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gustave flaubert Quotes

Gustave Flaubert Quotes

Birth Date: 1821-12-12 (Wednesday, December 12th, 1821)
Date of Death: 1880-05-08 (Saturday, May 8th, 1880)



    • One must not always think that feeling is everything. Art is nothing without form.
    • Quelle atroce invention que celle du bourgeois, n'est-ce pas?
    • One becomes a critic when one cannot be an artist, just as a man becomes a stool pigeon when he cannot be a soldier.
    • An author in his book must be like God in the universe, present everywhere and visible nowhere.
    • The idea of bringing someone into the world fills me with horror. I would curse myself if I were a father. A son of mine! Oh no, no, no! May my entire flesh perish and may I transmit to no one the aggravations and the disgrace of existence.
    • You can calculate the worth of a man by the number of his enemies, and the importance of a work of art by the harm that is spoken of it.
    • Everything one invents is true, you may be perfectly sure of that. Poetry is as precise as geometry.
    • The artist must be in his work as God is in creation, invisible and all-powerful; one must sense him everywhere but never see him.
    • Do not read as children do to enjoy themselves, or, as the ambitious do to educate themselves. No, read to live.
    • Axion: hatred of the bourgeois is the beginning of wisdom.
    • Exuberance is better than taste:
    • Nothing is more humiliating than to see idiots succeed in enterprises we have failed in.
    • He is so corrupt that he would willingly pay for the pleasure of selling himself.
    • The whole dream of democracy is to raise the proletarian to the level of bourgeois stupidity.
    • Our ignorance of history causes us to slander our own times.
    • What is beautiful is moral, that is all there is to it.
    • He was happy now, without a care in the world. A meal alone with her, a stroll along the highway in the evening, the way she touched her hand to her hair, the sight of her straw hat hanging from a window hasp, and many other things in which it had never occurred to him to look for pleasure -- such now formed the steady current of his happiness.
    • Seen from close, her eyes appeared larger than life, especially when she opened and shut her eyelids several times on awakening: black when looked at in the shadow, dark blue in bright light, they seemed to contain layer upon layer of color, thicker and cloudier beneath, lighter and more transparent toward the lustrous surface.
    • Before her marriage she had thought that she had love within her grasp but since the happiness which she had expected this love to bring her hadn't come, she supposed she must have been mistaken. And Emma tried to imagine just what was meant, in life, by the words 'bliss,' 'passion,' and 'rapture' -- words that had seemed so beautiful to her in books.
    • She loved the sea for its storms alone, cared for vegetation only when it grew here and there among ruins. She had to extract a kind of personal advantage from things and she rejected as useless everything that promised no immediate gratification -- for her temperament was more sentimental than artistic, and what she was looking for was emotions, not scenery.
    • The sentimental songs she sang in music class were all about little angels with golden wings, madonnas, lagoons, gondoliers -- mawkish compositions that allowed her to glimpse, through the silliness of the words and the indiscretions of the music, the alluring, phantasmagoric realm of genuine feeling.
    • And now she could not bring herself to believe that the uneventful life she was leading was the happiness of which she had dreamed.
    • It seemed to her that certain portions of the earth must produce happiness -- as thought it were a plant native only to those soils and doomed to languish elsewhere. Why couldn't she be leaning over the balcony of some Swiss chalet? Or nursing her melancholy in a cottage in Scotland, with a husband clad in a long black velvet coat and wearing soft leather shoes, a high-crowned hat and fancy cuffs?
    • She might have been glad to confide all these things to someone. But how to speak about so elusive a malaise, one that keeps changing its shape like the clouds and its direction like the wind? She could find no words; and hence neither occasion nor courage came to hand.
    • But even as they were brought closer together by the details of daily life, she was separated from him by a growing sense of inward detachment. Charles' conversation was flat as a sidewalk, a place of passage for the ideas of everyman; they wore drab everyday clothes, and they inspired neither laughter nor dreams.
    • He took it for granted that she was content; and she resented his settled calm, his serene dullness, the very happiness she herself brought him.
    • But her life was as cold as an attic facing north; and boredom, like a silent spider, was weaving its web in the shadows, in every corner of her heart.
    • The music was still throbbing in her ears, and she forced herself to stay awake in order to prolong the illusion of this luxurious life she would so soon have to be leaving. . . . She longed to know all about their lives, to penetrate into them, to be part of them.
