Gustave Flaubert

BORN: December 12, 1821
DIED: May 8, 1880


About The Author: Gustave Flaubert

Gustave Flaubert, born in Rouen, France, was a pioneering French novelist widely regarded as one of the greatest literary figures of the 19th century. Born into a family of affluence and privilege, Flaubert showed an early interest in literature and embarked on a path that would revolutionize the French novel. His father’s untimely death in 1846 marked a turning point, prompting Flaubert to abandon a legal career and dedicate himself entirely to writing.

Flaubert’s meticulous approach to his craft earned him a reputation as a perfectionist. His magnum opus, “Madame Bovary” (1857), is considered a landmark work in the realist tradition. The novel, with its exploration of the discontent and desires of its protagonist Emma Bovary, faced controversy upon its publication for its perceived immorality. Flaubert’s commitment to portraying the complexities of human nature, combined with his masterful prose, established him as a key figure in French literature.

Beyond “Madame Bovary,” Flaubert’s works include the historical novel “Salammbo” (1862) and “Sentimental Education” (1869), a novel capturing the disillusionment of the post-revolutionary era. Flaubert’s influence extended to the literary realism movement, and his dedication to precision in language left an indelible mark on subsequent generations of writers.

Flaubert’s later years were marked by a reclusive lifestyle and the completion of “Bouvard et Pécuchet,” a satirical work left unfinished at the time of his death on May 8, 1880. His impact on the development of the novel and his commitment to literary craftsmanship have secured Gustave Flaubert’s place in the pantheon of literary greats.

Gustave Flaubert: Notable Works

Gustave Flaubert, a towering figure in French literature, crafted a body of work that showcased his meticulous attention to style and his exploration of the complexities of human existence. His most celebrated and enduring work is “Madame Bovary” (1857), a novel that is often considered a masterpiece of realist fiction. The story follows Emma Bovary, a provincial woman whose romantic illusions lead to tragic consequences. “Madame Bovary” revolutionized the novel form by its meticulous attention to detail, psychological depth, and its unflinching portrayal of societal norms.

Another notable work by Flaubert is “Sentimental Education” (1869), a novel that captures the disillusionment and moral bankruptcy of the post-revolutionary period in France. Through the protagonist Frederic Moreau, Flaubert explores the impact of political and social changes on individual lives, offering a poignant commentary on the societal upheavals of the time.

Flaubert also ventured into historical fiction with “Salammbo” (1862), a novel set in ancient Carthage during the Mercenary War. This work showcases Flaubert’s ability to immerse readers in vivid historical settings while maintaining his signature focus on character psychology.

Additionally, Flaubert left an unfinished satirical work titled “Bouvard et Pécuchet,” a comedic exploration of two hapless copy clerks who embark on various pursuits to satisfy their intellectual curiosities.

Gustave Flaubert’s notable works have not only left an indelible mark on the realist tradition in literature but have also influenced subsequent generations of writers, earning him a lasting legacy as a master of literary craftsmanship and a keen observer of the human condition.

Gustave Flaubert: Early Life

Gustave Flaubert, born on December 12, 1821, in Rouen, France, into a wealthy and prominent family, experienced a privileged yet tumultuous early life that would significantly influence his literary career. Raised in an intellectually stimulating environment, Flaubert’s literary inclinations were nurtured by his mother and his close exposure to the cultural and intellectual circles of 19th-century France.

Flaubert’s early education included classical studies at the Collège Royal de Rouen, where he developed a passion for literature and cultivated a deep appreciation for the classics. However, the sudden death of his father in 1846 marked a turning point in Flaubert’s life. This event prompted him to abandon his legal studies, a path his family had intended for him, and embark on a journey of self-discovery through literature and writing.

In pursuit of artistic authenticity, Flaubert embarked on extensive travels across France and Europe, drawing inspiration from his experiences and encounters. His exploration of literature was broad and eclectic, encompassing classical works, romantic poetry, and contemporary novels, which contributed to the formation of his distinctive writing style.

These formative years of intellectual curiosity, coupled with personal upheavals and a commitment to literary excellence, laid the foundation for Flaubert’s later masterpieces. His early life experiences, shaped by privilege, personal tragedy, and a thirst for artistic truth, became integral components of his literary identity, marking the beginning of a career that would redefine French literature.

