web site hit counter Flaubert: A Biography - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

Flaubert: A Biography

Availability: Ready to download

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880), whose Madame Bovary outraged the right-thinking bourgeoisie when it was first published in 1856, is brought to life here in all his singularity and brilliance. Frederick Brown's insightful portrayal is of an artist fraught with contradictions, his wit and bravado merging into vulnerability. A sedentary man by nature, Flaubert undertook epic vo Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880), whose Madame Bovary outraged the right-thinking bourgeoisie when it was first published in 1856, is brought to life here in all his singularity and brilliance. Frederick Brown's insightful portrayal is of an artist fraught with contradictions, his wit and bravado merging into vulnerability. A sedentary man by nature, Flaubert undertook epic voyages through Egypt and the Middle East. He could be flamboyantly uncouth but was fanatically devoted to beautifully cadenced prose. While energized by his camaraderie with male friends, who included Turgenev, the Goncourt brothers, Zola, and Maupassant, he depended upon the emotional nurture of maternal women, notably George Sand. His assorted mistresses--French, Egyptian, and English--fed his richly erotic imagination and found their way into his fictional characters. Flaubert's time and place caused him to be literally put on trial for portraying lewd behavior in Madame Bovary. His milieu also made him a celebrity and, indirectly, brought about his financial ruin, probably hastening his sudden death at the the age of fifty-nine. Although writing was something like torture for him, it preoccupied his mind and dominated his life. He privately dreamed of popular success, which he in fact achieved with Madame Bovary, but adamantly refused to sacrifice to it his ideal of artistic integrity. About Flaubert's life, inner world, times, and legacy, Frederick Brown's magisterial biography is a revelation.


Compare

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880), whose Madame Bovary outraged the right-thinking bourgeoisie when it was first published in 1856, is brought to life here in all his singularity and brilliance. Frederick Brown's insightful portrayal is of an artist fraught with contradictions, his wit and bravado merging into vulnerability. A sedentary man by nature, Flaubert undertook epic vo Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880), whose Madame Bovary outraged the right-thinking bourgeoisie when it was first published in 1856, is brought to life here in all his singularity and brilliance. Frederick Brown's insightful portrayal is of an artist fraught with contradictions, his wit and bravado merging into vulnerability. A sedentary man by nature, Flaubert undertook epic voyages through Egypt and the Middle East. He could be flamboyantly uncouth but was fanatically devoted to beautifully cadenced prose. While energized by his camaraderie with male friends, who included Turgenev, the Goncourt brothers, Zola, and Maupassant, he depended upon the emotional nurture of maternal women, notably George Sand. His assorted mistresses--French, Egyptian, and English--fed his richly erotic imagination and found their way into his fictional characters. Flaubert's time and place caused him to be literally put on trial for portraying lewd behavior in Madame Bovary. His milieu also made him a celebrity and, indirectly, brought about his financial ruin, probably hastening his sudden death at the the age of fifty-nine. Although writing was something like torture for him, it preoccupied his mind and dominated his life. He privately dreamed of popular success, which he in fact achieved with Madame Bovary, but adamantly refused to sacrifice to it his ideal of artistic integrity. About Flaubert's life, inner world, times, and legacy, Frederick Brown's magisterial biography is a revelation.

30 review for Flaubert: A Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    I think the best biographies of Flaubert are the well-annotated editions of his letters - but I enjoyed Brown’s book. I found its summaries of 1830, ‘48, and ‘71 accessible, illuminating, and spurs to further reading.

