GUSTAVE

FLAUBERT

Madame Bovary
Gustave Flaubert

Gustave Flaubert

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT (1821–1880) was born in Rouen, in northern France. He was the second son of Achille-Cléophas Flaubert, director and senior surgeon of the major hospital in Rouen. He began writing at an early age, as early as eight according to some sources.

He was educated at the Lycée Pierre Corneille in Rouen, and did not leave until 1840, when he went to Paris to study law. In Paris, he was an indifferent student and found the city distasteful. He made a few acquaintances, including Victor Hugo. In 1846, after an attack of epilepsy, he left Paris and abandoned the study of law.

The temptation of literature

In September 1849, Flaubert completed the first version of a novel, The Temptation of Saint Anthony. He read the novel aloud to Louis Bouilhet and Maxime Du Camp over the course of four days, not allowing them to interrupt or give any opinions. At the end of the reading, his friends told him to throw the manuscript in the fire, suggesting instead that he focus on day-to-day life rather than fantastic subjects.

In 1850, after returning from Egypt, Flaubert began work on Madame Bovary. The novel, which took five years to write, was serialized in the Revue de Paris in 1856. The government brought an action against the publisher and author on the charge of immorality, which was heard during the following year, but both were acquitted. When Madame Bovary appeared in book form, it met with a warm reception.

In 1858, Flaubert traveled to Carthage to gather material for his next novel, Salammbô. The novel was completed in 1862 after four years of work. Drawing on his youth, Flaubert next wrote L'Éducation sentimentale (Sentimental Education), an effort that took seven years. This was his last complete novel, published in the year 1869.