Tuesday, August 16, 2011

#17: A Simple Heart, Gustave Flaubert

A Simple Heart
by Gustave Flaubert
-born in France, 1821
-96 Pages
-more about Flaubert (via Goodreads)

Authorial Tidbits: (via Melville House)
- Gustave Flaubert was born the son of a surgeon. He studied law but failed his exams and soon after began his writing career
- He had attacks of what is thought to have been epilepsy--a condition he kept secret.
- Madame Bovary caused a scandal and led to prosecution against Flaubert on charges of immorality.  He was exonerated.
- Recognized and esteemed for his meticulous and realistic writing, he nevertheless died in near-poverty in 1880.

Synopsis: (via Melville House)
With an attention to the details of bourgeois life considered almost scandalous at the time, A Simple Heart will remind many why Gustave Flaubert was acclaimed as the first great master of realism. But this heart-breaking tale of a simple servant woman and her life-long search for love meant something else to Flaubert. Written near the end of his life, the work was meant to be a tribute to George Sand—who died before it was finished—and was written in answer to an argument the two were having over the importance of realism. Although the tale displays his virtuosic gift for telling detail, and is based on one of his actual servants, Flaubert said it exemplified his belief that "Beauty is the object of all my efforts." This sparkling new translation by Charlotte Mandell shows how impeccably Flaubert achieved his goal.

My Impressions:
A Simple Heart is a simple story of a simple servant's inner life.  No doubt a unique plot approach at the time, it left me wondering what I was missing.  Flaubert's writing, a least in this story, is so meticulous it felt almost sterile--his realism means that he tells you the bare bones and everything else is up to you...or perhaps he boasts a subtlety that is so subtle it's arguably non-existent?  In either case, it didn't really suit me.

There was one sentence that I did enjoy, but the rest of it left me disinterested.  I did like how he condensed Felicite's life into such a small picture, clearly viewed.  I wonder, if that view was applied to my life, what would be apparent?
She had difficulty getting over it, or rather she never got over it.


  1. Gracious--only one sentence you liked? That tells me all I need to know about this one!

  2. I know, right? He was just a bit too sterile (subtle?) for me and I didn't connect with it.

  3. Interesting, thank you! A vintage postcard we bought reminded us so strongly of Felicite of the Simple Heart, we also visited Pont l'Eveque to see her home for ourselves. The postcard and other pics are here http://www.normandythenandnow.com/a-simple-heart-at-pont-leveque/


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