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Flaubert and Madame Bovary (1939)

by Francis Steegmuller

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1734127,112 (4.05)3
Francis Steegmuller's beautifully executed double portrait of Madame Bovary and her maker is a remarkable and unusual biographical study, a sensitive and detailed account of how an unpromising young man turns himself into one of the world's greatest novelists. Steegmuller starts with the young Flaubert, prone to mysterious fits, hypochondriacal, at odds with and yet dependent on his bourgeois family. Then, drawing on Flaubert's voluminous correspondence, Steegmuller tracks his subject through friendships and love affairs, a trip to the Orient, nervous breakdown and tenuous recovery, and finally into the study, where a mind at once restless and jaded finds a focus in the precisely detailed reality of an imagined woman, utterly ordinary in her unhappiness, whose story was to revolutionize literature.… (more)
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Caveat: this is not the book 'Madame Bovary.' It is biography of Flaubert focused on explaining how he came to write Madame Bovary.
This book gives you the best of both worlds: Steegmuller did a lot of research, and has interesting things to say about the origins of 'Madame Bovary,' both the book and the woman; on the other hand, it reads like a nicely written novel, except that at the end, instead of 'dear reader, i married him,' you get 'dear reader, he published it.' My only complaint is that it doesn't engage in much discussion of the Madame Bovary the book's actual contents and structure, although he quotes Baudelaire's review, which says something like that you could write about Madame Bovary for ever. I'd love to read Steegmuller's analysis of Bovary, or of the novels that followed it for that matter. ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
FLAUBERT AND MADAME BOVARY by FRANCIS STEEGMULLER (1957)
  quixoposto | Nov 8, 2013 |
FLAUBERT AND MADAME BOVARY by FRANCIS STEEGMULLER (1957)
  quixoposto | Nov 8, 2013 |
Madame Bovary was a landmark book in the ways it blended romanticism and realism. Yet, its author, Gustave Flaubert despised the minutiae of everyday life, as well as the traditions and morals of society. The story of his life and how he, who despised realism, came to write a monumental novel of realism, is particularly interesting.

Francis Steegmuller wrote his classic biography Flaubert and Madame Bovary, which he calls a “double portrait,” in 1939. There were plenty of things I didn’t like, but this mostly was because of Gustave Flaubert himself. Mr. Steegmuller’s inclusion of lots of M. Flaubert’s personal correspondence gives the reader a better understanding of the author himself. I found this a great way to give the reader a feel for the author’s personality and his writing style. I’m glad I read Mr. Steegmuller biography before I begin rereading M. Flaubert’s most popular novel
  rebeccareid | May 11, 2011 |
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Francis Steegmuller's beautifully executed double portrait of Madame Bovary and her maker is a remarkable and unusual biographical study, a sensitive and detailed account of how an unpromising young man turns himself into one of the world's greatest novelists. Steegmuller starts with the young Flaubert, prone to mysterious fits, hypochondriacal, at odds with and yet dependent on his bourgeois family. Then, drawing on Flaubert's voluminous correspondence, Steegmuller tracks his subject through friendships and love affairs, a trip to the Orient, nervous breakdown and tenuous recovery, and finally into the study, where a mind at once restless and jaded finds a focus in the precisely detailed reality of an imagined woman, utterly ordinary in her unhappiness, whose story was to revolutionize literature.

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