From a distinguished literary historian, a look at Gustave Flaubert and his correspondence with George Sand during France's "terrible year"--summer 1870 through spring 1871
From the summer of 1870 through the spring of 1871, France suffered a humiliating defeat in its war against Prussia and witnessed bloody class warfare that culminated in the crushing of the Paris Commune. In Flaubert in the Ruins of Paris, Peter Brooks examines why Flaubert thought his recently published novel, Sentimental Education, was prophetic of the upheavals in France during this "terrible year," and how Flaubert's life and that of his compatriots were changed forever.
Brooks uses letters between Flaubert and his novelist friend and confidante George Sand to tell the story of Flaubert and his work, exploring his political commitments and his understanding of war, occupation, insurrection, and bloody political repression. Interweaving history, art history, and literary criticism-from Flaubert's magnificent novel of historical despair, to the building of the reactionary monument the Sacré-Coeur on Paris's highest summit, to the emergence of photography as historical witness-Brooks sheds new light on the pivotal moment when France redefined herself for the modern world.
Brooks (Enigmas of Identity) has written an intricate examination of Gustave Flaubert's novel Sentimental Education against the backdrop of what is known in France as "the terrible year" summer 1870 through spring 1871 when the country suffered defeat by Prussia, followed by bloody internal strife. This multi-layered book is the perfect companion piece while reading Flaubert's novel. Through intimate correspondence between Flaubert and author George Sands, Brooks explores how their personal struggles during a tragic time gives perspective on "what history will do to your life." One intriguing detail here about Sentimental Education published in 1869 is that Flaubert believed its plot anticipated the terrible year, remarking that, had the book been better received and understood, it might have helped avert France's upheaval. In the midst of recounting momentous historical events, Brooks includes small but meaningful details of Flaubert and Sands's relationship and Flaubert's efforts to "reorganize his life at age 50." Students of Flaubert or of history will enjoy exploring this book's insights into one of the 19th century's greatest writers.