Gustave Flaubert

Gustave Flaubert

Gustave Flaubert (1821–1880) is counted among the greatest Western novelists. He was born in Rouen, Seine-Maritime, in the Haute-Normandie Region of France.

Flaubert's curious modes of composition favored and were emphasized by these peculiarities. He worked in sullen solitude, sometimes occupying a week in the completion of one page, never satisfied with what he had composed, violently tormenting his brain for the best turn of a phrase, the most absolutely final adjective. It cannot be said that his incessant labors were not rewarded. His private letters show that he was not one of those to whom easy and correct language is naturally given; he gained his extraordinary perfection with the unceasing sweat of his brow. One of the most severe of academic critics admits that in all his works, and in every page of his works, Flaubert may be considered a model of style.

That he was one of the greatest writers who ever lived in France is now commonly admitted, and his greatness principally depends upon the extraordinary vigour and exactitude of his style. Less perhaps than any other writer, not of France, but of modern Europe, Flaubert yields admission to the inexact, the abstract, the vaguely inapt expression which is the bane of ordinary methods of composition. He never allowed a cliché to pass him, never indulgently or wearily went on, leaving behind him a phrase which almost expressed his meaning. Being, as he is, a mixture in almost equal parts of the romanticist and the realist, the marvellous propriety of his style has been helpful to later writers of both schools, of every school. The absolute exactitude with which he adapts his expression to his purpose is seen in all parts of his work, but particularly in the portraits he draws of the figures in his principal romances. The degree and manner in which, since his death, the fame of Flaubert has extended, form an interesting chapter of literary history.


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The Letters to Louise Colet

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