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Madame Bovary (1857)

Author: Gustave Flaubert

Published: 1857

Related: realism (literature) - 19th century literature - French literature - fiction published serially - modern literature - modern novel - Romanticism

Madame Bovary (1857) - Gustave Flaubert
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For this novel of French bourgeois life in all its inglorious banality, Flaubert invented a paradoxically original and wholly modern style. His heroine, Emma Bovary, a bored provincial housewife, abandons her husband to pursue the libertine Rodolphe in a desperate love affair. A succès de scandale in its day, Madame Bovary remains a powerful and arousing novel.

Themes and plot elements: boredom - daydreaming - adultery - suicide

[Madame Bovary] is like that other archetypal reading hero, Don Quixote, in that her reading habits corrupt her vision of the world and her conduct of her life. They are both Romantics. Don Quixote desires to make provincial La Mancha into a battlefield of giants, demons and ladies in distress. Emma Bovary desires to be happy in lovely clothes in swift carriages, dancing at balls, being admired. The psychoanalyst, Ignès Sodré, wrote an illuminating paper on Madame Bovary, entitled 'Death by Daydreaming' in which she used Freud's essay on 'Creative Writers and Daydreaming' to discuss the particular daydreams of Emma Bovary. --AS Byatt, 2002 via http://books.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,12084,763262,00.html


Madame Bovary is a novel by Gustave Flaubert that raised a scandal when it was published in 1857 and is now seen to stand at the beginning of the modern novel. After publishing a few controversial excerpts in a periodical, he first had to win a trial in order to publish the novel. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madame_Bovary [Dec 2004]


The literary classic Madam Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert, tells the story of a woman who is bored with her husband, bored with her fellow townspeople and in general, bored with her life. Her days are too tedious and predictable, and she is filled with romantic, idealistic fantasies. In order to escape from boredom, she enters into two love affairs, both of them disastrous. In the end, she commits suicide by taking arsenic. First published in 1857, Madame Bovary illustrates that boredom is no newcomer to the human race as a psychological problem. --http://clarocet.com/encyclopedia/bor-intro.htm

Perpetual Orgy

Perpetual Orgy (Spanish: La orgía perpetua. Flaubert y "Madame Bovary") (1975) is a book-length essay by Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa which examines Flaubert's Madame Bovary as the first modern novel. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perpetual_Orgy [May 2006]

The public vs. M. Gustave Flaubert trial

Speech of the Prosecuting Attorney,

M. Ernest Pinard:
Gentlemen, in entering upon this debate, the Public Attorney is in the presence of a difficulty which he cannot ignore. It cannot be put even in the nature of a condemnation, since offenses to public morals and to religion are somewhat vague and elastic expressions which it would be necessary to define precisely. Nevertheless, when we speak to right-minded, practical men we are sure of being sufficiently understood to distinguish whether a certain page of a book carries an attack against religion and morals or not. The difficulty is not in arousing a prejudice, it is far more in explaining the work of which you are to judge. It deals entirely with romance. If it were a newspaper article which we were bringing before you, it could be seen at once where the fault began and where it ended; it would simply be read by the ministry and submitted to you for judgment. Here we are not concerned with a newspaper article, but entirely with a romance, which begins the first of October, finishes the fifteenth of December, and is composed of six numbers, in the _Revue de Paris_, 1856. What is to be done in such a case? What is the duty of the Public Ministry? To read the whole romance? That is impossible. On the other hand, to read only the incriminating texts would expose us to deep reproach. They could say to us: If you do not show the case in all its parts, if you pass over that which precedes and that which follows the incriminating passages, it is evident that you wish to suppress the debate by restricting the ground of discussion. In order to avoid this twofold difficulty, there is but one course to follow, and that is, to relate to you the whole story of the romance without reading any of it, or pointing out any incriminating passage; then to cite incriminating texts, and finally to answer the objections that may arise against the general method of indictment. --http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/1/0/6/6/10666/10666-8.txt [Jan 2005]


For a very good analysis of Mme Bovary and the trial that preceded the novel's publication, see Ludwig Marcuse's Obscene.

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