Sentimental Education (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Sentimental Education (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Overview

Considered one of the greatest French novels of the nineteenth century, Sentimental Education blends brilliantly realized details of a tumultuous time and place with the intimate story of a lifelong romantic obsession, one that closely mirrors the central passion of Flaubert’s own life.

Set amid the violent social upheaval of the Revolution of 1848, the novel tells of young Frédéric Moreau’s idealistic attraction to a married woman some years his senior. Smitten by his first sight of Madame Arnoux, Frédéric idolizes her for many years, despite her refusal to encourage him and his own indecision. He befriends her husband, an art dealer, in order to be near her, and soon finds himself drawn first into Jacques Arnoux’s heady social circle and then into his disastrous financial speculations.

As a young teenager, Flaubert himself became romantically obsessed with a married woman with whom he kept in touch for the rest of his life, and many of the characters in Sentimental Education, including Madame Arnoux, are based on friends and acquaintances of the great French author. In this vivid novel, all are beset by financial difficulties, ideological conflicts, and friendship betrayed as their lives are changed forever by the revolution.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781593083069
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 02/01/2006
Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Pages: 544
Sales rank: 149,753
Product dimensions: 8.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.36(d)

Read an Excerpt

From Claudie Bernard’s Introduction to Sentimental Education

Flaubert’s most typical posture was of bitter irony. In his correspondence, he admitted that he laughed at everything—facts, people, feelings, and even those matters dearest to his heart, as a method to test them. His sarcasm did not spare current events. In March 1848 he told his mistress Louise Colet:

You ask my opinion about all that has just been done. Well! It is all quite droll. . . . I profoundly delight in the contemplation of all the flattened ambitions. I don’t know if the new form of government and the social state that will come of it will be favorable to Art..

His mockery denounced all ideological as well as esthetic clichés—all the discourses that speak through us without our control. He compiled a spicy Dictionnaire des idées reçues (1913; Dictionary of Received Ideas). And his last and unfinished book, Bouvard et Pécuchet (1881), an encyclopedic satire of contemporary practices and knowledge, ends up with the two false scholars returning to their original jobs, that of copyists.

Flaubert’s major preoccupation transcended any school; he called it “style,” in the larger sense of artistic creation. Style for him was as much behind the words as in the words, as much the soul as the flesh of a work. It was not contingent on a topic: “There are neither beautiful nor ugly subjects, and one could almost establish as an axiom, if one adopts the point of view of pure Art, that there is no subject at all, style being in itself an absolute way of seeing things.” He toyed with the notion of composing “a book about nothing, a book without any exterior attachment, which would hold together by the internal force of its style, like the earth holds up in the air without being supported; a book that would have almost no topic, or at least whose topic would be almost invisible, if that is possible.”

While Baudelaire searched for the flowers, the beauty of evil, Flaubert assigned himself the task of extracting the beauty of the mediocre, the ordeal of resuscitating ancient Carthage in Salammbô (1862), and the challenge of following two idiots, Bouvard and Pécuchet. A recluse in his house at Croisset, in Normandy, like the saints he liked to describe, he experienced the “throes of style”: the anxiety of cutting all banalities, the painful pursuit of the proper word, the trial of oral recitation, and the endless corrections and accumulated drafts. The final manuscript of Sentimental Education is 500 pages long, but the first drafts comprise no less than 2,350 sheets written front and back.

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Sentimental Education 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 81 reviews.
Luli81 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An educational reading indeed, either spiritually or rationally speaking.The novel talks about the life of a young man, Frederic, during the French Revolution and the founding of the French Empire in 1848. It is said that Frederic is in fact Flaubert himself telling about some real events in his life and of course about his platonic love for an older woman, in the book, called Mme Arnoux. We are able to follow, with a somehow ironic and pessimistic tone, a different set of characters who live the important changes of the era, from the Republican idealist Sénecal to the well off banker Mr. Dambruese, passing several courtesans and artists on the way. The book combines highly advanced politics with almost philosophical wanderings such as existence and death , passion and love, morality and justice... Each character represents an icon, Mme Arnoux, unattainable perfection; Rosannette, troubled and used courtesan; Deslauries, ambitious and envious middle class lawyer; all of them combine into a well constructed scenery which engulfs you into the story, even if you don't want to.The book left me wondering if a man is to be judged by the result of his actions or by his good intentions. The answer might not be as easy as it seems after you've read Frederic's story. A book that shouldn't be missed by those who appreciate a smart and eloquent reading. I think this work outperforms Flaubert's "Madame Bovary".
hemlokgang on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this novel for the most part. I enjoy the French romantic phrasing. Flaubert creates a truly remarkable character in Frederique, a young man who exemplifies all that it terrible about the upper class, and he must live with the consequences of his actions. The primary themes of the book include: true love, passion, idealism, betrayal, egocentrism of both men and women, manipulation, dishonesty......all the great makings of a wonderful novel. The only negative to me is that the love, confusion, betrayal cycle is repeated a bit much which belabors the point.. The "sentimental educaiton" is not learned until late in adulthood, what a pity!
DRFP on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Flaubert himself said it best about this book: "The setting in which my characters move is so copious and so swarming that with every line they are almost swallowed up by it. I am thus obliged to push into the background the things that are precisely the most interesting. I merely touch on lots of things that readers will want to see treated in depth."And that is my main problem with Sentimental Education - that it tries to cover too much and as a result everyone and everything receives naught but a shallow treatment. The era is fantastically interesting but Flaubert only drops various passing references to real events. Certain fictional events within the book take place that are quite scathing towards people of that era and it's a shame that these happenings are so inadequately developed. The same is true of the characters. Many flit in and out with little consequence. Even our leads spend so much time rushing from one event to another that we're denied a deep impression of them.It makes for a somewhat frustrating book. The book is far more readable than Madame Bovary (and far more likeable too, in my opinion) but it lacks that earlier work's strict focus. Perhaps if it were the length of War and Peace it could really have worked? As it is it's an entertaining read but one that's too slight to leave a strong impression.
AnnieHidalgo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
You can see the birth of the postmodern in this book. You could probably trace a direct line somehow - a literary genealogy of sorts, from this book to Zadie Smith's On Beauty, for instance. Everything planned by everyone in it turns out to be sadly futile, in the end. Real lives may at times be like that. Literature should not be. I understand that this book wasn't nearly as popular in Flaubert's time as Madame Bovary, and I see why. Emma Bovary may have come to a sad end, but nobody can say she didn't try. If nothing else, she had spirit. Frederic, the protagonist of this book - well, there's a line in an old song by Kirsty MacColl and the Pogues, "I could have been someone," the singer says, and Kirsty replies, "Well, so could anyone." It's what you'd like to tell Frederic. There were a thousand roads he could've taken at any point. If he'd only bothered to venture down any one of them, he could've been someone. The story of a life wasted does not make for an entertaining read.
gwendolyndawson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A young man and his lifelong love for an older, married woman. Depicts the social depravity of a certain class of men in France in the late 1800s.
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