I have been reading Gustave Flaubert’s Sentimental Education for more than a week now. How am I to describe this novel to you? At the moment, words seem to escape my mind and keep retreating back into the pages of this novel, into Flaubert’s Paris, and they force me to escape there as well. I am living in Flaubert’s Paris and seeing and breathing every air the narrator (Fredric) is breathing. The novel is plotless, the novel is cram with a huge number of characters, and most importantly the novel feels alive. Let us read together a brief glimpse of the world Flaubert has created:
"He sauntered through the Latin Quarter, usually bustling with life but desertedAh, look dear readers at the yawning women and unopened newspapers; can you imagine an average writer having an aesthetic eye as sharp as Flaubert in selecting those particular details. It is the kind of thing that we rarely take notice in our life. It may not tell you what the "people are saying" (as a social cultural critic would expect) but it will tell you about the world we live in by expending our humanistic consciousness: the ultimate goal in fiction.
now, for the students had all gone home. The great walls of the colleges looked
more forlorn than ever, as if the silence had made them taller; peaceful sounds
were heard, the fluttering wings in the birdcages, the whirring of a lathe, a
cobbler’s hammer; and the old-clothes men, in the middle of the street, gazing
up in vain at every window. In deserted cafes, women serving at bars yawned
among untouched bottles; newspapers lay unopened on reading-room tables; in
laundresses’ workshops the washing quivered in the warm draughts. Every now and
then he stopped at a bookseller’s stall; an omnibus, coming down the street and
grazing the kerb, made him turn around; and when he reached the Luxembourg, he
retraced his steps."