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Three Tales (1877)

by Gustave Flaubert

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,943356,175 (3.63)37
Three Tales offers an excellent introduction to the work of one of the world's greatest novelists. A Simple Heart is set in the Normandy of Flaubert's childhood, while Saint Julian and Herodias draw on medieval myth and the biblical story of John the Baptist for their inspiration. Each of thetales invites comparison with one or other of Flaubert's novels, but they also reveal a fresh and distinctive side to the writers's genius.… (more)
  1. 10
    Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes (wrmjr66)
    wrmjr66: If you like Three Tales, you might enjoy Flaubert's Parrot, but if you like Flaubert's Parrot, you must read Three Tales!
  2. 00
    Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (wrmjr66)
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» See also 37 mentions

English (25)  Italian (3)  French (2)  Spanish (2)  Catalan (2)  Dutch (1)  All languages (35)
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With his allegedly "immoral" first novel [b:Madame Bovary|2175|Madame Bovary|Gustave Flaubert|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1335676143s/2175.jpg|2766347] Flaubert established himself as a leading exponent of the budding realist approach to literature with its emphasis on the sometimes sordid details of everyday life. The same elements recur in [b:Sentimental Education|2183|Sentimental Education|Gustave Flaubert|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327788473s/2183.jpg|314156] but, in contrast, the historical novel [b:Salammbô|221597|Salammbô|Gustave Flaubert|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1387717681s/221597.jpg|47789734] , is an exercise in over-the-top exotic Orientalism.

This edition of Flaubert's late "Three Tales" features a high-profile guest foreword by Margaret Drabble, as well as an introduction by translator Howard Curtis. Both emphasize the fact that these short stories are a distillation of Flaubert's craft and reflect the two extremes of his literary style.

The collection opens with "A Simple Heart", a blow-by-blow description of the life and hardships of humble Normandy servant Felicite. The detached, sphinx-like third person narration is tantalisingly ambiguous - are we meant to feel sorry for the protagonist? Contemptuous at her ignorance? Angry at her too easy resignation in the face of adversity? Or should we admire her humility and loyalty? Much is made of Felicite's quasi-blasphemous mental association between the Holy Ghost and her stuffed parrot. Said parrot makes a final appearance in the final pages, when Flaubert abandons the matter-of-fact storytelling in favour of a glimpse of the dying protagonist's ecstatic visions. What are we make of this? It is unlikely that the secularist Flaubert wanted us to take these mystic passages at face value - on the other hand, the heightened language suggests that rather than being demented ravings of a gullible old woman, these "visions" give Felicite a hard-earned dignity at the moment of death.

Certainly, for an anti-clerical agnostic, Flaubert's tales show a strange fascination with religion. "Saint Julian the Hospitaller" is a retelling of the medieval legend of the patron saint of hunters in which Flaubert resorts to Gothic tropes for heightened effect - dark forests, rambling castles, talking animals and last but not least a curse which haunts Julian. "Herodias" is an account of the beheading of St John. An excuse to indulge in Salammbô-style exoticism, the colourfully-described orgies would influence later writers including Oscar Wilde.

This Hesperus classics edition is highly recommended, particularly for Howard Curtis's idiomatic translation, which was nominated for the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize. ( )
  JosephCamilleri | Mar 5, 2021 |
Tale, the first, is sweet, sad and a little strange.

Tale, the second, is not very sweet, quite sad and VERY strange. First the guy is completely psychotic, or a sociopath, I'm not sure which (I need to reference my old psych 101 book). Later he becomes a wandering monk. To find out what happens next you'll have to read the story, I'm not ruining it. Suffice it to say that the first two "tales" have really heavy Catholic overtones. Penance is seriously emphasized in tale #2.

You know, I was once in Mexico City and they have this HUGE basilica thing there. They purposefully made this little path up to the alter or whatever with more jagged rock so you could properly hurt while crawling up to it on your knees. Sorry to all of you Catholics our there, I don't mean any offense, but you can have at that sort of thing. No thank you. I don't think that is what is meant by "suffering for the cause of Christ". St. Julian, however, disagrees with me...clearly.

I can totally see where scholars could spend decades and zillions of dead trees debating the end of the second tale. The whys and wherefores must make for endless fun for academics! Though I found this tale the most disturbing and much less comfortable than the first it was far and away my favorite of the three.

