepsy. However, the diagnosis changed Flaubert's life. He failed his law exams and decided to devote himself to literature. In this Flaubert was helped by his father who bought him a house at Croisset, on the River Seine between Paris and Rouen.

In 1846 Flaubert met the writer Louise Colet. They corresponded regularly and she became Flaubert's mistress although they met infrequently. Colet gave in Lui (1859) her account of their relationship. After the death of both his father and his married sister, Flaubert moved at Croisset, the family's country home near Rouen. Until he was 50 years old, Flaubert lived with his mother – he was called ''hermit of Croisset.'' The household also included his niece Caroline. His maxim was: "Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work."

Although Flaubert once stated ''I am a bear and want to remain a bear in my den,'' he kept good contacts to Paris and witnessed the Revolution of 1848. Later he received honors from Napoleon III. From 1856 Flaubert spent winters in Paris.

Flaubert's relationship with Collet ended in 1855. From November 1849 to April 1851 he travelled with the writer Maxime du Camp in North Africa, Syria, Turkey, Greece, and Italy. It took several Egyptian guides to help Flaubert to the top of the Great Pyramid – the muscular, almost six feet tall author was at that time actually relatively fat. On his return Flaubert started Madame Bovary, which took five years to complete. Sometimes he spent a week on one paragraph. It appeared first in the Revue (1856) and in book form next year. The realistic depiction of adultery was condemned as offensive to morality and religion. In one cartoon Flaubert was portrayed as a surgeon, wearing a blood-stained apron and holding up the heart of Emma Bovary. Flaubert was prosecuted, though he escaped conviction, which was not a common result during the official censorship of the Second Empire. When Baudelaire's provocative collection of verse, The Flowers of Evil, was brought before the same judge, Baudelaire was fined and 6 of the 100 poems were suppressed.

Madame Bovary was published in two volumes in 1857, but it appeared originally in the Revue de Paris, 1856-57. Emma Bovary is married to Charles Bovary, a physician. As a girl Emma has read Walter Scott, she has romantic dreams and longs for adventure. "What exasperated her was that Charles did not seem to notice her anguish. His conviction that he was making her happy seemed to her an imbecile insult, and his sureness on this point ingratitude. For whose sake, then was she virtuous? Was it not for him, the obstacle to all felicity, the cause of all misery, and, as it were, the sharp clasp of that complex strap that bucked her in on all sides." Emma seeks release from the boredom of her marriage from love affairs with two men – with the lawyer Léon Dupuis and then with Rodolphe Boulanger. Emma wants to leave her husband with him. He rejects the idea and Emma becomes ill. After she has recovered, she starts again her relationship with Léon, who works now in Rouen. They meet regularly at a hotel. Emma is in heavy debts because of her lifestyle and she poisons herself with arsenic. Charles Bovary dies soon after her and their daughter Berthe is taken care of poor relatives. Berthe starts to earn her living by working in a factory. The character of Emma was important to the author – society offered her no escape and once Flaubert said: "Emma, c'est moi." Delphine Delamare, who died in 1848, is alleged to have been the original of Emma Bovary.

Eleanor Marx's translation of Madame Bivary appeared in the same year in which the first volume of Das Kapital was published in English. She committed suicide in 1898 by taking cyanide poison after learning that her common law husband Dr Edward Aveling had entered into a legal marriage with a young actress. Aveling, who had purchased the poison, inherited Eleanor Marx's fortune, including revenues from the translation.

In the 1860s Flaubert enjoyed success as a writer and intellectual at the court of Napoleon III. Among his friends were Zola, George Sand, Hippolyte Taine, and the Russian writer Turgenev, with whom he shared similar aesthetic ideals – dedication to realism, and to the nonjudgmental representation of life. Their complete correspondence was published in English in 1985. ''The thought that I shall see you this winter quite at leisure delights me like the promise of an oasis," he wrote to Turgenev. "The comparison is the right one, if only you knew how isolated I am! Who is there to talk to now? Who is there in our wretched country who still 'cares about literature'? Perhaps one single man? Me! The wreckage of a lost world, an old fossil of romanticism! You will revive me, you'll do me good.'' (from Flaubert & Turgenev. A Friendship in Letters, edited and translated by Barbara Beaumont, 1985)

Flaubert was by nature melancholic. His perfectionism, long hours at his work table with a frog inkwell, only made his life harder. In a letter to Ernest Feydeau he wrote: "Books are made not like children but like pyramids... and are just as useless!" Flaubert's other, non-literary life was marked by his prodigious appetite for prostitutes, which occasionally led to venereal infections. "It may be a perverted taste," Flaubert said, "but I love prostitution, and for itself, too, quite apart from its carnal aspects." His last years were shadowed by financial worries – he helped with his modest fortune his niece's family after their bankruptcy. Flaubert died of a cerebral hemorrhage on May 8, in 1880.

In the 1870s Flaubert's work gained acclaim by the new school of naturalistic writers. His narrative approach, that the novelist should not judge, teach, or explain but remain neutral, was widely adopted. Flaubert himself detested the label Realist – and other labels. Among Flaubert's later major works is SALAMMBÔ (1862), a story of the siege of Carthage in 240-237 BC by mercenaries. The novel inspired in 1998 Philippe Fénélon's opera, the libretto was written by Jean-Yves Masson. Also the composers Berlioz and Mussorgsky had planned opera adaptations, but they were never realized. TROIS CONTES (1872) was a collection of three tales. The Italian writer Italo Calvino has praised it as "one of the most extraordinary spiritual journeys ever accomplished outside any religion."

L'ÉDUCATION SENTIMENTALE (1869, A Sentimental Education ) was a panorama of France set in the era of the Revolution of 1848. Its first version (LA PREMIÈRE ÉDUCATION SENTIMENTALE) Flaubert had finished in 1845. The story depicted the relationship between a young man and an older married woman. Fréderic Moreau, the hero, is a gifted young man, full of vague longings, but he constantly meets people who have nothing else to offer but pessimism and cynicism. The ironic title, A Sentimental Education, means the education of feeling, and refers to the failure of Flaubert's generation to achieve its ideals. LA TENTATION DE SAINT ANTOINE (1874, The Temptation of Saint Anthony) was a book that influenced the young Freud. Its story was based on the story of the 4th-century Christian anchorite, who lived in the Egyptian desert and experienced philosophical and physical temptations. Flaubert spent decades years with the work. Part of its fantastic mode and setting was inspired by a Brueghel painting. The Temptation of Saint Anthony was the work on which Flaubert spent most of his time, it was written between 1848 and 1874.

Flaubert's book on bourgeois stupidity, BOUVARD ET PÉCUCHET, was left unfinished at his death, and was first published in La Nouvelle Revue (1880-81), edited by Flaubert's niece Caroline Commanville. The two protagonists, two copy clerks who move to the country, have often been considered forefathers of Beckett's characters. Bouvard and Pécuchet was partly inspired by Bartlémy Maurice's story 'Les Deux greffiers' (1841), which had appeared in the magazine La Gazette fdes tribunnaux. Some of the banalities which Flaubert found unbearable, he had already collected in Dictionary of Received Ideas (1911).

Some rights reserved Petri Liukkonen (author) & Ari Pesonen. Kuusankosken kaupunginkirjasto 2008


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