Gustave Flaubert: Career

Gustave Flaubert’s literary career is characterized by his uncompromising dedication to artistic perfection and his profound impact on the realist movement in 19th-century French literature. After abandoning legal studies following his father’s death in 1846, Flaubert embarked on a path of literary exploration and self-discovery. His early attempts at writing, including his first novel “November,” were followed by extensive travels, enriching his experiences and perspectives.

Flaubert’s magnum opus, “Madame Bovary” (1857), marked a groundbreaking moment in his career. The novel, exploring the disillusionment of its protagonist Emma Bovary and critiquing societal norms, faced controversy for its perceived immorality but established Flaubert as a literary innovator. His meticulous attention to language and psychological depth influenced subsequent generations of writers, and “Madame Bovary” remains a cornerstone of literary realism.

Following this success, Flaubert delved into historical fiction with “Salammbo” (1862), a vivid portrayal of ancient Carthage during the Mercenary War. “Sentimental Education” (1869) further showcased his ability to dissect societal changes and their impact on individual lives, capturing the post-revolutionary disillusionment.

Flaubert’s commitment to literary craftsmanship extended to his unfinished work, “Bouvard et Pécuchet,” a satirical exploration of the follies of contemporary society through the experiences of two copy clerks.

Flaubert’s influence was not limited to his novels; he played a pivotal role in shaping the literary landscape through his correspondence and engagement in literary circles. His impact on literary realism, meticulous narrative style, and exploration of the human psyche solidified Gustave Flaubert as a towering figure in French literature, leaving an enduring legacy that continues to resonate with readers and writers alike.

Gustave Flaubert: Later life

Gustave Flaubert’s later life was marked by a continuation of his commitment to literary excellence and a deepening reclusiveness. After the publication of “Sentimental Education” in 1869, Flaubert faced criticism and disappointment as the novel failed to achieve the same acclaim as “Madame Bovary.” Despite this, he remained dedicated to his craft, engaging in extensive revisions and refining his works.

Flaubert’s later years were characterized by a withdrawal from public life. He retreated to his estate in Croisset, near Rouen, where he continued to write and correspond with fellow literary figures. His correspondence, marked by intellectual rigor and insight into his creative process, offers valuable insights into his thoughts on literature, art, and contemporary society.

One of Flaubert’s major projects during this period was “Bouvard et Pécuchet,” a satirical novel left unfinished at the time of his death. This work explored the absurdities of contemporary society through the misadventures of two copy clerks turned dilettantes.

Flaubert’s reclusive lifestyle did not diminish his influence, as he continued to be a respected figure in literary circles. His later years were marked by the culmination of his artistic philosophy, emphasizing precision in language and an unwavering pursuit of truth in literature.

Gustave Flaubert passed away on May 8, 1880, leaving behind a legacy that continues to shape the literary world. His later life reflected a commitment to his artistic principles and a steadfast dedication to refining the craft of writing until the end of his prolific career.

Gustave Flaubert: Reputation

Gustave Flaubert’s reputation stands as that of a literary giant whose impact on the world of literature, particularly in the 19th century, is immeasurable. His meticulous and groundbreaking approach to writing, characterized by a relentless pursuit of perfection in style and content, solidified his place as a leading figure in the realist movement. Flaubert’s magnum opus, “Madame Bovary” (1857), revolutionized the novel form, ushering in a new era of literary realism and influencing generations of writers.

Flaubert’s reputation rests not only on the success of “Madame Bovary” but also on the depth and breadth of his literary contributions. His exploration of societal norms, the complexities of human psychology, and his commitment to depicting reality with unparalleled precision left an indelible mark on the literary landscape.

Despite facing initial controversies, especially surrounding the perceived immorality of his works, Flaubert’s legacy continued to grow posthumously. The meticulousness of his writing style and his profound insights into the human condition earned him admiration from fellow writers and scholars alike.

Flaubert’s influence extended beyond his novels. His correspondence, known for its intellectual richness, provided valuable glimpses into his creative process and philosophical reflections on art and literature. This collection of letters further contributed to the understanding of Flaubert’s literary legacy.

While some critics viewed Flaubert as a pessimist or a misanthrope, his commitment to portraying the truth of the human experience, warts and all, cemented his reputation as a literary pioneer and a master of prose. Gustave Flaubert’s enduring reputation as a meticulous craftsman and a perceptive observer of the human condition ensures his place among the literary greats of all time.

