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Madame Bovary (Bantam Classics) Paperback – June 1, 1982

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Madame Bovary is like the railroad stations erected in its epoch: graceful, even floral, but cast of iron." -- John Updike

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Bantam Classics
  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Classics; Reissue edition (July 1, 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553213415
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553213416
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.8 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (161 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,038 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880), the younger son of a provincial doctor, briefly studied law before devoting himself to writing, with limited success during his lifetime. After the publication of Madame Bovary in 1857, he was prosecuted for offending public morals.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

141 of 147 people found the following review helpful By Lawrance Bernabo HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on April 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
When I was teaching World Literature we began class each year reading Gustave Flaubert's "Madame Bovary." Unfortunately, this is the one novel that most needs to be read in its original language since Flaubert constructed each sentence of his book with the precision of a poet. As an example of the inherent problems of translation I would prepare a handout with four different versions of the opening paragraphs of "Madame Bovary." Each year my students would come to the same conclusion that I had already reached in selecting which version of the book they were to read: Lowell Bair's translation is the best of the lot. It is eminently readable, flowing much better than most of its competitors. Consequently, if you are reading "Madame Bovary" for pleasure or class, this is the translation you want to track down.
Flaubert's controversial novel is the first of the great "fallen women" novels that were written during the Realism period ("Anna Karenina" and "The Awakening" being two other classic examples). It is hard to appreciate that this was one of the first novels to offer an unadorned, unromantic portrayal of everyday life and people. For some people it is difficult to enjoy a novel in which they find the "heroine" to be such an unsympathetic figure; certainly the events in Emma Bovary's life have been done to death in soap operas. Still, along with Scarlett O'Hara, you have to consider Emma Bovary one of the archetypal female characters created in the last 200 years of literature. "Madame Bovary" is one of the greatest and most important novels, right up there with "Don Quixote" and "Ulysses." I just wish I was able to read in it French.
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72 of 77 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
In this masterpiece of French literature, Gustave Flaubert tells the tale of Emma Bovary, née Roualt, an incurably romantic woman who finds herself trapped in an unsatisfactory marriage in a prosaic bourgeois French village, Yonville-l'Abbaye.
Her attempts to escape the tedium of her life through a series of adulterous affairs are thwarted by the reality that the men she chooses to love are shallow and self-centered and thus are unable to love anyone but themselves.
In love with a love that can never be and dreadfully overstretched financially, Emma finds herself caught in a downward spiral that can only end in tragedy.
Part of the difficulty, and the pleasure, of reading Madame Bovary comes from the fact the Flaubert refuses to embed his narrative with a moral matrix; he refuses, at least explicitly, to tell the reader, what, if any, moral lesson he should draw from the text.
It is this lack of moral viewpoint that made Madame Bovary shocking to Flaubert's contemporaries, so much so that Flaubert found himself taken to court for the novel's offenses to public and religious decency. Although today's readers will find no such apparent scandals in the book, they will still be challenged to make sense of both Emma and her story.
It is quite common to see Emma Bovary as silly, extravagant and much too romantically inclined. An avid consumer of romantic literature (a habit into which the heroine was indoctrinated in her convent school upbringing), Emma has made the morbid mistake of buying into the notion of romantic love in its fullest sense, and the mortal mistake of believing she can reach its fulfillment in her own life.
As such, Emma Bovary becomes a tragic figure of almost mythic proportion.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 17, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Let's begin with Nabokov's "Lectures on Literature," where he introduces "Madame Bovary" as follows: "The book is concerned with adultery and contains situations and allusions that shocked the prudish philistine government of Napoleon III. Indeed, the novel was actually tried in a court of justice for obscenity. Just imagine that. As if the work of an artist could ever be obscene." Written over a five-year period, "Madame Bovary" was published serially in a magazine in 1856 where, despite editorial attempts to purge it of offensive material, it was cited for "offenses against morality and religion." Fortunately, Flaubert won his case and "Madame Bovary" remains to this day one of the masterpieces of French and world literature. Indeed, in Nabokov's view, the novel's influence is notable: "Without Flaubert, there would have been no Marcel Proust in France, no James Joyce in Ireland. Chekhov in Russia would not have been quite Chekhov."
The story of Emma Bovary is well known and uncomplicated. Set in the provincial towns of Tostes and Yonville (it is subtitled "Patterns of Provincial Life"), with adulterous interludes in Rouen, "Madame Bovary" narrates the life of Charles Bovary and Emma Rouault. Charles, an "officier de sante"--a licensed medical practitioner without a medical degree--meets Emma while tending to her injured father. Charles is married at that time to the first Madame Bovary, also called Madame Dubuc, a widow and thin, ugly woman who dominates the mild-mannered Charles from the very beginning. "It was his wife [Madame Dubuc] who ruled: in front of company he had to say certain things and not others, he had to eat fish on Friday, dress the way she wanted, obey her when she ordered him to dun nonpaying patients.
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