  2. 5 out of 5

    James Murphy

    I love biography like this. Brown has written Flaubert's life so rich it becomes in part social portrait. Such events in the life of France as the great 1848 Revolution and the Franco-Prussian War are events affecting Flaubert, too, and so their detailed discussion adds to our understanding of the man. In telling Flaubert's story he has to tell France's, a double portrait. The same is true for the lives he touched. Ivan Turgenev, Louise Colet, George Sand, the Goncourts are given full, rounded t I love biography like this. Brown has written Flaubert's life so rich it becomes in part social portrait. Such events in the life of France as the great 1848 Revolution and the Franco-Prussian War are events affecting Flaubert, too, and so their detailed discussion adds to our understanding of the man. In telling Flaubert's story he has to tell France's, a double portrait. The same is true for the lives he touched. Ivan Turgenev, Louise Colet, George Sand, the Goncourts are given full, rounded treatments, their importance to 19th century letters covered as well as their importance to Flaubert. I'm not sure I learned that much about these relationships, though George Sand was more important to him and Louise Colet less so than I'd imagined. This is critical biography, too. The individual works are rigorously discussed from inception to reception by the public and those of the academy. In Brown's hands Salammbo and L'Education sentimentale are given the same weight as Madame Bovary. And the events of Flaubert's life germinating the works, such as the famous journey through Egypt, are described in depth. Flaubert's life is made a story unfolded as richly as that of a character of a novel.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Whew, this one took a while. The first hundred pages or so were a most effective soporific since they dealt with Flaubert's familial antecedents and the educational system of early nineteenth century France. However, once Gustave himself shows up the pace quickens and it becomes a much more interesting read. I particularly appreciated the mix of social, cultural, and political history that occurred throughout Flaubert's life. The fact that he was put on trial for obscenity after the publication Whew, this one took a while. The first hundred pages or so were a most effective soporific since they dealt with Flaubert's familial antecedents and the educational system of early nineteenth century France. However, once Gustave himself shows up the pace quickens and it becomes a much more interesting read. I particularly appreciated the mix of social, cultural, and political history that occurred throughout Flaubert's life. The fact that he was put on trial for obscenity after the publication of Madame Bovary, as well as the political dysfunction in France throughout the second half of the nineteenth century reminded me of how little we have progressed as a species, regardless of our national origins. Additionally, though his books are now considered classics, for better or worse, his approach to life was that of a barely restrained libertine and I'm sure he would be surprised, and probably a little disappointed, to see how his books have been embraced as mainstream. I had read Salammbo after Madame Bovary and Sentimental Education and wondered at the time where the heck did this come from. Now I know that Salammbo was more indicative of his interests and the writing of the other two was more arduous for him. Finally, while Frederick Brown is conscientious in presenting Flaubert's faults and peccadilloes, I have to say that this is one of the rare biographies of someone I admire where I don't think less of them and question my affinity for their work after learning more about them. While it won't be the next book I read (I think I need a little lighter fare as a break), I look forward to reading his biography of Emile Zola, which in some ways will be an overlapping sequel since Zola was a friend of Flaubert's in his later years. And this reminds me of one of the reasons that Flaubert should be recognized as singular: He genuinely appreciated the talent and proslytized on behalf of many writers. Apparently, despite his own insecurities as a writer, he never saw fit to denigrate other people's work and actually would help improve it when asked. This alone bespeaks a unique generosity of spirit rarely matched, even today.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bob Newman

