Flaubert, Gustave (1821–1880) By McKee, Adam R.
A primary innovator of the modern novel, French writer Gustave Flaubert was one of the most influential literary artists of the nineteenth century. Primarily associated with Realism, Flaubert is best remembered for his magnum opus Madame Bovary (1857). A close friend of many of his contemporaries including Ivan Turgenev, Henry James, and Guy de Maupassant, Flaubert was one of the moving forces in the early stages of modern literature. He is widely acknowledged as one of the originators of the modern novel’s form, and his work has influenced such literary figures as Émile Zola, Franz Kafka and Jean-Paul Sartre. Perhaps his legacy is best understood through Marcel Proust, who referred to Flaubert as a ‘génie grammatical’ (grammatical genius).
Born in the northern French city of Rouen in 1821, Flaubert was the second of three children. Flaubert’s father was a surgeon in Rouen. After attending secondary school at Collège Royal de Rouen, Flaubert enrolled in law school in Paris in 1842. He would spend almost two years living in Paris before suffering the first epileptic seizure of his life in January 1844. As a result, Flaubert’s career as a writer would begin as he moved to a family property in Croisset, outside Rouen. Here Flaubert would write his masterpieces.