Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: Sentimental Education: The Story of a Young Man (Classic Reprint)
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on June 1, 2006
SENTIMENTAL EDUCATION is one of the glories of literature. While its context seems more dated than that in MADAME BOVARY, its language has the engaging richness of Flaubert in full glory. Knowing it and loving it, I decided it was time to reread it. Trusting to the word "Oxford," I bought and began this edition. Poor Flaubert must truly be spinning: this version is studded with the very sort of clich'es that would have been anathema to him. After suffering through several of them, when I read that "his grand passion for Madame Arnoux was beginning to peter out", my patience for this version "petered out." I jettisoned this copy and ordered other translations. Most seemed to be betrayals of Flaubert's genius.
Happily for us, one translation came through, catching as well as one might hope the flow and beauty,the originality, of Flaubert. It is the old translation by Perdita Burlingame. I STRONGLY urge the reader to search for a copy in some used book source (Amazon or abe.com or whichever). Comparing the opening of the penultimate chapter in various translations is like putting a magnifying lens on the qualitative differences. The Perdita Burlingame translation so far seems to be the only version that does not corrupt the power of Flaubert's language.
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on May 25, 2001
This is simply one of the most satisfying novels I have ever read. And the Parmee translation is excellent - there is not an awkward word or phrase anywhere in the text. Flaubert loved to write fiction which captured the pettiness, baseness, and stupidity of human relations. Misanthrope might be too harsh a word for Flaubert, but he certainly didn't have much patience for the sort of crass greed and shallow, unquestioning conformity he witnessed as a young man in Paris in the Revolution of 1848. I understand that Flaubert started working on this novel very early in his career, but abandoned it several times before finally bringing it to pres in 1869. The care and time Flaubert took in writing this novel shows, especially when you compare it to Madame Bovary, Flaubert's famous book. Bovary is an easier book to "understand". Flaubert may have felt misunderstood. Bovary can be read as an attack on the bourgeoisie, their dull, conformist lives, and the stupid and ultimately self-defeating passions they indulge in an effort to escape from the suffocating monotony of their existence. Or it can be read, as most readers tend to read, as a morality tale about the tragic consequences of adultery. The Sentimental Education sets the record straight, however. Flaubert was not a moralist preaching on the sins of adultery in Bovary. This novel makes that obvious. Here Flaubert again takes up an attack on the bourgeoisie, this time leaving no room for misunderstanding.
I once met someone (a literature student specializing in 19th century fiction, no less!) who complained to me how boring she thought the Sentimental Education was. So boring that she never bothered to finish it. To this day I believe she approached the book in the wrong frame of mind. She may have been expecting some Balzac-ish bildungsroman, about the provincial who comes to Paris and grows into a society man. Instead, she discovered a novel about a dull provincial who comes to Paris thinking he is going to grow into a society man, but is such a poor judge of human character and relations that he meets defeat at every corner. But it is one thing to say the book is dull. It is another to point out that Frederic Moreau is a very dull human being. But then, we remember... we know people like Moreau. At some point or another, we all may have even behaved like Moreau. And we know and live in a society composed of people like the rest of the characters. Moreau's world is the world of bourgeoisie. 150 years later, in another language on another continent, I am surprised to see how little some things have changed.
Pierre Bourdieu, the French sociologist, has analyzed this novel extensively (see "The Rules of Art" and "The Field of Cultural Production") because he finds the document perfect for sociological analysis of the bourgeoisie and the intellectual communities that developed in Paris in 1848. Flaubert had a brutally frank eye and pen, quick to capture the most subtle social implications in a single gesture. After reading Flaubert and Bourdieu, I am haunted by how persistent and relevent Flaubert's vision of society and human relations continues to be.
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on April 21, 2000
My short list of great novels changes from time to time -- but it will always include this knock-out masterpiece by Flaubert. To be honest, I hated "Madame Bovary" (too depressing and contrived!), and tried this only on the recommendation of Woody Allen, whose character Isaac Davis in "Manhattan" lists this book as one of the things that make life worth living. He was right. The prose is flawless, the characters brilliant, the portrait of romanticism unexcelled. Don't miss this; it's one of the greats. (In case you're wondering, my current short list of "greats" also includes "Lonesome Dove," "Invisible Man" (Ellison), "The Stranger," "Heart of Darkness," and "The End of the Affair" (Graham Greene).) Happy reading!
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on May 17, 2009
Remember the last time you rode in an old car with bad shocks? Well, that is how this translation reads.
Parmee's introduction is full of promise; he identifies the main problem in the translation of Flaubert,
Proust's "Man of the Imperfect." There is no real imperfect tense in English, so one must substitute. Parmee
identifies several ways to do this, and ends with the use of the present participle, either as part of a verb
sequence, adjectivally, or as a gerund. The first is not encouraged by English stylists and grammarians.