    the master realist who fled from reality Gustave Flaubert has never occupied a central place in my thoughts, nor in my reading experience. However, he is known as the teacher or inspiration for a legion of famous writers---Zola, de Maupassant, Turgenev, Daudet, Kafka, Vargas Llosa and many a 20th century French philosopher. "Madame Bovary" is on everyone's list of great novels of world literature. So, I decided to read Brown's FLAUBERT to find out more about this author because I knew very littl the master realist who fled from reality Gustave Flaubert has never occupied a central place in my thoughts, nor in my reading experience. However, he is known as the teacher or inspiration for a legion of famous writers---Zola, de Maupassant, Turgenev, Daudet, Kafka, Vargas Llosa and many a 20th century French philosopher. "Madame Bovary" is on everyone's list of great novels of world literature. So, I decided to read Brown's FLAUBERT to find out more about this author because I knew very little. The news is that in FLAUBERT you will find out far, far more than you ever wanted to know, unless you are a French Literature major (or professor) and need to dig deep. This is no doubt one of those masterworks which appear from time to time on great writers or figures in world history. Every detail of Flaubert's 58 years in this vale of tears is here, dug from letters, documents, and no doubt thousands of devoured pages by the indefatigable Brown. Everything is laid out in a vast panorama of 570 pages. In the first forty pages alone you will read about the state of medicine and medical education in France in the 1820s, about the city of Rouen and Flaubert's antecedents, drama and the stage in the 1820s and '30s, and the psychological effects of living in a hospital where dissections were conducted daily. French education in the 19th century and Flaubert's school experiences, the development of railways in France, epilepsy and "cures" of the time , and the political atmosphere surrounding the events of 1848 are all included in a tremendous amount of detail. Indeed, I would say that often Flaubert disappears into this mass of detail. His trips to Corsica and the Middle East involve hardships and a great amount of sexual hijinks. I don't wish to criticize the book or the author. It is a masterpiece, as I said. However, unless you REALLY need so much detail, this may prove to be a bit too rich for your blood. Do you need to know a lot about his friends? About the only woman he seems to have loved, but never married? Can you wade through all of this, keeping in mind throughout that it went into the writing of "Madame Bovary", "A Sentimental Education" and "Salammbo"? I found it hard and wound up skipping some pages because I cannot be so expert on French culture and society, and wanted to know in a clearer (OK, read "succinct") fashion exactly what the author thought. Just as Flaubert did not like the social pressure and intensity of Paris life, fleeing to a rural home for most of his life, never marrying, decrying "the bourgeois" at the same time as living very well, I would have liked less reality and more summing up, perhaps a shorter and more direct work on the construction and importance of his oeuvre.

  5. 5 out of 5

    John

    A thoroughly research, beautifully biography of the man, but unfortunately Brown seems to forget that Flaubert was also a writer. I can identify Flaubert's dinner partners and the salons he frequented, etc., but Brown doesn't explain the writer. Why, for example, did the story of Salambo resonate with F? What circumstances in his life prompted him to invest years of labor in his novel about St. Anthony? And so on. I have developed my own guesses from the material Brown presented, but my capacity A thoroughly research, beautifully biography of the man, but unfortunately Brown seems to forget that Flaubert was also a writer. I can identify Flaubert's dinner partners and the salons he frequented, etc., but Brown doesn't explain the writer. Why, for example, did the story of Salambo resonate with F? What circumstances in his life prompted him to invest years of labor in his novel about St. Anthony? And so on. I have developed my own guesses from the material Brown presented, but my capacity to infer does not relieve Brown of the responsibility of tackling the hard questions about how writers became the writers they became.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Charles Matthews

