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Gustave Flaubert /

Main Author: Roe, David, 1943-
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: New York : St. Martin's Press, 1989
Series: Modern novelists
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Review by Choice Review

Roe's monograph on this 19th-century French author has brief chapters devoted to Flaubert's life, early writings, and literary ideas, followed by longer sections that treat the individual novels. The final chapter is an overview of Flaubert criticism from his time to our own. Roe (French, Leeds University) writes clearly and accessibly. Notes are kept to a minimum, and the bibliography, by the author's own admission, is selective and confined to books. But his "straightforward introduction to a far-from-straightforward man and artist" (dust jacket) has this disadvantage: his lucid prose reduces the complexity of Flaubert's writing; moreover, contemporary criticism, which deploys this very complexity and undecidability in its rereading of Flaubert, Roe for the most part summarily discounts. Roe frequently alludes to Flaubert's "modern" downplaying of plot, yet he organizes his chapters around lengthy plot summaries; Flaubert's innovative techniques (e.g., his free indirect discourse) tend to get rather cursory treatment. A much more illuminating analysis of this technique and a good general introduction to others can be found in V. Brombert's The Novels of Flaubert (CH, Sep '67). To his credit, however, Roe contrasts Flaubert to writers who preceded him and traces his influence on those who followed; therefore his book can be recommended for use with undergraduate comparative literature courses in which only one work by Flaubert may be studied. Brombert's book is a better general introduction for French lit majors, and J. Culler's Flaubert: The Uses of Uncertainty (CH, Feb '75) is more useful on Flaubert's modernity. -G. Moskos, Swarthmore College

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.