Madame Bovary (1856) is the French writer Gustave Flaubert's debut novel. The story focuses on a doctor's wife, Emma Bovary, who has adulterous affairs and lives beyond her means in order to escape the banalities and emptiness of provincial life. Though the basic plot is rather simple, even archetypal, the novel's true art lies in its details and hidden patterns. Flaubert was a notorious perfectionist and claimed always to be searching for le mot juste ("the precise word"). When it was first serialized in La Revue de Paris between 1 October 1856 and 15 December 1856, the novel was attacked for obscenity by public prosecutors. The resulting trial, held in January 1857, made the story notorious. After Flaubert's acquittal on 7 February 1857, Madame Bovary became a bestseller when it was published as a single volume in April 1857. The novel is now considered Flaubert's masterpiece, as well as a seminal work of realism and one of the most influential novels ever written. In fact, the notable British-American critic James Wood writes in How Fiction Works: "Flaubert established for good or ill, what most readers think of as modern realist narration, and his influence is almost too familiar to be visible".
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The year 1857 propelled Flaubert into the law courts and into celebrity. It was not exactly the kind of celebrity he had wished for. 'Madame Bovary' had appeared serially in 'La Revue de Paris'. Now the imperial prosecutor was attacking the work for being offensive to religion and morality. Not only the seduction scenes, but the episodes dealing with religion and the description of Emma's death, came under direct censure. More than the subject, the general tone of the novel was denounced as immoral: the pervasive eroticism, the poetry of adultery, the so-called 'realism' of the style. Flaubert, excellently defended by his lawyer, was acquitted. The book was published soon after, benefiting from the advance courtroom publicity.About the Author:
Gustave Flaubert (12 December 1821 – 8 May 1880) was an influential French novelist who was one of the leading exponents of literary realism in his country. He is known especially for his first published novel, Madame Bovary (1857), for his Correspondence, and for his scrupulous devotion to his style and aesthetics.
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