    • Everything immediately surrounding her -- boring countryside, inane petty bourgeois, the mediocrity of daily life -- seemed to her the exception rather than the rule. She had been caught in it all by some accident: out beyond, there stretched as far as the eye could see the immense territory of rapture and passions. In her longing she made no difference between the pleasures of luxury and the joys of the heart, between elegant living and sensitive feeling. Didn't love, like Indian plants, require rich soils, special temperatures?
    • Though she had no one to write to, she had bought herself a blotter, a writing case, a pen and envelopes; she would dust off her whatnot, look at herself in the mirror, take up a book, and then begin to daydream and let it fall to her lap. . . . She wanted to die. And she wanted to live in Paris.
    • Deep down, all the while, she was waiting for something to happen. Like a sailor in distress, she kept casting desperate glances over the solitary waster of her life, seeking some white sail in the distant mists of the horizon. She had no idea by what wind it would reach her, toward what shore it would bear her, or what kind of craft it would be - tiny boat or towering vessel, laden with heartbreaks or filled to the gunwhales with rapture. But every morning when she awoke she hoped that today would be the day; she listened for every sound, gave sudden starts, was surprised when nothing happened; and then, sadder with each succeeding sunset, she longed for tomorrow.
    • So from now on the days were going to continue one after the other like this, always the same, innumerable, bringing nothing! . . . It was God's will. The future was a pitch-black tunnel, ending in a locked door. She gave up her music: why should she play? Who was there to listen? . . . She left her drawing books and her embroidery in a closet. What was the use of anything? What was the use?
    • My God is the God of Socrates, of Franklin, of Voltaire, of Beranger! My credo is the credo of Rousseau! I adhere to the immortal principles of '89! I have no use for the kind of God who goes walking in his garden with a stick, sends his friends to live in the bellies of whales, gives up the ghost with a groan and then comes back to life three days later! Those things aren't only absurd in and of themselves, Madame -- they're completely opposed to all physical laws!
    • 'What's more delightful than an evening beside the fire with a nice bright lamp and a book, listening to the wind beating against the windows?' 'How true!' she said, her great dark eyes fixed widely on him. 'I'm absolutely removed from the world at such times,' he said. 'The hours go by without my knowing it. Sitting there I'm wandering in countries I can see every detail of -- I'm playing a role in the story I'm reading. I actually feel I'm the characters -- I live and breathe with them.'
    • Noble characters and pure affections and happy scenes are very comforting things. They're a refuge from life's disillusionments.
    • In the tragedy in question, for example, he condemned the ideas but admired the style, abhorred the conception but praised all the details, found the characters impossible but their speeches marvelous
    • Had they nothing more to say to each other? Their eyes, certainly, were full of more meaningful talk; and as they made themselves utter banalities they sensed the same languor invading them both: it was like a murmur of the soul, deep and continuous, more clearly audible than the sound of their words. Surprised by a sweetness that was new to them, it didn't occur to them to tell each other how they felt or to wonder why. Future joys are like tropic shores: out into the immensity that lies before them they waft their native softness, a fragrant breeze that drugs the traveler into drowsiness and makes him careless of what awaits him on the horizon beyond his view.
    • He was in agony trying to think of a way of 'declaring himself' to her. He was constantly torn between the fear of offending her and shame at his own cowardice; he shed tears of despair and frustrated desire.
    • And all this time she was torn by wild desires, by rage, by hatred. The trim folds of her dress hid a heart in turmoil, and her reticent lips told nothing of the storm. She was in love with Leon, and she sought the solitude that allowed her to revel undisturbed in his image.
    • What exasperated her was Charles's total unawareness of her ordeal. His conviction that he was making her happy she took as a stupid insult: such self-righteousness could only mean that he didn't appreciate her.
    • Leon was tired of loving without having anything to show for it, and he was beginning to feel the depression that comes from leading a monotonous life without any guiding interest or buoyant hope.
    • There was a silence. They looked at each other; and their thoughts clung together in their common anguish like two throbbing hearts.
    • Nevertheless the flames did die down -- whether exhausted from lack of supplies or choked by excessive feeding. Little by little, love was quenched by absence; regret was smothered by routine; and the fiery glow that had reddened her pale sky grew gray and gradually vanished. . . . But the storm kept raging, her passion burned itself to ashes, no help was forthcoming, no new sun rose to the horizon. Night closed in completely around her, and she was left alone in a horrible void of piercing cold.
    • Poor little thing! She's gasping for love like a carp on a kitchen table gasping for water.
    • 'What an unutterable catastrophe!' The apothecary always had the proper expression ready, whatever the occasion.
