Favorite Quotes

Gustave Flaubert wrote, “To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost.”

Gustave Flaubert

Gustave Flaubert

Gustave Flaubert was born in Rouen, Normandy, in 1821. His most famous novel is Madame Bovary.  Flaubert reminds me of John Steinbeck, a strange mix of both a romantic and a realist.

 

 

 

 

 

This comes from Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac for Dec. 12:

It’s the birthday of Gustave Flaubert, (books by this author) born in Rouen, France (1821). His father was a surgeon, and the family was one of the most respected in Rouen. He was nonplussed about the prospect of leaving Rouen for to Paris to go to law school. He wrote to a friend: “I’ll go study law, which, instead of opening all doors, leads nowhere. I’ll spend three years in Paris contracting venereal diseases. And then? All I want is to live out all my days in an old ruined castle near the sea.”

Although he enjoyed Paris for its brothels, he didn’t like much else. He failed his law exams and ended up collapsing, dizzy and then unconscious. It was the first of many such episodes throughout his life, probably epilepsy, and Flaubert gave up on law, left Paris, and moved to a house in Croisset, near Rouen.

He worked hard on his first novel, The Temptation of St. Anthony, and he thought it was a masterpiece. He spent four days reading it aloud to two friends, and he wouldn’t let them comment until the end, at which point they suggested that he burn it. So he stopped working on it although it was eventually published in its finished form more than 25 years later, and even then, he considered it his best novel.

Flaubert traveled for a while, and then he started a new project, a novel about a doctor’s wife named Emma who tries to fill her empty life by having affairs. He wrote carefully, working long hours, agonizing over each word. He wrote to his mistress, the poet Louise Colet: “Happy are they who don’t doubt themselves and whose pens fly across the page. I myself hesitate, I falter, I become angry and fearful, my drive diminishes as my taste improves, and I brood more over an ill-suited word than I rejoice over a well-proportioned paragraph.” But after five years of work, he finished his novel, which he published in installments in 1856, and it was Madame Bovary.

In 1911, The New York Times reported that Madame Bovary had been voted by the French as the “best French novel.” In 2007, editor J. Peder Zane published a book called The Top Ten, in which he asked 125 contemporary writers to name what they consider “the ten greatest works of fiction of all time,” and Madame Bovary was number two, after Anna Karenina.

Gustave Flaubert, who said, “I can imagine nothing in the world preferable to a nice, well-heated room, with the books one loves and the leisure one wants.”

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Favorite Quotes

  1. sblazak says:

    Here are Flaubert and Steinbeck on detail in fiction:

    “When you pass a grocer sitting in his doorway, or a concierge smoking his pipe, or a cab-stand, show me that grocer and that concierge, the way they are sitting or standing, their entire physical appearance, making it by the skillfulness of your portrayal embody all their moral nature as well, so that I cannot confuse them with any other grocer or any other concierge. And make me see, by means of a single word, wherein one cab-horse does not resemble the fifty others ahead of it or behind it.” Gustave Flaubert

    “Slow but sure, piling detail on detail until a picture and an experience emerge. Until the whole throbbing thing emerges.” John Steinbeck

  2. sblazak says:

    Voltaire wrote, “To succeed in the world it is not enough to be stupid, you must also be well-mannered.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s