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Gustave Flaubert (1821 - 1880)

Lifespan: 1821 - 1880

Related: French literature - modernist literature

To his friend Ernest Chevalier Flaubert declared: "there are only two men I esteem: Rabelais and Byron, the only two to have written out of an intention to spite humanity and laugh in its face." [Oct 2006]

Titles: Madame Bovary (1857) - Salammbô (1862) - The Temptation of Saint Anthony (1874)

Gustave Flaubert's work is a mixture in almost equal parts of the romanticist and the realist traditions.

Literary critic Peter Brooks sees Flaubert as marking a turning point in the history of the novel. He writes that "any discussion of plot … needs to confront Flaubert, since his relation to traditional uses of plot can only be described as perverse. His mature work is indeed carefully structured by a systematic perversion of plot as a central system of narrative organization and meaning" (Reading for Plot, 171)

In a comment typical for European intellectuals of the late 20th century, Gustave Flaubert, in a letter to George Sand, said: "I believe, that the mob, the mass, the herd, will always be despicable." --via John Carey [May 2006]


Gustave Flaubert (December 12, 1821 – May 8, 1880) 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"). --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustave_Flaubert [Dec 2005]

Dictionary of Received Ideas

Dictionary of Received Ideas (in French, La Dictionnaire des Idées Reçues) is a satirical work by Gustave Flaubert, lampooning the cliches endemic to French society under the Second French Empire. The book takes its form as a dictionary of catchphrases and platitudes, most of which are as paradoxical as they are insipid. In part, the book illustrates the transformation of modern man under machine capitalism by exploring the way that dialogue becomes prefabricated, and the ways in which meaning becomes divorced from context.

At the time of Flaubert's death, it was unclear whether he intended to publish the book separately (though he may have been wary of creating a scandal, as he had with his earlier Madame Bovary), or as an appendix to his unfinished novel, Bouvard et Pécuchet. In some of his notes, it seems that Flaubert intended the dictionary to be taken as the final creation of the two protagonists of the latter novel.

The work is similar in many respects to Ambrose Bierce's The Devil's Dictionary. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dictionary_of_Received_Ideas [Dec 2005]

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