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FLAUBERT-SAND by Gustave Flaubert


The Correspondence

by Gustave Flaubert & George Sand

Pub Date: Feb. 10th, 1993
ISBN: 0-679-41898-9
Publisher: Knopf

 A charming exchange between two extraordinary writers, from 1866 to 1876, with an illuminating introduction and continuity provided by Steegmuller (A Woman, A Man, and Two Kingdoms, 1991, etc.). Her translation (assisted by Barbara Bray) captures all of the qualities that led Alphonse Jacobs (who edited the French edition, on which this one is based) to conclude that this may be the finest correspondence of all time. When Flaubert began writing to Sand, she was 62 years old and 17 years his senior; a successful author and playwright; a grandmother with a scandalous past that included affairs with Chopin and Musset; a woman possessed of an independent spirit and an insouciant attitude. Flaubert was past the scandals of Madame Bovary, living in seclusion in Croisset with his aging mother and niece, periodically going to Paris to debauch with his literary friends. Along with their respective preferences and pleasures, families, travels, religion, and politics, the writers discuss their aesthetic principles: Sand scolds Flaubert for ``annihilating'' himself in his literature; for his misanthropic attitudes; for his obsession with form; and for his elitism, writing for ``only twenty intelligent people.'' The younger author defends himself, tactfully praises the many works Sands sends him (although, in truth, he dislikes her writing), and objects to her populism, her optimism, her subjectivity. The letters are flirtatious, even passionate, full of embraces and vows of love, but mostly Sand remains ``chäre maåtre adorable''--more a teacher than a lover, criticizing and affirming--while Flaubert is her ``troubadour'' whose self-deprecation brings out her most nurturing self. Caring, private, revealing: a treasure of friendship and a rare exchange enriched by the careful participation of Steegmuller- -more a tactful mediator than an editor--who has turned the correspondence into a work of art.