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Three Tales (Oxford World's Classics) Reissue Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199555864
ISBN-10: 0199555869
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A. J. Krailsheimer's new translation adheres more faithfully to Flaubert's idiosyncratic sentence structures...authentically captures the original's elliptical nature, with its ghostly authorial voice." --Sunday Telegraph

"Intensely brilliant prose from the acclaimed author of Madame Bovary. These classic tales reflect Flaubert`s talent as a witty narrator and in particular A Simple Heart presents a wonderfully evocative portrait of 19th Century France." --Wales on Sunday

From the Back Cover

Flaubert's Three Tales offer an excellent introduction to the work of one of the world's greatest novelists.
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Product Details

  • Series: Oxford World's Classics
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reissue edition (November 2, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199555869
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199555864
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.4 x 4.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,221,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Russ Mayes VINE VOICE on February 8, 2010
Format: Paperback
Flaubert's collection of "Three Tales" brings together a wonderful set of short stories. Working from contemporary to ancient and in various modes of realism, Flaubert delves into the spiritual depths of his characters. The first story, "A Simple Heart" is the best of the group. In this story, Flaubert tells the story Felicite, a loyal servant to an uninteresting patron. Flaubert quickly covers her whole life, from her difficult childhood and through her many attachments to her death. Felicite is a woman who feels love deeply, but Flaubert's presentation is very detached and never maudlin. The last great love of Felicite's life is a parrot (which also inspired Julian Barnes' "Flaubert's Parrot") who comes to symbolize the holy spirit for her. It would have been easy for Flaubert to portray Felicite's simplicity as an object of scorn or irony, but he treats her faithfully and never passes judgment on her actions or thoughts. Her story is beautifully told and stands up well to any short story I know.

The second tale, "The Legend of Saint Julian the Hospitaller," is a retelling of the legendary Saint's life. Flaubert is in a completely different mode here; he is comfortable in the quick and magical progression typical of medieval tales. Flaubert's eye for detail makes some of the scenes more horrific and as such more effective. In particular, the scenes of carnage while hunting and the scene with the leper are particularly well drawn.

The final tale, "Herodias," is a retelling of the story of John the Baptist's execution. Here, Flaubert delves into the emotions of religious fervor and political intrigue. He focuses not on Herodias or John, but on Herod.
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Three tales: One "modern" short-story, one medieval legend, and one historical sketch. Three diverse tales, all colorful and engaging. Reading these tales makes one wish Flaubert had written more. Other reviewers have described each story in more detail so I'll keep my descriptions brief. Beginning with "A Simple Heart", the story of a lonely servant-girl named Felicite who devotes her life to helping a single mother raise her children in a small Normandy village; moving back in time to the medieval era and a capitvating re-telling the legend of "St. Julian Hospitator" who devotes himself to God after being haunted by the thousands of animals he'd hunted and killed as a brash, arrogant youth; far back to the time of Christ, when "Herodias", King Herod's head-strong wife, instigates the beheading of John the Baptist, unintentionally paving the way for Jesus Christ himself; Flaubert has created three "religious" tales that plainly and simply illustrate the status of Christianity at different times, in different places. Some readers of Flaubert find undertones of sarcasm in these tales (more prevelant in "Sentimental Education" for sure), but I really believe he's attempting to be as non-judgmental as possible, simply telling it the way it is; or was. It seems to me that Flaubert's intention with these stories (especially "A Simple Heart" which to me has the most character depth & uniqueness of the three) is to not only showcase his literary skills, but to challenge himself to write about three seemingly unconnected eras and linking them by a common thread. Flaubert's descriptions and details are always of the highest caliber (although sometimes tiresome if one's not used to his style) but ultimately, each tale stands on its own, making "Three Tales" an excellent introduction to one of the most influential, and talented writers of all time.
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A Simple Heart must be one of the best short stories I have ever read. Flaubert's detached narration makes a masterpiece of the final scene, blurring the distinction between events as they occur objectively and events as the dying Felicite experiences them, raising but never answering the question, does she imagine her final vision or does God condescend to appear to her in the image of a familiar object. Answering the question would make the conclusion either trite or cold, but the ambiguity artfully avoids both.
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I was surprised at the number of biblical references in these stories though I probably shouldn't have been given Flaubert's time and place. He lived in a Catholic country during a religious era. I've read lots of contemporaneous Victorian fiction and though the Brits throw in many bible tie Flaubert out does them. In `A Simple Heart' Felicite is goodness incarnate seeking only to love without seeming to need anything more than an other for which to care. She'll even settle for inanimate objects as long as they evoke someone or something. `St. Julien' was harder for me to enjoy. Apparently in order for him to become a saint he had to first be very, very bad. After enough blood is splashed about he realizes how wrong he's been and becomes good through loving someone `despicable'. My favorite story of the three was `Herodias'. The Middle East of John the Baptist and his nemesis Salome's time was just as tumultuous as today. The story felt immediate and alive.
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Gustave Flaubert (1821-80) published Three Tales in a magazine in 1877. Flaubert was already a rich and famous author. The meticulous master had already produced "Madame Bovary" and "A Sentimental Education" ensuring his elevated place in the annals of literary greatness. The three short stories in this tiny book are memorable, moving and beautifully rendered in classic Flaubertian simple, poetic and realistic prose.
A Simple Heart is the first and best of the tales. It tells the sad story of Felicite. She is an illiterate and religious orphan who grows up in northern France. She works hard on a farm where she is beaten by her master; has a sad and short love affair and becomes a maid in the home of an austere and cold widow. Her happiest days are taking care of Paul and Virginia the two children of the widow who has hired her to work in her small home.
Her nephew dies while in the French navy breaking her heart. Her happiest moments are spent in the company of Loulou a big green parrot she is given by a friend. When the great parrot dies he is stuffed and kept in Felicite's modest room. Felicite befriends the poor and old. She becomes deaf and dies with a vision of her parrot Loulou as an incarnation of the Holy Spirit. Felicite is a portrait of a good human being and Loulou is the most famous parrot in all literature. This is a wonderful little story of Christian faith put into action by a kind woman. One of my favorite all time short stories.

St. Julian Hospitator is a story reminiscent of a fairy tale. Julian grows up rich and coddled by his parents in a castle. He is a sadistic hunter who enjoys killing thousands of animals. This part of the story was very disturbing to me as an animal lover. By a tragic mistake he kills his own parents.
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