    This review originally ran in the Houston Chronicle: Gustave Flaubert claimed to have read 1,500 books while doing the research for his novel Bouvard et Pécuchet, Frederick Brown tells us. While working on La Tentation de Saint Antoine, Flaubert "immersed himself in scholasticism, the lives of the saints, and whatever he could find on early Christian heresies." Even his short story "Hérodias" "was distilled from hundreds of pages of notes on Roman administration, biblical toponymy, numismatics, This review originally ran in the Houston Chronicle: Gustave Flaubert claimed to have read 1,500 books while doing the research for his novel Bouvard et Pécuchet, Frederick Brown tells us. While working on La Tentation de Saint Antoine, Flaubert "immersed himself in scholasticism, the lives of the saints, and whatever he could find on early Christian heresies." Even his short story "Hérodias" "was distilled from hundreds of pages of notes on Roman administration, biblical toponymy, numismatics, Hebraic astrology." Brown is no slouch himself when it comes to research. His new biography of Flaubert is almost as much a cultural history of France in the mid-19th century as it is a life of the author. We learn copious amounts about the history and topography of the city of Rouen, the practice of medicine in early 19th-century France, the rigors of French secondary education and law school, treatments for epilepsy, prostitution in the Middle East, spa life at Vichy, the revolution of 1848, the transformation of Paris under Napoleon III and Baron Haussmann, the Franco-Prussian war, the siege of Paris and the rise and bloody fall of the Commune. But however fascinating the world in which he moved, Flaubert doesn't get lost in his own biography. He emerges from the pages of Brown's book as a wonderfully complex blend of the passionate and the persnickety – or as Brown puts it, "glorifying unruly, sociopathic, large-lunged genius or fussing over stylistic minutiae as obsessively as a Byzantine grammarian." The real test of a literary biography is how well it illuminates the writer's works. Flaubert's famous utterance, "Madame Bovary, c'est moi," threw down the gauntlet to biographers, challenging them to explore how much of Emma Bovary really is Gustave Flaubert, and vice versa. But Brown mostly stays off of this well-raked turf, preferring to explore Flaubert's works through the world in which they were created and the torturous process of exhaustive research and painstaking writing that brought them into being. His famous pursuit of the mot juste – the exactly right word or phrase – kept Flaubert in a constant two-steps-forward, one-step-back process of composition. "I brood more over an ill-suited word than I rejoice over a well proportioned paragraph," he told a correspondent. In six weeks, he said, he had written only 25 pages of Madame Bovary. Later, he reported that he had 120 "acceptable pages," but had written "at least" 500. And in January 1853 he said that he had added only 65 pages in the past five months. No wonder that his young niece thought that "Bovary" was a synonym for "work." These glimpses of the persnickety Flaubert are balanced with stories of the passionate Flaubert – or, sometimes, the randy Flaubert. For example, Brown gives us a detailed account of Flaubert's journey to Egypt with his friend Maxime Du Camp, in which Africa becomes "the id of human continents" and "a dreamworld innocent of moral constraints upon the imagination." It was a trip on which, Brown tells us, "to judge by Flaubert's notes, no whorehouse between Cairo and Nubia was so low that they wouldn't stoop to enter it." (Brown is more than generous in depicting how low they could go.) Refreshingly, after so many post-Freudian biographies, Brown is content to present Flaubert's life to us uninterpreted, rather than try to shrivel down his complexities of character with psychological "explanations." Did Flaubert's perfectionism and his eagerness to shock the bourgeoisie have something to do with his relationship with his father, a successful provincial physician, and with his older brother, who followed in their father's profession? Perhaps, but Brown doesn't rush to find the roots of genius in Oedipal neurosis. Flaubert's somewhat possessive mother was plagued with migraines, and demanded attention and sympathy. Did this have anything to do with the fact that his legal studies, which he hated, were ended by the onset of epilepsy? Maybe, but Brown isn't one to proclaim that Flaubert's illness was psychosomatic. Sometimes a seizure is just a seizure. And then there are the never-married Flaubert's friendships, infatuations and/or affairs with older women, including Élisa Schlesinger, 11 years his senior, who was the model for Marie Arnoux in L'Éducation sentimentale; Louise Colet, also 11 years older, who was his lover and inspired some aspects of Emma Bovary; and George Sand, 17 years his senior, whose literary counsel he welcomed. Again, Brown touches on the obvious Freudianisms – Schlesinger was "well upholstered and dark, like Mme Flaubert" – but doesn’t belabor us with them. If the book has a flaw, it's that Brown can be show-offy about his erudition, too often indulging his weakness for big fat words. It's amusing when he refers to the "malodorous penumbra" of the sanitation-challenged city of Rouen. But he also likes to use unfamiliar words like "otiose" when "useless" or "superfluous" would do the same work with more efficiency. And referring to the "edulcorated religion taught to young girls" is just tiresome, verging on pretentious. You won't find "edulcorated" in standard desk dictionaries; you need an unabridged one to learn that it means "purified by eliminating harsh or acid properties." But how this applies to the religion that the girls learned remains unexplained. Nevertheless, the narrative drive of the book, the keen insights into character and the abundant richness of its portrait of 19th-century France are more than enough to help the reader over any small speed-bumps of style and vocabulary. Brown has previously written biographies of Jean Cocteau and Émile Zola, and he paints a rich portrait of Flaubert's circle of friends and acquaintances, a who's who of 19th-century French writers that includes Zola, the Goncourt brothers, Ivan Turgenev, Guy de Maupassant, Théophile Gautier and Charles Sainte-Beuve. But best of all, he gives us Flaubert and his world in all their grand, complicated messiness, the better to appreciate the skill with which Flaubert brought literary order out of the chaos of existence.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tobias

