French writer. One of the major novelists of the 19th century, he was the author of Madame Bovary (1857), Salammbô (1862), L'Education sentimentale/Sentimental Education (1869), and La Tentation de Saint Antoine/The Temptation of St Anthony (1874). Flaubert also wrote the short stories Trois Contes/Three Tales (1877). His dedication to art resulted in a meticulous prose style, realistic detail, and psychological depth, which is often revealed through interior monologue.
Flaubert was born in Rouen. For a while he studied law, but preferred literature. In 1847 he travelled in Brittany and, from 1849 to 1851, in Greece and the Middle East, but for the greater part of his life he lived quietly with his mother and niece at his estate near Rouen. From 1846 until 1854 he was the lover of Louise Colet, but his unrequited love, at the age of 15, for Mme Elisa Schlesinger had more influence on his character.
Madame Bovary, which took many years to prepare, caused a great scandal, and the author and publisher were prosecuted on a charge of violating morals, but were acquitted. In 1858 Flaubert travelled to Carthage and began a serious archaeological and historical study of its surroundings, which he made use of in his second work, Salammbô, a romance of the struggle between Rome and Carthage. With the publication of his next two works, he became a distinguished member of a small literary set, which included Turgenev, Zola, Daudet, and the Goncourts, and was a personal friend of George Sand. His last work, Bouvard et Pécuchet, was unfinished, and was published posthumously 1881.
Flaubert wrote with great intensity, labouring over every word, and was never satisfied with what he had written; his style is a model of purity and strength. He loathed mediocrity, and his hatred for the bourgeoisie amounted almost to monomania. He wrote with an extraordinary knowledge and insight of the manners of his time, and as a novelist must be placed between the realistic and Romantic schools (see realism and Romanticism), belonging to neither and yet having much in common with both. His undoubted preference was for Romanticism, and it was rather in spite of himself that he achieved so great a triumph with his realistic novel Madame Bovary and came to be regarded as a source of inspiration for modern realist fiction.
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