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Three Tales by Gustave Flaubert
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Three Tales (1877)

by Gustave Flaubert

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1,763306,083 (3.62)36
  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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English (25)  French (2)  Italian (2)  Catalan (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (31)
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
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 |
It seems from what I’ve read that ‘A Simple Heart’ reveals both Flaubert’s his humanity (‘Now, surely, no one will accuse me of being inhuman anymore’ – Flaubert) and ‘a mastery of style acquired in the course of a lifetime’s arduous work’ – Robert Baldick. For me, though, it was a very simple and simply told tale, an observational and rather distant one of a rather ignorant woman ready to accept the vicissitudes of life without doing much about them. Rejected in love, she dedicates herself to a rather arrogant family and ends up worshipping a stuffed parrot as a representative of the Holy Ghost. Apparently even this apparent bit of a jibe isn’t intended as such and we’re just meant to recognise this woman as the salt of the earth. Still, despite Flaubert’s protestations – ‘ce n’est nullement ironique . . . mais au contraire tres serieux et trists. Je veux apitoyer, faire pluerer les ames sensibles, en eeetant une moi-meme’ - , I think he did mean the reader to also see the grim humour at the end with Félicité mistaking her parrot for the Holy Ghost, especially since there is a pun in the original French, Félicité mistaking her Perroquet for le Paraclet, not to mention the way she imagines a giant parrot swooping down presumably to get her as she dies – i.e. word-play followed by slap-stick. This is the sort of double tone Nicola Barker gets into her novels now.

Her inertia, though, while perhaps understandable to an extent given her contemporary circumstances, stopped me from engaging with this Félicité, the distance between me and her being increased by the way the tale is told without any direct speech. Yes, it’s pared language Flaubert uses and you can read quite a bit into it – e.g. a simple life is the most fulfilling – but only if we are simpletons like the protagonist. All right, Félicité is more ignorant than stupid but she also seems far less dynamic than the average person.

I guess I preferred this story, though, to the next one, ‘The Legend of St Julian Hospitator’, based on the thirty windows in Rouen Cathedral depicting his life. Again I couldn’t see much point in this story of an unremittingly violent boy/young man who takes far too long to learn from his mistakes, whose bloodlust seems to know no ends. And to become a saint after all that! This was a quasi-biblical story told in a biblical style, inviting no empathy for Julian.

And I don’t think I’d be alone in having a limited understanding and appreciation of the final tale, ‘Herodias’, the retelling of the execution of John the Baptiste. It’s obviously putting a new slant on the story but not one easily followed without more background knowledge than I have. ( )
  evening | Apr 20, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (90 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Flaubert, Gustaveprimary 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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Book description
A Simple Heart, The Legend of St. Julian Hospitator, Herodias.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140441069, Paperback)

This volume includes "A Simple Heart", "The legend of St Julian Hospitator" and "Herodias". These three pieces of fiction by the 19th-century French naturalist are introduced by an essay describing his life, works, and artistic abilities.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:20 -0400)

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Gustave Flaubert was brought to trial for gross immorality, alleging that his novel, 'Madame Bovary', was criminal. He narrowly escaped conviction, and went on to write powerful literature, of which 'Three tales' is considered to among his finest work.… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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