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Two Letters from Gustave Flaubert to Louise Colet

Gustave Flaubert, translated by Geoffrey Wall

22 June 1995
... Croisset, 15-16 May 1852. Saturday-Sunday, 1 a.m. The small hours of Sunday morning find me in the middle of a page that has taken me all day and is still far from finished. I am putting it aside to write to you, and in fact it may perhaps take me into tomorrow evening, since I often spend several hours looking for a word, and since I have several to find, it is quite likely that you would still be waiting all next week if I were to wait until I had finished ...

A Gloomy Duet

Geoffrey Wall

3 April 1997
Louis Bouilhet: Lettres à Gustave Flaubert 
edited by Maria Cappello.
CNRS, 780 pp., frs 490, April 1996, 2 271 05288 2
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... Gustave Flaubert to Louis Bouilhet, 6 September 1850: In the midst of my weariness and my discouragement when the bile kept rising into my mouth, you were the Selzer water that made life digestible for me. You re-invigorated me, like a tonic bath. When I was groaning with self-pity, feeling all alone, I used to say to myself: ‘Look at him’ and I would get back to work with renewed energy, You were my supreme moral emblem, and my perpetual edification ...

Irishtown

D.A.N. Jones

1 November 1984
Ironweed 
by William Kennedy.
Viking, 227 pp., £7.95, September 1984, 0 670 40176 5
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In Custody 
by Anita Desai.
Heinemann, 204 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 9780434186358
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Flaubert’s Parrot 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 190 pp., £8.50, October 1984, 0 241 11374 1
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... is about Albany, capital of the State of New York. Julian Barnes writes about the France of Gustave Flaubert, as discussed in an irrational, pedantic manner by a British admirer of Flaubert’s work. Anita Desai, daughter of a German mother and a Bengali father, writes about the world of Indian poets, a very male ...
27 May 1993
Flaubert–Sand: The Correspondence 
translated by Barbara Bray.
HarperCollins, 428 pp., £20, March 1993, 0 00 217625 4
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Correspondence. Tome III: janvier 1859 – décembre 1868 
by Gustave Flaubert, edited by Jean Bruneau.
Gallimard, 1727 pp., frs 20, March 1991, 2 07 010669 1
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Madame Bovary: Patterns of Provincial Life 
by Gustave Flaubert, translated by Francis Steegmuller.
Everyman, 330 pp., £8.99, March 1993, 1 85715 140 2
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Madame Bovary 
by Gustave Flaubert, translated by Geoffrey Wall.
Penguin, 292 pp., £4.99, June 1992, 0 14 044526 9
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... now publishing without strain two or three novels a year of the improving, marketable kind. Flaubert, too, had had an episode of scandal, when he and Madame Bovary were taken to court in 1857 for obscenity; but he by now was labouring retentively away once again in the service of Apollo, the Olympian specially refurbished by him as ‘the god of ...

ˆ

John Sturrock

4 January 1996
L’Accent du souvenir 
by Bernard Cerquiglini.
Minuit, 165 pp., frs 99, September 1995, 2 7073 1536 2
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... Gustave Flaubert, in a letter to his publisher of October 1862, and after two other grumbles about the typesetting on the page-proofs of his new book: ‘3º The circumflex accent on Salammbô has no profile. Nothing could be less Punic. I demand a more open one.’ To demand with Flaubert was to get: within a few days he had an accent that straddled its underlying vowel in the comprehensive way that he wanted, and gave the name of the heroine of his Carthaginian novel a suitably Punic appearance on the title-page ...

How stupid people are

John Sturrock: Flaubert

7 September 2006
Bouvard and Pecuchet 
by Gustave Flaubert, translated by Mark Polizzotti.
Dalkey Archive, 328 pp., £8.99, January 2006, 1 56478 393 6
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FlaubertA Life 
by Frederick Brown.
Heinemann, 629 pp., £25, May 2006, 0 434 00769 2
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... Of the three books that Gustave Flaubert was able to write only after a lengthy cohabitation with his sources, Bouvard et Pécuchet is by some way the most approachable. The other two are exhibition pieces, admirable for their form but keeping their distance, full as they are of the rare knowledge he had come to by his reading ...

Yuk’s Last Laugh

Tim Parks: Flaubert

15 December 2016
Flaubert 
by Michel Winock, translated by Nicholas Elliott.
Harvard, 528 pp., £25, October 2016, 978 0 674 73795 2
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... The good man’s​ home is a mask,’ Gustave Flaubert wrote when he was 16. Every ideal was a cover for vanity. How could it be otherwise, when our bodies were ‘composed of mud and shit and equipped with instincts lower than those of the pig, or the crab-louse’? Born in 1821 to a wealthy family and growing up in the cautious conservatism of provincial post-Napoleonic France, Flaubert saw only hypocrisy and intellectual dullness all around him ...

