Both embodiment and victim of the self-satisfied nineteenth-century French bourgeoisie, Emma Bovary lives in pursuit of something more, like the world depicted in the romance novels that have come to define her. Emma is oblivious to the realities of life, and her romantic delusions and search for transcendence through sex, money, and social position serve only to drive the increasingly troubled woman into an irreversible moral, emotional, and spiritual decline. That the author depicted his heroine in neutral terms, without condemnation, resulted in obscenity charges from the French courts, which likened the “lascivious” Madame Bovary’s “lack of restraint” to “a woman who throws off all garments.” Exactly. Madame Bovary remains one of the most daring and liberating novels ever written.
Includes The Trial of Madame Bovary
Translated by Mildred Marmur
With an Introduction by Robin Morgan and a New Afterword by Frederick Brown
About the Author
Gustave Flaubert (1821–80) was attracted to literature at an early age, and after his recovery from a nervous breakdown suffered while a law student, he turned his total energies to writing. Aside from journeys to the Near East, Greece, Italy, and North Africa and a stormy liaison with the poet Louise Colet, his life was dedicated to the practice of his art. The success of Madame Bovary (1857) was marred by government prosecution for “immorality.” Salammbô (1862) and The Sentimental Education (1869) received a cool public reception. Not until the publication of Three Tales (1877) was his genius popularly acknowledged. Among fellow writers, however, his reputation was supreme. His final bitterness and disillusion were vividly evidenced in the savagely satiric Bouvard and Pécuchet, left unfinished at his death.
An award-winning writer, feminist leader, political theorist, journalist, and editor, Robin Morgan has published seventeen books, including six of poetry, two of fiction, and the classic anthologies Sisterhood Is Powerful and Sisterhood Is Global. A founder of contemporary U.S. feminism, she has also been a leader in the international women’s movement for twenty-five years, and she is the author of a book of poetry, A Hot January: Poems 1996–1999, and the acclaimed Saturday’s Child: A Memoir. In 1990, as Editor-in-Chief of Ms., she relaunched the magazine as an international, award-winning bimonthly free of advertising, then resigned in 1993 to become Consulting Editor. A recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Prize (Poetry), the Front Page Award for Distinguished Journalism, the Feminist Majority Foundation Award, and numerous other honors, she lives in New York City.
“Possibly the most beautifully written book ever composed [and] the most important novel of the century.”—Frank O’Connor
“Perhaps we identify with Emma because we too feel an emptiness at the center of things—an emptiness we try to fill with books, with fantasies, with sex, with things. Her yearning is nothing more or less than the human condition in the modern world. Her search for ecstasy is ours.”—Erica Jong