November 26, 2022

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Celebrating the 200th birthday of Gustave Flaubert

Celebrating the 200th birthday of Gustave Flaubert

If you look at European literature of the nineteenth century, you will find at most a few writers whose books hardly make any appearance, and who are still fruitfully received to this day. Heading this list is Gustave Flaubert, who was born 200 years ago on December 12, 1821.

MA in Psychological Realism

His novels “Madame Bovary” and “L’Éducation sentimentale” are milestones in the genre and their author is recognized not only as an expert in psychological realism, but also as a serious analyst of 19th-century French history.

“Today,” French writer Nathalie Sarrot, a lady of the modern Roman era, wrote, “Our Master Gustave Flaubert. The consensus is on him: he is the pioneer of the contemporary novel.”

While interest in Flaubert’s literary studies remains high, in German-speaking countries authors – from Jean Emery to Kurt Druert to Ulrich Driesner – repeatedly dealt with Flaubert in essays, and thanks in particular to Elisabeth Edel, important new translations have appeared in recent life Flaubert is poorly lit.

Travel, affairs and diseases, real and imagined

Anyone looking for a resume in this country should go to second-hand bookshops and buy Herbert Lotman’s work since 1992, for example. French historian Michel Winnock now offers a 2021 anniversary treatment with his comprehensive autobiography, originally published in 2013.

Winock, who in the past has also portrayed Germaine de Stael, François Mitterrand, and Charles de Gaulle, elegantly leads (and sometimes wanders) the life of a lonely Flaubert.

He describes the origin of a wealthy medical family, the blissful farewell to law studies, the solitude of his country house near Rouen, the development of friendships, real and imagined illnesses, the obsession with achieving stylistic perfection, the journeys which, when they led east, Winock gave the chapter titled “Sextourism”, and a resolution Never committing to a woman despite numerous and nerve-wracking relationships as colleague Louise Colette: “Feminine nature is never in harmony with my existence.”

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Hated by the stupidity of the bourgeoisie

Winnock’s novel, based not least on the fact that Flaubert was a brilliant and tireless letter writer – the copy in the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade is an impressive five volumes – has great strengths when it summarizes and illustrates 19th-century French history. An innovative way Flaubert incorporates this into his “emotional education”. The inner turmoil of compatriot Flaubert, who hated nothing more than the dullness of the bourgeoisie, was no less evident.

In interpretations of the work – in “Salammbô” and especially in the fragmentary late work “Bouvard and Pécuchet”, to which Wallstein Verlag recently made such outstanding contributions with Hans-Horst Henschens Edition – Winock’s approach is somewhat ineffective. And this does not change the fact that with such a calm and clear biography, Flaubert’s life is no longer before us as a closed book.