May 8, 2009
Au revoir, Gustave
by Melville House
Afflicted for nearly thirty years with syphilis, unmarried, and exhausted by his devotion to â€œle mot juste,â€ a phrase and a cult that he established, Gustave Flaubert died on this day, May 8, in 1880.
The French authorities charged his first published book, Madame Bovary, with immorality, and inadvertently created a succÃ¨s de scandale. This excoriating portrait of a thwarted provincial life established Flaubertâ€™s enduring reputation as the scourge of the bourgeoisie but Flaubert famously confided, “Madame Bovary, c’est moi.”
To commemorate the day Melville House makes available a fresh translation ofÂ Flaubertâ€™s most accessible novella, A Simple Heart, translated by Charlotte Mandell. Mandell has translated fiction, poetry and philosophy from the French, including three other novellas for Melville House: The Lemoine Affair by Marcel Proust, The Girl With the Golden Eyes by Balzac, and The Horla, by Guy de Maupassant.
Of A Simple Heart critic Aimee Israel-Pelletier writes that â€œFlaubertâ€™s â€˜swan songâ€™ is, ironically for a writer who has been so consistently characterized as a cynic and a hater of humanity, the most hopeful and, aesthetically, the most beautifully crafted of all his works.â€
â€œI want to move my readers to pity,â€ Flaubert wrote of this story.Â â€œI want to make sensitive souls weep, being one myself.â€