Juliet

D.J. Enright

18 September 1980
Flaubert and an English Governess 
by Hermia Oliver.
Oxford, 212 pp., £9.50, June 1980, 0 19 815764 9
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The Letters of Gustave Flaubert 1830-1857 
edited and translated by Francis Steegmuller.
Harvard, 270 pp., £7.50, March 1980, 0 674 52636 8
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... English governess in question – very much in question – was Juliet Herbert, governess at the Flaubert home in Croisset to Flaubert’s much-loved niece, Caroline, between 1854/5 and 1857. Her acquaintanceship with the novelist lasted till his death in 1880, but the nature of the acquaintanceship is in dispute. The most ...
4 May 1989
FlaubertA Biography 
by Herbert Lottman.
Methuen, 396 pp., £17.95, April 1989, 0 413 41770 0
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... on the lips; but sometimes the flesh is soft, and the reverent process proves destructive. Bits of Flaubert’s moustache, for instance, have been coming away for a century. When he died in 1880, the Times obituarist confused him with his brother Achille and said he had once trained as a surgeon (the Paper of Record also retitled his last novel Bouvard et ...

Dear Mole

Julian Barnes

23 January 1986
Flaubert and Turgenev: A Friendship in Letters 
translated by Barbara Beaumont.
Athlone, 197 pp., £18, October 1985, 0 485 11277 9
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... Flaubert’s Correspondence (which Gide kept at his bedside for five years in place of the Bible, and which hoisted even Sartre into grudging admiration) is one of the great documents of French literature: so it’s surprising how much of it isn’t there. The novelist made letter-burning pacts with his two longest-serving male friends, Maxime Du Camp and Louis Bouilhet, who with an irritating rectitude kept their side of the bargain: Du Camp burnt all but 24 out of a ‘considerable’ number of letters, which he had already annotated for posterity, and Bouilhet all but 81; while Flaubert himself, perhaps signalling unease about the agreements, kept 141 of Du Camp’s replies in existence, and 498 of Bouilhet’s ...
21 July 1994
Rage and Fire: A Life of Louise Colet – Pioneer Feminist, Literary Star, Flaubert’s Muse 
by Francine du Plessix Gray.
Hamish Hamilton, 432 pp., £20, July 1994, 0 241 13256 8
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... In October 1879, Flaubert, then aged 57, invited Maupassant to dinner, informing him that there was a purpose behind this invitation. He wanted to burn some letters, and he did not want to do so alone. After a particularly good meal, Flaubert brought a heavy suitcase into his study and began to throw packets of letters into the fire, occasionally reading passages from them in his booming voice ...

Amused, Bored or Exasperated

Christopher Prendergast: Gustave Flaubert

13 December 2001
FlaubertA Life 
by Geoffrey Wall.
Faber, 413 pp., £25, October 2001, 0 571 19521 0
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... Wall, on retiring from his story, decorates the frame with a nicely incongruous detail: ‘Flaubert’s coffin, too big to fit into the grave, had to be left stuck at an angle, headfirst, and only halfway into the earth.’ Flaubert’s novels are packed with grotesque contingencies of this sort, an ongoing series of ...
18 August 1983
... Six North Africans were playing boules beneath Flaubert’s statue. Clean cracks sounded over the grumble of jammed traffic. With a final, ironic caress from the fingertips, a brown hand despatched a metal globe. It landed, hopped to reveal a small moon-crater, and curved slowly in a scatter of hard dust. The thrower remained a stylish, temporary statue: knees not quite unbent, and the right hand ecstatically spread ...
18 November 2010
Madame Bovary: Provincial Ways 
by Gustave Flaubert and Lydia Davis.
Penguin, 342 pp., £20, November 2010, 978 1 84614 104 1
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... direction as well. Then we make a key decision: should this translator be ancient or modern? Flaubert’s contemporary, or ours? After a little thought, we might plump for an Englishwoman of Flaubert’s time, whose prose would inevitably be free of anachronism or other style-jarringness. And if she was of the ...

Double Bind

Julian Barnes

3 June 1982
The Family Idiot: Gustave Flaubert 1821-1857 
by Jean-Paul Sartre.
Chicago, 627 pp., £17.50, January 1982, 0 226 73509 5
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Sartre and Flaubert 
by Hazel Barnes.
Chicago, 449 pp., £17.50, January 1982, 0 226 03720 7
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... of his life, or that it brought upon the comrade of 1968 certain inevitable reproaches. But why Flaubert? After all, Sartre recorded in Les Mots how, as a child, he was ‘poisoned’ by the ‘old bile’ and the ‘abstract hatred of mankind’ of Flaubert, Gautier and the Goncourts; and a harsh excommunication was also ...

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