Flaubert: A Biography
Little, Brown & Co., 2006 (2006)
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Reviewed by Tim Davis
he year 2006 marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of one of the world's literary masterpieces: Gustave Flaubert's
. Now, as if commemorating that anniversary, accomplished scholar and biographer Frederick Brown brings Flaubert to life for modern readers in '
the most complete biography of the French realist master yet written.
rawing upon an extensive array of primary and secondary sources - with special attention given to newly available correspondence by Flaubert himself - Brown offers a vivid and accurate account of Flaubert's life and work. In twenty-four exquisitely detailed chapters, Brown's narrative carefully documents Flaubert's progress from his childhood in Rouen and his early years in France and the Middle East - when Flaubert was an insecure artist in a turbulent society - through his middle and final years back in Normandy during which Flaubert had become a celebrity championed by the elite cultural circles of the era. Ultimately imitated by the new school of realist writers, Flaubert, in his rise to fame, surrounded himself with remarkable men (including Ivan Turgenev, Guy de Maupassant, and Emile Zola) and women (including Louise Colet and George Sand); Brown's stunning literary biography highlights the fascinating connections between the author, his work, and his personal relationships.
are always seductive components in anyone's study of literature. However, some critics argue that literary biographies can often entice readers into making speculative judgments about an author's works. Such judgments, especially when significantly influenced by biographical considerations, have been characterized as subjectively flawed by what conservative critics have called the biographical fallacy. In fact, New Critics of the mid-twentieth century (and their descendents) would have been particularly concerned about ways in which Brown's comprehensive biography opens the door to such speculative judgments. Notwithstanding such old-fashioned misgivings, modern critics and readers should find much to admire in Brown's study of one of the world's most celebrated and accomplished novelists.
inally, if you are interested in literature, the highly recommended
is an absolute
. In fact, you will want to rush out and re-read Flaubert's great works, especially the indisputable masterpieces
L'Histoire d'un Coeur simple
La Légende de Saint Julian l’Hospitalier
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