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GUSTAVE FLAUBERT QUOTES

French writer (1821-1880)

We should not touch our idols: their gilding will remain on our hands.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, Madame Bovary

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.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, letter to Madame Louise Colet, Jun. 14, 1853

I tried to discover, in the rumor of forests and waves, words that other men could not hear, and I pricked up my ears to listen to the revelation of their harmony.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, November

An author in his book must be like God in the universe, present everywhere and visible nowhere.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, letter to Madame Louise Colet, Dec. 9, 1852

The future was a dark corridor, with the door at its end firmly closed.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, Madame Bovary

Everyone became brave from excess of terror.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, Salammbo

Farming -- a vocation accursed of heaven, since one never saw a millionaire involved in it.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, Madame Bovary

Love ... must come suddenly, with great thunderclaps and bolts of lightning -- a hurricane from heaven that drops down on your life, overturns it, tears away your will like a leaf, and carries your whole heart off with it into the abyss.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, Madame Bovary

By working one can bend fortune. She is fond of crafty men.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, Salammbo

None of us can ever express the exact measure of our needs, or our ideas, or our sorrows, and human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, when we long to inspire pity in the stars.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, Madame Bovary

The whole dream of democracy is to raise the proletarian to the level of bourgeois stupidity.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, letter to George Sand, 1871

After a person dies, there is always something like a feeling of stupefaction, so difficult is it to comprehend this unexpected advent of nothingness and to resign oneself to believing it.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, Madame Bovary

To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, letter to Madame Louise Colet, Aug. 13, 1846

I worship God. I believe in the Supreme Being, in a Creator, whoever he may be, I don't really care, who has put us here on earth to perform our duties as citizens and family men; but I don't need to go into a church and kiss a silver platter and reach into my pocket to fatten a pack of humbugs who eat better than we do! Because one can honor him just as well in a forest, in a field, or even gazing up at the ethereal vault, like the ancients. My own God is the God of Socrates, Franklin, Voltaire, and Béranger.... I cannot, therefore, accept the sort of jolly old God who strolls about his flower beds with cane in hand, lodges his friends in the bellies of whales, dies uttering a groan and comes back to life after three days: things absurd in themselves and completely opposed, what is more, to all physical laws; which simply goes to show, by the way, that the priests have always wallowed in a shameful ignorance in which they endeavor to engulf the peoples of the world along with them.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, Madame Bovary

Boredom, that silent spider, was spinning its web in the darkness in every corner of her heart.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, Madame Bovary

Everyone, either from modesty or egotism, hides away the best and most delicate of his soul’s possessions; to gain the esteem of others, we must only ever show our ugliest sides; this is how we keep ourselves on the common level.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, November

Didn't love, like a plant from India, require a prepared soil, a particular temperature? Sighs in the moonlight, long embraces, tears flowing over hands yielded to a lover, all the fevers of the flesh and the languors of tenderness thus could not be separated from the balconies of great châteaux filled with idle amusements, a boudoir with silk blinds, a good thick carpet, full of pots of flowers, and a bed raised on a dais, nor from the sparkle of precious stones and shoulder knots on servants' livery.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, Madame Bovary

One becomes a critic when one cannot be an artist, just as a man becomes a stool pigeon when he cannot be a soldier.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, letter to Madame Louise Colet, Oct. 22, 1846

A rich woman seems to have all her banknotes about her, guarding her virtue, like a cuirass, in the lining of her corset.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, Madame Bovary

Ah! In fact there are two moralities ... The petty one, the conventional one, the one devised by men, that keeps changing and bellows so loudly, making a commotion down here among us, in a perfectly pedestrian way ... But the other one, the eternal one, is all around and above us, like a landscape that surrounds us and the blue sky that gives us light.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, Madame Bovary

Doubt ... is an illness that comes from knowledge and leads to madness.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, Memoirs of a Madman

Speech is a rolling press that always amplifies one's emotions.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, Madame Bovary

As words have an effective power of their own, curses reported against someone might turn against the speaker.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, Salammbo

What could be better, really, than to sit by the fire in the evening with a book, while the wind beats against the windowpanes, and the lamp burns?... You forget everything ... and hours go by. Without moving, you walk through lands you imagine you can see, and your thoughts, weaving in and out of the story, delight in the details or follow the outlines of the adventures. You merge with the character; you think you're the one whose heart is beating so hard within the clothes he's wearing.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, Madame Bovary

You need a high degree of corruption or a very big heart to love absolutely everything.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, November

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.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, letter to Madame Louise Colet, Dec. 11, 1852

A man, at least, is free; he can explore every passion, every land, overcome obstacles, taste the most distant pleasures. But a woman is continually thwarted. Inert and pliant at the same time, she must struggle against both the softness of her flesh and subjection to the law. Her will, like the veil tied to her hat by a string, flutters with every breeze; there is always some desire luring her on, some convention holding her back.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, Madame Bovary

He had the vanity to believe men did not like him – while men simply did not know him.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, November

I go dreaming into the future, where I see nothing, nothing. I have no plans, no idea, no project, and, what is worse, no ambition. Something -- the eternal "what's the use?" -- sets its bronze barrier across every avenue that I open up in the realm of hypothesis.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, Flaubert in Egypt: A Sensibility on Tour

Are the days of winter sunshine just as sad for you, too? When it is misty, in the evenings, and I am out walking by myself, it seems to me that the rain is falling through my heart and causing it to crumble into ruins.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, November: Fragments in a Nondescript Style

Do not read, as children do, to amuse yourself, or like the ambitious, for the purpose of instruction. No, read in order to live.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, letter to Mlle de Chantepie, June 1857

My foregrounds are imaginary, my backgrounds real.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, attributed, A Sentimental Education: The Story of a Young Man

Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, Flaubert in Egypt: A Sensibility on Tour

We have all been beaten! Each one has to bear his misfortune! Resign yourself!

GUSTAVE FLAUBERT, Salammbo


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