    Frederick Brown knows his context, sure, but even after this many pages I am seriously in doubt whether he knows his Flaubert beyond the facts. But then again, it reminds me how bloody difficult it must be to write even a mediocre biography of an author, and let's assume that Brown admires Flaubert enough to aim slightly higher than towards a mediocre of a biography about the man, but to render it in monotone, passionless prose?

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bookmarks Magazine

    Geoffrey Wall's 2002 biography, Flaubert: A Life, sought to unwrap the inscrutable author through Freudian analysis, but critics seem to prefer Brown's more straightforward approach. The literary biographer__see Brown's Zola: A Life (1995)__delivers the earthier elements of Flaubert's story with panache and marshals an impressive array of research on French history to provide rich context for his story. If Brown has a tendency toward an overwhelmingly detailed exegesis of Flaubert's works, it's Geoffrey Wall's 2002 biography, Flaubert: A Life, sought to unwrap the inscrutable author through Freudian analysis, but critics seem to prefer Brown's more straightforward approach. The literary biographer__see Brown's Zola: A Life (1995)__delivers the earthier elements of Flaubert's story with panache and marshals an impressive array of research on French history to provide rich context for his story. If Brown has a tendency toward an overwhelmingly detailed exegesis of Flaubert's works, it's not detraction enough to halt declaring this the biography of record.This is an excerpt from a review published in Bookmarks magazine.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jack Goodstein

    It took forever to finish this. A lot about the history of the period and lives of those around the author, so much that one often wonders why it is necessary. Flaubert seems to have been something of a ladies man although he never married. His joy in women is made clear in his letters and relationships. For a man who led such a frolicing early life, this particular biography is kind of lethargic.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Michael Shoemake

    Loved it for the subject matter. The form I was less enamored with. Could have used more in-depth view of the people who remained important presences in Flaubert's life, and shorter digressions on political/social context and celebrities who briefly pop into and out of the narrative. But it is hard to find fault with a fellow Flaubert-lover.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Craig

    Excellent biography of Flaubert. Somewhat excessive in detail on the minutiae of Flaubert's personal life and the events of his era at the expense of his writing and intellectual life, but very authoritative.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Keely

    Very comprehensive and includes more quotes from his letters than the Geoffrey Wall biography, which is more direct and refreshing. Brown's writing style can be convoluted and cumbersome but the material itself is extremely satisfying.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Leon Perlman

    Good reads rating 76.4

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lawrence Farnsworth

    I have not finished reading it. I have a lot of post-its to return to and start my review which should be by the end of the week. First draft due on or about February 15, 2010.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tasha Cotter

    This was a fascinating read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    A Ab.

    A very precise and fascinating biography of one of the great writers ever!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jessie

    The best part is reading how middle-class, well-educated young adults in the mid-1800s mulled over the same things we do-- what should I do with my life, should I go to law school, etc?

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jerome

  19. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

  20. 5 out of 5

    Elvis Bego

  21. 4 out of 5

    Patricia Cassidy

  22. 5 out of 5

    James McAdams

  23. 4 out of 5

    Emma Lawson

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ant

  25. 4 out of 5

    Phillip Tigue

    Flaubert! Very interesting individual. Brown brings the man to life.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dagerman

  27. 4 out of 5

    Imgurprit

  28. 5 out of 5

    Garth

  29. 5 out of 5

    Carlyn Clark

  30. 5 out of 5

    Michael

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.