From the highly acclaimed author of Zola: A Life comes the definitive biography of Gustave Flaubert, author of Madame Bovary.
As Frederick Brown reveals, Flaubert was fraught with contradiction — a sedentary man who took epic voyages through Egypt and the Middle East; a man of genius who could be flamboyantly uncouth, but was fanatically devoted to beautifully cadenced prose. While making much of his camaraderie with male friends, Flaubert depended upon the emotional nurture of maternal women, notably George Sand, with whom he engaged in a justly celebrated correspondence. His assorted mistresses — French, Egyptian, and English — fed both his richly erotic imagination and his fictional characters, and his letters provide a record of them.
Flaubert’s time and place literally put him on trial for portraying lewd behavior in Madame Bovary. His milieu also made him a celebrity and, indirectly, brought about his financial ruin. Flaubert died suddenly at the age of fifty-nine, and soon afterward, his beloved retreat near Rouen was torn down and converted into a distillery to cover his niece’s debts. He privately dreamed of popular success, which he in fact achieved with Madame Bovary, but never sacrificed to it his ideal of artistic integrity.
Frederick Brown’s magisterial biography honors his subject’s life, times, and legacy.