    • And they talked about the mediocrity of provincial life, so suffocating, so fatal to all noble dreams.
    • 'Do you really not know,' he said, 'that there exist souls that are ceaselessly in torment? That are driven now to dreams, now to action, driven from the purest passions to the most orgiastic pleasures? No wonder we fling ourselves into all kinds of fantasies and follies!'
    • Our duty is to feel what is great and love what is beautiful -- not to accept all the social conventions and the infamies they impose on us.
    • Never had her eyes been so enormous, so dark, so deep: her whole being was transfigured by some subtle emanation.
    • At last she was going to know the joys of love, the fever of the happiness she had despaired of. She was entering a marvelous realm where all would be passion, ecstasy, rapture: she was in the midst of an endless blue expanse, scaling the glittering heights of passion; everyday life had receded, and lay far below, in the shadows between those peaks.
    • How happy she had been in those days! How free! How full of hope! How rich in illusions! There were no illusions left now. She had had to part with some each time she had ventured on a new path, in each of her successive conditions -- as virgin, as wife, as mistress; all along the course of her life she had been losing them, like a traveler leaving a bit of his fortune in every inn along the road.
    • It was for him that she had done it -- for this creature here, this man who understood nothing, who felt nothing.
    • She repented her virtue of days past as though it had been a crime; and what virtue she had left now crumbled under the furious assault of her pride. Adultery was triumphant; and she reveled in the prospect of its sordid ironies. The thought of her lover made her reel with desire; heart and soul she flung herself into her longing, borne toward him on waves of new rapture; and Charles seemed to her as detached from her life, as irrevocably gone, as impossible and done for, as though he were a dying man, gasping his last before her eyes.
    • He saw no reason why there should be all this to-do about so simple a thing as love-making.
    • He had had such things said to him so many times that none of them had any freshness for him. Emma was like all his other mistresses; and as the charm of novelty gradually slipped from her like a piece of her clothing, he saw revealed in all its nakedness the eternal monotony of passion, which always assumes the same forms and always speaks the same language. . . . Whereas the truth is that fullness of soul can sometimes overflow in utter vapidity of language, for none of us can ever express the exact measure of his needs or his thoughts or his sorrows; and human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.
    • Never had Madame Bovary been as beautiful as now. She had that indefinable beauty that comes from happiness, enthusiasm, success -- a beauty that is nothing more of less than a harmony of temperament and circumstances. Her desires, her sorrows, her experience of sensuality, her ever-green illusions, had developed her step by step, like a flower nourished by manure and by the rain, by the wind and the sun; and she was finally blooming in the fullness of her nature.
    • Nothing specific stood out against the vast background of the future that she thus evoked: the days were all of them splendid, and as alike as the waves of the sea; and the whole thing hovered on the horizon, infinite, harmonious, blue and sparkling in the sun.
    • But some day sooner or later our passion would have cooled -- inevitably -- it's the way with everything human.
    • She cast her eyes about her, longing for the earth to open up. Why not end it all? What was holding her back? She was free to act. And she moved forward. 'Do it! Do it!' she ordered herself, peering down at the pavement.
    • The difficulties he foresaw were so formidable that he quickly banished the disagreeable subject from his mind.
    • She was filled with wonderment at the discovery that there was a bliss greater than mere happiness -- a love different from and transcending all others -- a love without break and without end, a love that increased throughout eternity! . . . She conceived the idea of becoming a saint. She bought rosaries and festooned herself with holy medals; she wished she had an emerald-studded reliquary within reach at her bed's head, to kiss every night.
    • When she knelt at the gothic prie-dieu she addressed the Lord with the same ardent words she had formerly murmured to her lover in the ecstasies of adultery. It was her way of praying for faith; but heaven showered no joy upon her, and she would rise, her limbs aching, with a vague feeling that it was all a vast fraud.
    • But that kind of happiness was doubtless a lie, invented to make one despair of any love. Now she well knew the true paltriness of the passions that art painted so large.
    • A mad idea seized her: he was gazing at her now! She was sure of it! She long to rush into his arms and seek refuge in his strength as in the very incarnation of love; she longed to cry: 'Ravish me! Carry me off! Away from here! All my passion and all my dreams are yours -- yours alone!' The curtain fell.
    • Self-confidence depends on surroundings: the same person talks quite differently in the drawing room and in the garret, and a rich woman's virtue is protected by her banknotes quite effectively as by any cuirass worn under a corset.
    • 'Ah!' she said, lifting her lovely tear-bright eyes to the ceiling. 'If you knew all the dreams I've dreamed!'
