The page of Flaubert, Gustave, English biography
BiographyGustave Flaubert (December 12, 1821 – May 8, 1880) [gystav flobɛ:ʁ] was a French novelist who is counted among the greatest Western novelists. He is known especially for his first published novel Madame Bovary and for his scrupulous devotion to his art and style, best exemplified by his endless search for le mot juste ("the precise word").
Flaubert was born in Rouen, Seine-Maritime, in the Haute-Normandie Region of France.
His father, who serves as a model for the character Dr. Larivière in Madame Bovary, was a surgeon in practice at Rouen; his mother was connected with some of the oldest Norman families. He was educated in his native city and did not leave it until 1840, when he went to Paris to study law. He is said to have been idle at school, but to have been occupied with literature from the age of eleven. Flaubert in his youth was full of vigour and a certain shy grace, enthusiastic, intensely individual, and apparently without a trace of ambition.
He loved the country and Paris was extremely distasteful to him. He made the acquaintance of Victor Hugo, and towards the close of 1840 he travelled in the Pyrenees and Corsica. Returning to Paris, he wasted his time daydreaming, living on his patrimony. In 1846, Flaubert abandoned Paris and the study of the law and returned to Croisset, close to Rouen, where he lived with his mother. This estate, a house in a pleasant piece of ground which ran down to the Seine, became Flaubert's home for the remainder of his life. From 1846 to 1854 he had an affair with the poet Louise Colet; his letters to her have been preserved, and according to Émile Faguet, their affair was the only sentimental episode of any importance in the life of Flaubert, who never married. His principal friend at this time was Maxime du Camp, with whom he travelled in Brittany in 1846 and to Greece and Egypt in 1849. This trip made a profound impression upon the imagination of Flaubert. From this time forth, save for occasional visits to Paris, he did not stir from Croisset.
In September 1849 he completed the first version of what he intended as his masterpiece, The Temptation of St. Anthony, and read it out 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 they told him to throw it on the fire. It was a hopeless, extravagant mess, and their prescription was a "slice of life". If he wanted to remain a writer, he had to fictionalise the dullest possible subject: they chose for him the life story of someone they had known at school.
On returning from the East, in 1850, he began writing Madame Bovary. It took him five years to write. The novel was serialized in the Revue de Paris in 1856. The government brought an action against the publisher and against the author on the charge of immorality, but both were acquitted. When Madame Bovary appeared in book form it met with a very warm reception. Flaubert paid a visit to Carthage in 1858 in order to gather material for his next novel, Salammbô, which was not finished until 1862 in spite of the author's ceaseless labors.
He then took up again the study of contemporary manners, and, making use of many recollections of his youth and childhood, wrote L'Éducation sentimentale (Sentimental Education or rather Emotional Education), the composition of which occupied him for seven years. It was published in 1869. Up to this time Flaubert's sequestered and laborious life had been comparatively happy, but soon suffered a series of misfortunes. During the war of 1870, Prussian soldiers occupied his house. He began to suffer from nervous maladies.
His best friends were taken from him by death or by misunderstanding; in 1872 he lost his mother, and his circumstances became greatly reduced. He was very tenderly guarded by his niece, Caroline Commanville; he enjoyed a rare intimacy of friendship with George Sand, with whom he carried on a correspondence of immense artistic interest, and occasionally he saw his Parisian acquaintances, Zola, Alphonse Daudet, Turgenev, and Edmond and Jules de Goncourt; but nothing prevented the close of Flaubert's life from being desolate and melancholy. He did not cease, however, to work with the same intensity and thoroughness. La Tentation de Saint-Antoine, of which fragments had been published as early as 1857, was at length completed and sent to press in 1874. In that year he was subjected to a disappointment by the failure of his drama Le Candidat. In 1877 Flaubert published in one volume entitled Trois contes (Three Tales), Un Cœur simple, La Légende de Saint-Julien l'Hospitalier and Hérodias. He spent the remainder of his life toiling at a vast satire on the futility of human knowledge and the ubiquity of mediocrity, which he left unfinished. This is the depressing and bewildering Bouvard et Pécuchet (posthumously printed, 1881), which he believed to be his masterpiece.
Flaubert had aged rapidly since 1870, and he seemed quite an old man when he was carried off by apoplexy at the age of only 58 in 1880. He died at Croisset but was buried in the family vault in the cemetery of Rouen. A monument to him by Henri Chapu was unveiled at the museum of Rouen in 1890.
The personal character of Flaubert offered various peculiarities. He was shy, and yet extremely sensitive and arrogant; he passed from silence to an indignant and noisy flow of language. The same inconsistencies marked his physical nature; he had the build of a guardsman with a Viking head, but his health was uncertain from childhood, and he was neurotic to the last degree. This ruddy giant was secretly gnawed by misanthropy and disgust of life. His hatred of the bourgeois and their bêtise (wilful idiocy) began in his childhood and developed into a kind of monomania. He despised his fellow-men, their habits, their lack of intelligence, their contempt for beauty, with a passionate scorn which has been compared to that of an ascetic monk.
source :: wikipedia