FLAUBERT by Henri Troyat


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Troyat--Russian-born member of the French Academy and prolific biographer of Russian writers (Gorky, 1989, etc.) and rulers (Peter the Great, 1987, etc.)--now offers an intimate and appreciative biography of Fiaubert (1821-80). Born into a family of surgeons, Flaubert by adolescence was six-foot tall, exceptionally beautiful, sensitive yet cynical, and preoccupied with himself, with writing, and with women--whom he associated with either ideal romance or a vulgar sexuality. After failing law school, he suffered a seizure and took refuge in Croisset, a small village outside of Rouen, where he lived as a writer with his mother and his niece, who was taken in as an infant when his sister died in childbirth. Flaubert alternated periods of solitude--during which he wrote such masterpieces as Madame Bovary and A Sentimental Education--and travel to Paris, Egypt, and Turkey. Following a long, tempestuous affair (explicit letters stemming from it were published in 1926 by his niece), Flaubert claimed to be ""weary of grand passion."" He withdrew emotionally, although he cultivated a large circle of devoted male literary friends with whom he shared ""monstrous debauches"" in Paris, and he befriended George Sand, with whom he shared his holidays and much of his private life. However sensitive, peaceful, and private by nature he may have been, however, Flaubert worked as a nurse and, later, as a lieutenant during the Prussian invasion of France in 1870, during which he adapted even to the German occupation of his study. Troyat's strength lies in his appreciation of the many contradictions in the creative personality, and in his mastery of clear exposition--even where more literary and psychological analysis might be desirable. The great weakness here is the awkward translation, especially inappropriate for stylists such as Troyat and Flaubert himself.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1992
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Viking