    • That was how they would have liked to be: what they were doing was to dream up ideals and then refashion their past lives to match them. Speech is a rolling-machine that always stretches the feelings it expresses.
    • As she listened to him, Madame Bovary marveled at how old she was: all those re-emerging details made her life seem vaster as though she had endless emotional experiences to look back on.
    • The clerk assured her warmly that idealistic natures were rarely understood.
    • 'What's improper about it?' retorted the clerk. 'Everybody does it in Paris!' It was an irresistible and conclusive argument.
    • His rage had sent him into Latin: he would have spouted Chinese or Greenlandic had he been able to, for he was in the throes of one of those crises in which the soul lays bare its every last corners, just as the ocean, in the travail of a storm, splits open to display everything from the seaweed on its shores to the sand of its deepest bottom.
    • It wasn't the first time in their lives that they had seen trees, blue sky and lawn, or heard the flowing of water or the rustle of the breeze in the branches, but never before, certainly, had they looked on it all with such wonder: it was as though nature had not existed before, or had only begun to be beautiful with the slaking of their desires.
    • She was the amoureuse of all the novels, the heroine of all the plays, the vague 'she' of all the poetry books.
    • A clear day's warmth will often move / A lass to stray in dreams of love
    • Often, when they spoke of Paris, she would murmur: 'Ah! How happy we'd be, living there!' 'Aren't we happy here?' the young would softly ask, passing his hand over her hair.
    • 'I well understand your doing this,' said the notary. 'A man of science can't be expected to burden himself with the practical details of existence.' Charles felt soothed by these oily words: they flattered his weakness, making it look like preoccupation with lofty things.
    • She stood there, solemn, almost terrible, transfixing him with her great blazing eyes.
    • Gradually, growing calmer, she came to see that she had been unjust to him. But casting aspersions on those we love always does something to loosen our ties. We shouldn't maltreat our idols: the gilt comes off on our hands.
    • He even did his best to stop loving her; then at the sound of her footsteps he would feel his will desert him, like a drunkard at the sight of strong liquor.
    • No matter: she wasn't happy, and never had been. Why was life so unsatisfactory? Why did everything she leaned on crumble instantly to dust? . . . Besides, nothing was worth looking for: everything was a lie! Every smile concealed a yawn of boredom; every joy, a curse; every pleasure, its own surfeit; and the sweetest kisses left on one's lips but a vain longing for a fuller delight.
    • There isn't a bourgeois alive who in the ferment of his youth, if only for a day or for a minute, hasn't thought himself capable of boundless passions and noble exploits. The sorriest little woman-chaser has dreamed of Oriental queens; in a corner of every notary's heart lie the moldy remains of a poet.
    • Adultery, Emma was discovering, could be as banal as marriage.
    • She looked at him sadly. 'Whatever it was,' she said, 'I suffered a great deal.' He answered philosophically: 'Existence is thus!'
    • He wasn't lying. If he had had it he would probably have given it to her, unpleasant though it usually is to make such generous gifts: of all the icy blasts that blow on love, a request for money is the most chilling and havoc-wreaking.
    • And in his eyes she read a love such as she had never known.
    • First he anointed her eyes, once so covetous of all earthly luxuries; then her nostrils, so gluttonous of caressing breezes and amorous scents; then her mouth, so prompt to lie, so defiant in pride, so loud in lust; then her hands that had thrilled to voluptuous contacts; and finally the soles of her feet, once so swift when she had hastened to slake her desires, and now never to walk again.
    • The wind blew very hard that day / And snatched her petticoat away!
    • Anything becomes interesting if you look at it long enough.
    • Artists who seek perfection in everything are those who cannot attain it in anything.
    • Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you
    • Madame Bovary is myself.
    • Of all lies, art is the least untrue.
    • But there are moments when I feel I'm liquefying like an old Camembert, I'm so tired.
    • The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.
    • My deplorable mania for analysis exhausts me. I doubt everything, even my doubt.
    • The faster the word sticks to the thought, the more beautiful is the effect.
    • Writing history is like drinking an ocean and pissing a cupful.
    • The more humanity advances, the more it is degraded.
    • The most glorious moments in your life are not the so-called days of success, but rather those days when out of dejection and despair you feel rise in you a challenge to life, and the promise of future accomplishments.
    • There is no truth. There is only perception.
    • To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost.
    • What an elder sees sitting, the young can't see standing.
    • As a rule we disbelieve all the facts and theories for which we have no use.
    • gustave flaubert

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