Tale, the third, is a fictionalized re-telling of the death of John the Baptist from the perspective of Harod Antipas ( )
  Amelia1989 | Jun 10, 2019 |
Five, four and three stars respectively for the three stories. The first is a masterpiece on equal par with Mme Bovary, the style is incredibly effective in all its simplicity, the story is really moving. The second one also contains some beautiful writing but the story less captvating. The last one is a rather overloaded retelling of the biblical tale. ( )
  stef7sa | Jan 5, 2017 |
With his allegedly "immoral" first novel Madame Bovary, Flaubert established himself as a leading exponent of the budding realist approach to literature with its emphasis on the sometimes sordid details of everyday life. The same elements recur in Sentimental Education but, in contrast, the historical novel Salammbô is an exercise in over-the-top exotic Orientalism. Flaubert's late "Three Tales" reflect these two extremes of his literary style.

This edition features a high-profile guest foreword by Margaret Drabble, as well as an introduction by translator Howard Curtis. Both writers emphasize the fact that these short stories are a distillation of Flaubert's craft and amongst his best works.

The collection opens with "A Simple Heart", a blow-by-blow description of the life and hardships of humble Normandy servant Felicite. The detached, sphinx-like third person narration is tantalisingly ambiguous - are we meant to feel sorry for the protagonist? Contemptuous at her ignorance? Angry at her too easy resignation in the face of adversity? Or should we admire her humility and loyalty? Much is made of Felicite's quasi-blasphemous mental association between the Holy Ghost and her stuffed parrot. Said parrot makes a final appearance in the final pages, when Flaubert abandons the matter-of-fact storytelling in favour of a glimpse of the dying protagonist's ecstatic visions. What are we make of this? It is unlikely that the secularist Flaubert wanted us to take these mystic passages at face value - on the other hand, the heightened language suggests that rather than demented ravings of a gullible old woman, these "visions" give Felicite a hard-earned dignity at the moment of death.

Certainly, for an anti-clerical agnostic, Flaubert's tales show a strange fascination with religion. "Saint Julian the Hospitaller" is a retelling of the medieval legend of the patron saint of hunters in which Flaubert resorts to Gothic tropes for heightened effect - dark forests, rambling castles, talking animals and last but not least a curse which haunts Julian. "Herodias" is an account of the beheading of St John. An excuse to indulge in Salammbô-style exoticism, the colourfully-described orgies would influence later writers including Oscar Wilde.

This Hesperus classics edition is highly recommended, particularly for Howard Curtis's idiomatic translation, which was nominated for the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize. ( )
1 vote JosephCamilleri | Mar 12, 2016 |
three short novels by flaubert, the first a simple heart was my favorite. the story told with great compassion of a woman housekeeper in the 19th century. the next two for me did not touch as deeply. certainly flaubert is an excellent writer that works very hard ( )
  michaelbartley | Apr 15, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (90 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Flaubert, GustaveAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Arfeux, Marc-HenriPréfacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
de Sacy, S.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Edl, ElisabethEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pinxteren, Hans vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Romano, LallaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sbarbaro, CamilloTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tournier, MichelForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Pendant un demi-siècle, les bourgeoises de Pont-l'Évêque envièrent à Mme Aubain sa servante Félicité. (Un coeur simple)
Le père et la mère de Julien habitaient un château, au milieu des bois, sur la pente d'une colline. (La légende de saint Julien l'Hospitalier)
La citadelle de Machaerous se dressait à l'orient de la mer Morte, sur un pic de basalte ayant la forme d'un cône. (Hérodias)
For half a century the women of Pont-l'Eveque envied Mme Aubain her maidservant Felicite. (A Simple Heart)
Julian's father and mother lived in a castle in the middle of a forest, on the slope of a hill. (The Legend of St Julian Hospitator)
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This work refers to the collection that includes 'A Simple Heart', 'Saint Julian the Hospitalier', and 'Hérodias', published with the English titles of 'Three Tales'. Please don't combine with the work that is published under the English title of 'Three Short Works', which contains 'A Simple Heart', 'Saint Julian the Hospitalier' and 'Dance of Death'.
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Three Tales offers an excellent introduction to the work of one of the world's greatest novelists. A Simple Heart is set in the Normandy of Flaubert's childhood, while Saint Julian and Herodias draw on medieval myth and the biblical story of John the Baptist for their inspiration. Each of thetales invites comparison with one or other of Flaubert's novels, but they also reveal a fresh and distinctive side to the writers's genius.

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A Simple Heart, The Legend of St. Julian Hospitator, Herodias.
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