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Three Tales (1877)

by Gustave Flaubert

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2,300386,793 (3.65)47
The three works in this book are each strikingly different. Death, Satan and Nero (the fifth Roman emperor) converse in a prose poem; a Medieval saint encounters trial and struggle before attaining divinity; the life of a selfless maid in 19th-century France shows the horror of true altruism.
  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)
  3. 00
    Rebellion by Joseph Roth (kmwndmldrs)
    kmwndmldrs: Both feature a parrot & death.
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» See also 47 mentions

English (30)  Italian (3)  Catalan (2)  Spanish (2)  French (1)  All languages (38)
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
Having read [A Simple Heart] for the Great Courses series, I was going to toss the book itself, very old, very foxed, the spine just barely holding. But there were two more stories in the volume, shorter than the first, so I tried them out.

The second, "The Legend of St. Julian Hospitator" reads like a legend, about a man born with conflicting prophesies and an overwhelming penchant for hunting and killing as many animals as he can. When he is told yet another prophesy, that he will kill his parents, he flees the country and wanders, marries a princess, continues his slaughter, until eventually, by accident, he does kill his parents. This horror turns him humble, a mendicant who eventually becomes a boatman on a rough crossing. accepting all. He is eventually saved by Jesus.

The third, "Herodias", is the story of Herod and Jokanaan. The women as assigned all the blame, it seems to me.

It is curious that Flaubert wrote "A Simple Heart" about a very ordinary woman, and two stories about anything but ordinary people. The writing is beautiful, in a translation by Robert Baldick. ( )
  ffortsa | Apr 29, 2024 |
Flaubert's late era set of short stories is an interesting mix, all based around narratives of sainthood, transcendence and martyrdom. The gem of the bunch is without a doubt the most famous story here, "Un coeur simple", the story of a peasant girl named Felicite and her fruitless life, held back by a parochial rural life and narrow in her education yet a woman of great imagination and compassion for others in her own way. It's the most effective display of Flaubert's romanticist-realist style in action.

Unfortunately the other two stories don't quite match it - Saint Julien has an interesting ending and some vivid imagery though the sheer amount of animal cruelty can become a bit stomach-turning, while Herodias quickly becomes confusing and even outright tedious at points in what I hope isn't a harbinger for how I'm going to feel when I get to Salammbo. ( )
  franderochefort | Sep 24, 2023 |
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 | Feb 21, 2023 |
Exceptional series of short stories. I believe I may have enjoyed them more than Madame Bovary, Flaubert's best known work (as good as I thought that novel to be...) ( )
  wahoo8895 | Nov 20, 2022 |
4/25/22
  laplantelibrary | Apr 25, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (47 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Flaubert, GustaveAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Arfeux, Marc-HenriPréfacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Baldick, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Biasi, Pierre-Marc deEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Edl, ElisabethEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ives, George BurnhamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jessup, AlexanderSeries editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kare, KaukoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marzials, Frank ThomasIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McDowall, ArthurTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pinxteren, Hans vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Romano, LallaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sacy, Samuel Silvestre deEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sbarbaro, CamilloTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Scarpellini, EugeniaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tournier, MichelForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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)
The citadel of Machaerus stood to the east of the Dead Sea, on the cone-shaped basalt peak. (Herodias)
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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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The three works in this book are each strikingly different. Death, Satan and Nero (the fifth Roman emperor) converse in a prose poem; a Medieval saint encounters trial and struggle before attaining divinity; the life of a selfless maid in 19th-century France shows the horror of true altruism.

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