The Family Idiot: Gustave Flaubert, 1821-1857, Volume 5

The Family Idiot: Gustave Flaubert, 1821-1857, Volume 5

Jean-Paul Sartre

Language: English

Pages: 632

ISBN: 0226735192

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

With this volume, the University of Chicago Press completes its translation of a work that is indispensable not only to serious readers of Flaubert but to anyone interested in the last major contribution by one of the twentieth century's greatest thinkers.

That Sartre's study of Flaubert, The Family Idiot, is a towering achievement in intellectual history has never been disputed. Yet critics have argued about the precise nature of this novel or biography or "criticism-fiction" which is the summation of Sartre's philosophical, social, and literary thought. In the preface, Sartre writes: "The Family Idiot is the sequel to Search for a Method. The subject: what, at this point in time, can we know about a man? It seemed to me that this question could only be answered by studying a specific case."

Sartre discusses Flaubert's personal development, his relationship to his family, his decision to become a writer, and the psychosomatic crisis or "conversion" from his father's domination to the freedom of his art. Sartre blends psychoanalysis with a sociological study of the ideology of the period, the crisis in literature, and Flaubert's influence on the future of literature.

While Sartre never wrote the final volume he envisioned for this vast project, the existing volumes constitute in themselves a unified work--one that John Sturrock, writing in the Observer, called "a shatteringly fertile, digressive and ruthless interpretation of these few cardinal years in Flaubert's life."

"A virtuoso perfomance. . . . For all that this book does to make one reconsider his life, The Family Idiot is less a case study of Flaubert than it is a final installment of Sartre's mythology. . . . The translator, Carol Cosman, has acquitted herself brilliantly."--Frederick Brown, New York Review of Books

"A splendid translation by Carol Cosman. . . . Sartre called The Family Idiot a 'true novel,' and it does tell a story and eventually reach a shattering climax. The work can be described most simply as a dialectic, which shifts between two seemingly alternative interpretations of Flaubert's destiny: a psychoanalytic one, centered on his family and on his childhood, and a Marxist one, whose guiding themes are the status of the artist in Flaubert's period and the historical and ideological contradictions faced by his social class, the bourgeoisie."--Fredric Jameson, New York Times Book Review

Jean-Paul Sartre (1906-1980) was offered, but declined, the Nobel Prize for literature in 1964. His many works of fiction, drama, and philosophy include the monumental study of Flaubert, The Family Idiot, and The Freud Scenario, both published in translation by the University of Chicago Press.

















the bourgeois class, mistakenly assimilating the third estate, claimed to contain within itself the quasi-totality of the French; on the other hand, its practice demanded instruments of universal usage provided by the exact sciences. The circulation of merchandise led it to demand that tolls and internal divisions everywhere should be replaced by a radical homogeneity of time and space. For this reason, the theory of bourgeois universality, or, what amounts to the same thing, the theory of human

primarily at his idiosyncratic subjectivity. But it is also true that he has produced an objective work that presents itself to the reader as a singular universal. It seems we have come to an impasse: Is it conceivable that the return to the subjective could in practice result in the production of an object in the social world? And it hardly matters, in this case, that the object is imaginary since it is, as such, a real determination of the society. Are we to claim that in this case, quite by

the bourgeoisie. The gentlemen will continue to write-less and less, except for Hugo, who will keep changing but will never stop crushing his successors with his lofty image of man. But their young bourgeois successors will enter the career of writing disgusted with themselves, and all their writings will be governed by this vague disgust; whether evoked by their class being or human nature, they do not know. From the outset, however, it is certain that falling from aristocratic hands into the

intimes, p. xxii. 152 THE POSTROMANTIC APPRENTICE AUTHOR profoundly in human relations. This attitude of the Postromantic writer and his ambivalence toward the feminine condition throws into relief the paradox of his position. He reproaches women, in short, for the normal development of emotional life which they owe, according to current thinking, to their "nervous organization"; in other words, he reproaches them for desiring, taking pleasure, loving, suffering, despising, becoming

complete bad faith, will therefore be employed to show the future artist that it is constitutionally impossible for him to sustain relations with human beings. Well directed, this failure can be accompanied by scornful disillusionment: the author discovers the silliness and vanity of those relations; you have to be blind or base, like men, to believe in them, to establish and persist in them. Thus the failure of the artist allusively provides its positive counterpart, the possibility that the

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