Sentimental Education

The Story of a Young Man

2023
Author:

Gustave Flaubert
Translated by Raymond N. MacKenzie

A fresh and vivid translation of Flaubert’s influential bildungsroman

Gustave Flaubert conceived Sentimental Education, his final complete novel, as the history of his own generation, one that failed to fulfill the promise of the Revolution of 1848. Published a few months before the start of the 1870 Franco–Prussian War, it offers both a sweeping panorama of French society over three decades and an intimate bildungsroman of a young man from a small town who arrives in Paris when protests against the monarchy are increasing.

A perfect picture of the confusion, wrong turns, and bad directions that seem inseparable from growing up.

Michael Wood, Lapham’s Quarterly

Gustave Flaubert conceived Sentimental Education, his final complete novel, as the history of his own generation, one that failed to fulfill the promise of the Revolution of 1848. Published a few months before the start of the 1870 Franco–Prussian War, it offers both a sweeping panorama of French society over three decades and an intimate bildungsroman of a young man from a small town who arrives in Paris when protests against the monarchy are increasing.

The novel’s protagonist, Frédéric Moreau, alternates between aimlessness and ambition as he searches for a meaningful life through love affairs and republican politics. Flaubert’s narrative includes scenes of high drama, as scattered protests across Paris swell into revolution, and quiet moments of self-aware romanticism, crafting a story that possesses the sweep and scope of a historical novel combined with deep emotion and scandalous intimacy. Suffused with tragedy and the poignancy of lost chances and wasted lives, Sentimental Education is sharpened by satirical observations of what Flaubert condemned as the Second Empire’s endemic hypocrisy and willful blindness.

This vibrant, new translation by Raymond N. MacKenzie includes an extensive critical introduction and annotations to help the modern reader appreciate Flaubert’s achievement. Sentimental Education intertwines the personal, the intimate, and the subjective with the political, social, and cultural, embedding Frédéric’s story in the larger arc of what Flaubert saw as France’s decline into mediocrity and imbecility in its politics and manners.

Awards

French-American Foundation: Translation Prize, fiction — Finalist

Gustave Flaubert (1821–1880), one of France’s leading exponents of literary realism, was born in Rouen. He arrived in Paris in 1840 to study law but soon returned to his hometown, where he largely remained, focused on his writing in the family home in Croisset. Provincial life was the focus of Madame Bovary, but a trip to Egypt and the Middle East gave him inspiration for Salammbô. He died at the age of fifty-eight.

Raymond N. MacKenzie is professor of English at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. He has translated Balzac’s Lost Souls and Lost Illusions, d’Aurevilly’s Diaboliques, and Stendhal’s Italian Chronicles and Red and Black, all published by the University of Minnesota Press, as well as Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and Zola’s Germinal, a finalist for the PEN Translation Prize.

A perfect picture of the confusion, wrong turns, and bad directions that seem inseparable from growing up.

Michael Wood, Lapham’s Quarterly

Flaubert, among other talents, proves a stunningly scrupulous historical novelist, bringing us a richly textured account of the aspirations, illusions, and defeats of the insurgents.

Peter Brooks, Publishers Weekly

Sentimental Education is a new translation of a classic novel about youthful optimism curdling into cruel cynicism in the face of dissatisfaction.

Foreword Reviews

Contents

Translator’s Introduction

Raymond N. MacKenzie

Sentimental Education

Part I

Part II

Part III

Translator’s Notes