Despite Parmee's many choices, he sticks to those that involve the present participle, especially as a tense.
Since this will not carry him very far, he switches tenses mid-paragraph, even mid-sentence! Thus he violates one of the most basic principles of English composition, viz. consistency of verb tense. This is what makes the ride bumpy. Bad English, suitable only for dialogue or dialect.
Further, it is not clear what kind of British he writes, it varies from Oxbridge to semi-American.
It was so important to Flaubert that style and meaning are harmonious and create an integrity that is poetic,
that this translation is a miserable flop.Cynthia C. Kegel, Ph.D.
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on February 23, 2004
Frederic Moureau is a young man who wants it all... he wants the great romantic life, the social commitment, the financial success, the respect from everyone. This is the perfect example of what a novel is, if we are to accept Lukacs definition of it as the epic of the ages with no gods. There is nothing in this young man's life that gives a sense of totality to his world... there are many ways to be followed, but none to actually enclose in itself the sense of the eternal horizon of time. As he meets Mme. Arnoux, one could think, by the way he thinks about her, that she is going to be his entire world, but she is not... a few moments later we find him completely devoted to the cause of his friends, and later, to his physical involvement with a woman of doubtfull reputation... etc, etc. Along with his discovery of the world and its mechanics, he submerges in his own feelings, without really finding a north to any of his purposes in the external world (be it the world of social dynamics, ambitions, of affections and of responsabilities). His journey begins when he leaves his birthplace in the country and goes to Paris. In this travel, he knows Mme. Arnoux, and then, her husband, with whom he relates very well. Once established in Paris, he keeps this relationship, in hope allways to see the wife.
From that point on, he will get involved in projects of papers, bussiness trades, purchases and social awareness. As the revolution falls upon the city, he tries to get a role in it, but he is soon rejected because of his previous (and allways ambiguous) relations with the burgouise spheres of Paris.
The end of the novel will have him remembering his awakening as a man: he goes to a house, where he can pick from a group of women... but the horizon of possibilities offered by all of them frighten him and he ends up running away... being followed by his best friend; who will allways have to run following Frederic... the one with the money.
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on March 29, 2000
At the end of Woody Allen's movie "Manhattan," Isaac Davis lists the things that make life worth living. Along with Louis Armstrong's version of "Potato Head Blues," Gustave Flaubert's "Sentimental Education" makes the list. Allen was right. This is undeniably one of the finest novels ever written. I hated "Madame Bovary," with its pessimistic fatalism and distasteful characters, but "SE" is, in more ways than one, an entirely different story -- a panoply of widely varying characters centering around one young man and his seemingly endless attempts to set up a tryst with the married woman he loves. Perhaps no other novel has been written that better exemplifies the "romantic spirit" -- in its classical sense. The book also has prose passages of breath-taking beauty. Highly recommended!
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VINE VOICEon November 21, 2000
This is one of those books that every college Freshmen should read. No novel protrays intellectuals more accurately than this one. Flaubert documents their vanity, their dishonesty, their pettiness and their depravity. He shows us what really awful human beings they are. Young people well advised to read the novel before entering the college scene. It will help them enter the academic world with at least some inkling of what the majority (admittedly, not all) intellectuals are really like.
There is an additional reason for reading "The Sentimental Education." It may very well be the most perfect novel ever produced. Not a single word, description, phrase is wasted. It belongs on any short list of the greatest books of all time.
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on November 7, 2000
A decently written novel of Paris, 1840s, centers on young student Frederic Moreau matriculating through 10 years of his young life amid personal struggles and tumultuous revolutionary period in France. Various characters pop in and out, all possessing presumed intelligence, and quirky "with it" personalities. There are artists, editors, students, lawyers, bohemians, politicos, sharing common friendship, daily chat sessions, a little coterie of characters reminding of Greenwich Village 1960. The stage is set for a series of interesting interactions between Paris intellectuals with multiple possibilities for a powerful story. Even the title here suggests a subtlety of creativity and art. In my opinion, Flaubert falls far short of potential here, and my maximum comment re the book is that it is somewhat cute. The author fails to develop the characters. We get bits and pieces but finish without full understanding of any of them. The story line basically degenerates to Frederic Moreau's seduction of various women, mostly other men's wifes with the modus operendi being befriend the husband, seduce the wife. In the end, with the protagonist's 100% failure rate, we have "Sentimental Education" I suppose. But despite the cuteness, the basic story is of hypocrisy and the ironic disgusting behavior of the main character all without comment by the author. Little to redeem this and very forgettable.
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