Gustave Flaubert: Awards

Gustave Flaubert, renowned for his contributions to 19th-century literature, did not receive many awards during his lifetime, as the formal recognition and awards culture of the time differed significantly from the present-day system. Flaubert’s acclaim and recognition were more gradual and emerged posthumously as his works gained widespread appreciation.

One notable recognition during his lifetime was the French Legion of Honour, which Flaubert received in 1870, recognizing his contributions to French literature. This honor, while prestigious, reflected more general appreciation for his literary endeavors rather than a specific award for a particular work.

Posthumously, Flaubert’s reputation soared, and his impact on literature garnered increasing recognition. The enduring success of his seminal work, “Madame Bovary” (1857), contributed to his posthumous acclaim. Over time, literary scholars, critics, and subsequent generations of writers recognized the profound influence Flaubert had on the realist movement and the novel as an art form.

While not awarded in the conventional sense, Flaubert’s legacy is marked by the continued celebration of his works as masterpieces of literature. His influence on the development of the modern novel, characterized by his meticulous attention to style and psychological depth, solidifies his status as a literary icon. The enduring reverence for Flaubert’s contributions serves as the ultimate recognition of his impact, with each new generation of readers discovering and appreciating the brilliance of his literary achievements.

Gustave Flaubert: Works

Gustave Flaubert’s literary oeuvre, marked by meticulous craftsmanship and a commitment to exploring the complexities of human existence, has left an indelible mark on French literature and the broader literary canon. His most celebrated work, “Madame Bovary” (1857), is a seminal realist novel that delves into the tragic life of Emma Bovary, a woman driven by romantic fantasies. This novel, often considered one of the greatest achievements in literary history, showcases Flaubert’s revolutionary narrative techniques and his ability to dissect societal norms.

Flaubert’s exploration of historical themes is evident in “Salammbo” (1862), a novel set in ancient Carthage during the Mercenary War. Through vivid descriptions and meticulous research, Flaubert immerses readers in a distant historical era, demonstrating his versatility as a storyteller.

“Sentimental Education” (1869) is another significant work, capturing the disillusionment and moral bankruptcy of post-revolutionary France. This novel follows the life of Frederic Moreau, offering a panoramic view of society’s shifts and individual struggles.

In addition to his major novels, Flaubert left an unfinished but influential work, “Bouvard et Pécuchet.” This satirical novel explores the follies of contemporary society through the experiences of two copy clerks turned amateur scholars.

Flaubert’s lesser-known yet impactful works include short stories such as “A Simple Heart” and “The Temptation of Saint Anthony,” reflecting his range as a writer. His meticulous attention to language and his dedication to portraying the complexities of human nature continue to inspire generations of writers and contribute to his enduring legacy in the world of literature.


Gustave Flaubert, born on December 12, 1821, in Rouen, France, is a pivotal figure in 19th-century literature, renowned for his meticulous craftsmanship and contributions to the realist movement. His early life was marked by privilege, but the sudden death of his father in 1846 prompted him to abandon legal studies and dedicate himself to literature. Flaubert’s novels are characterized by a profound exploration of human psychology, societal norms, and historical themes.

“Madame Bovary” (1857), Flaubert’s magnum opus, revolutionized the novel form with its meticulous prose and realistic portrayal of the discontented Emma Bovary. Despite initial controversy for perceived immorality, the novel established Flaubert as a literary innovator.

Flaubert’s range extended to historical fiction with “Salammbo” (1862), capturing ancient Carthage during the Mercenary War, and “Sentimental Education” (1869), reflecting the disillusionment of post-revolutionary France.

His unfinished work, “Bouvard et Pécuchet,” satirized societal follies through the misadventures of two clerks turned dilettantes. Flaubert’s dedication to precision in language and his disdain for the bourgeois mentality shaped his literary philosophy.

Known for his reclusive lifestyle, Flaubert maintained an extensive correspondence, revealing insights into his creative process and philosophical musings on art. His influence extended beyond novels to short stories like “A Simple Heart” and “The Temptation of Saint Anthony.”

Flaubert’s impact on literature is celebrated for his commitment to portraying truth and the complexities of the human condition. His legacy endures, with each generation discovering the brilliance of his works and the enduring relevance of his literary philosophy.