Gustave Flaubert was born in Rouen on December 12, 1821. I’ve read several of his books including the one which is probably the best known, Madame Bovary. A number of years ago the French Literature group held an informal poll in which we listed our twenty favorite works by French authors. Madame Bovary was the only book which was included on everyone’s list. The English translation by Eleanor Marx-Aveling is available free in a choice of formats at Project Gutenberg or in audio from LibriVox.
When he is invited to dinner at Arnoux’s house, Frédéric, the hero of A Sentimental Education, “had to choose between ten mustards. He ate daspachio, curry, ginger, blackbirds from Corsica, lasagna from Rome.” Arnoux, a porcelain manufacturer, is not in possession of a great fortune but prides himself on being a good host. He “cultivated all the mail coach drivers to secure foodstuffs, and had connections with cooks in grand houses, who gave him recipes for sauces.” Like many Parisians, he has no hesitation in spending a great deal of money both at home and in restaurants. The tyranny of the palate has never been described; as a necessity of life it escapes the criticism of literature; yet no one imagines how many have been ruined by the table. The luxury of the table is indeed, in a sense, the courtesan’s one competitor in Paris,” says Balzac in Cousin Pons.
Balzac’s Omelette by Anka Muhlstein
Fans of Balzac, please visit the collaborative blog La Comedie Humaine.