For daring to peer into the heart of an adulteress and enumerate its contents with profound dispassion, the author of Madame Bovary was tried for "offenses against morality and religion." What shocks us today about Flaubert's devastatingly realized tale of a young woman destroyed by the reckless pursuit of her romantic dreams is its pure artistry: the poise of its narrative structure, the opulence of its prose (marvelously captured in the English translation of Francis Steegmuller), and its creation of a world whose minor figures are as vital as its doomed heroine. In reading Madame Bovary, one experiences a work that remains genuinely revolutionary almost a century and a half after its creation.
About the Author
Gustave Flaubert (1821-80) is considered to be one of the most important French novelists of the nineteenth century. He's most well known for his novel Madame Bovary, and for his desire to write "a book about nothing," a novel in which all external elements, especially the presence of the author, have been eliminated, leaving nothing but style itself. Often considered a member of the naturalist school, Flaubert despised categorizations of this sort, and in novels like Bouvard and Pecuchet demonstrates the inaptness of this label. In addition to these two novels, he is also the author of A Sentimental Education, Salambo, Three Tales, and The Temptation of Saint Anthony.
Francis Steegmuller is the author of more than twenty books and a recipient of numerous awards and honors. His translation of Madame Bovary is an acknowledged classic. In 1982 the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters awarded him its Gold Medal for Biography.
"Madame Bovary is like the railroad stations erected in its epoch: graceful, even floral, but cast of iron." -- John Updike