(1821 – 1880)
The most influential French novelist of the nineteenth century, Flaubert is remembered primarily for the stylistic precision and dispassionate rendering of psychological detail found in his masterpiece, Madame Bovary (1857). Although his strict objectivity is often associated with the realist and naturalist movements, he objected to this classification, and his artistry indeed defies such easy categorization. Gustave Flaubert struggled throughout his career to overcome a romantic tendency toward fantastic imaginings and love of the exotic past. A meticulous craftsman, he aimed to achieve a prose style ‘‘as rhythmical as verse and as precise as the language of science.’’
France during the nineteenth century was a place of frequent political turmoil and intrigue. The monarchy had only recently been removed from power during the French Revolution, in the final years of the eighteenth century. A republic was established in its place, though the country eventually came under the control of military leader Napole´on Bonaparte, who declared himself emperor and whose tyrannical and imperialist rule was in many ways not unlike the monarchy that had recently been deposed. After Napole´on was removed from power in 1815, an official monarchy was established once again, though the royal family’s power was no longer absolute. This resulted in a period of relative peace during the 1830s and 1840s; however, the dissatisfaction of the working class who for the most part were not able to vote, since they did not own property erupted in 1848 with another revolution.
Once again the vacuum of power left in the newly established republic led to a single leader with extensive powers, and once again his name was Napole´on: Louis Napole´on, nephew of the former emperor. He ruled from 1852 until 1870, when he was removed from power and yet another republic known as the Third Republic was established. These tumultuous times inevitably informed Flaubert’s writing, most notably in his last novel, Sentimental Education (1870). Gustave Flaubert was born on December 12, 1821, in Rouen, France, where his father was chief surgeon and clinical professor at the city hospital, the Hoˆtel Dieu, and his mother was a well-known woman from a provincial bourgeois (middle-class) family. Read the rest of this entry