cover image Flaubert-Sand: The Correspondence

Flaubert-Sand: The Correspondence

Gustave Flaubert. Alfred A. Knopf, $35 (428pp) ISBN 978-0-679-41898-6

It is difficult to imagine two people less alike than romantic, freewheeling George Sand (1804-1876) and impeccably refined Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880). Yet the two French writers sustained a warm, touching friendship from 1863 until Sand's death. Their vibrant, expansive correspondence is well served by this expertly translated selection of more than 400 letters. During the German occupation of 1870-1871, Flaubert, forced to lodge Prussian officers, laments the ``civilized savages'' of modern warfare: Sand, outraged at the horrors of the Commune, sees her proletarian dreams crumbling. Elsewhere Madam e Bovary's creator, for whom ``cynicism is next to chastity,'' fulminates over the bourgeoisie, philistines, publishers, the writer's lowly status and the damned human race. The older Sand tries to allay his hypochrondria, his loneliness, his rages and melancholy; at one point she scolds him and urges marriage as a solution to his problems. Both writers disclose their deepest needs and longings in these affectionate, unguarded letters. (Feb.)