cover image The Family Idiot: Gustave Flaubert, 1821-1857, Volume 2

The Family Idiot: Gustave Flaubert, 1821-1857, Volume 2

Jean Paul Sarte, Jean-Paul Sartre. University of Chicago Press, $59 (444pp) ISBN 978-0-226-73510-8

Gustave Flaubert's boyhood desire to become an actor was ""his way of living the situation assigned to him in the Flaubert family,'' writes Sartre. This monumental life study draws on psychoanalysis and existentialism in imagining how Flaubert forged his inner self. Sartre portrays the author of Madame Bovary as a Nero of words whose towering literary ambition was the revenge of a child seething with rage at his manly, overpossessive mother. Though this volume covers Flaubert's early literary career, the emphasis is on childhood and adolescence. His fetishes, homoerotic affairs, self-proclaimed desire to be a woman and masochism add up to a seldom-seen side of the polished literary stylist. Readers not put off by the dense academic prose and highly speculative approach will find much to ponder. (April)