Madame Bovary (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:
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Madame Bovary

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Overview

Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:
  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

The publication in 1857 of Madame Bovary, with its vivid depictions of sex and adultery, incited a backlash of immorality charges. The novel tells the story of Emma Bovary, a doctor’s wife bored and unfulfilled by marriage and motherhood. She embarks upon a series of affairs in search of passion and excitement, but is unable to achieve the splendid life for which she yearns. Instead, she finds herself trapped in a downward spiral that inexorably leads to ruin and self-destruction.

Along with Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Flaubert’s tragic novel stands as a brilliant portrayal of infidelity, an incisive psychological portrait of a woman torn between duty and desire. Written with acute attention to telling detail, Madame Bovary not only exposes the emptiness of one woman’s bourgeois existence and failure to fill that void with fantasies, sex, and material objects. Emma’s thirst for life mirrors the universal human impulse for idealized fulfillment.

Chris Kraus is the author of the novels I Love Dick, Aliens & Anorexia, and Torpor, and a collection of essays, Video Green: Los Angeles Art and the Triumph of Nothingness. She is co-editor, with Sylvere Lotringer and Hedi El Kholti, of the independent press Semiotext(e). She teaches in the graduate program of the San Francisco Art Institute.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781593080525
  • Publisher: Barnes & Noble
  • Publication date: 4/1/2005
  • Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 86,921
  • Product dimensions: 5.19 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.92 (d)

Meet the Author

Chris Kraus is the author of the novels I Love Dick, Aliens & Anorexia, and Torpor, and a collection of essays, Video Green: Los Angeles Art and the Triumph of Nothingness. She is co-editor, with Sylvere Lotringer and Hedi El Kholti, of the independent press Semiotext(e). She teaches in the graduate program of the San Francisco Art Institute.
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Read an Excerpt

From Chris Kraus’s Introduction to Madame Bovary

Flaubert has often been credited as being the Father of Realism. Madame Bovary, his first and most classically plot-driven novel, has been labeled as “realist” because of—as many critics would have it—the author’s choice to depict “mediocre” and “vulgar” protagonists circling around a subject as “trite” as adultery. Like much criticism, these readings tell us a great deal more about the critics than the novel. Implicit in such statements are the assumptions (a) that there is anything “trite” about the conflict between human desire and the social demand for monogamy—which, as we will see, was applied selectively in Flaubert’s time to the lower reaches of the French middle class; and (b) that the author himself was immune to the trashy and fickle illusions embraced by his characters.

Writing in 1964, critic and novelist Mary McCarthy describes Emma Bovary as “a very ordinary middle-class woman with banal expectations of life and an urge to dominate her surroundings. Her character is remarkable only for an unusual deficiency of human feeling” (“Foreword”; see “For Further Reading”). Sensing, perhaps, a need to distance herself from the proto-feminist implications of Emma’s dilemma, the brilliant, prolific McCarthy could only describe her as “trite.” Instead, she chooses to valorize Charles for his unfailing love of his wife—a love that is no less misguided and false than Emma’s romantic illusions.

Except for the brief deathbed appearance of Dr. Lariviere, a man who “disdainful of honours, of titles, and of academies . . . generous, fatherly to the poor, and practising virtue without believing in it, . . . would almost have passed for a saint if the keenness of his intellect had not caused him to be feared as a demon” (p. 265), all of Flaubert’s characters are equally flawed and deluded. There is the rapacious, progressive pharmacist Homais and the dull-witted Charles, who loves his young wife for all the wrong reasons. Pleased with himself for possessing such a fine wife, Charles is so completely seduced by Emma’s well-rehearsed feminine wiles—her new way of making paper sconces for candles, the flounces she puts on her gowns, her little wine-red slippers with large knots of ribbon—that he cannot see her unhappiness. There is Emma herself, whose suffering never opens her eyes to the misfortunes of others. Her affairs, and her two lovers themselves, Rodolphe (the seducer) and Leon (the poet of adultery), prove to be equally untrustworthy and disappointing. There is Lheureux, the usurious loan-shark and salesman, and a large cast of pompous officials and idiot villagers. In a novel that is so technically modern and ground-breaking, it is interesting to note that Flaubert draws on the medieval slapstick tradition of naming his characters after their foibles: the Mayor Tuvache (“you cow,” in translation); the booster-ish technocrat Homais (“what man could be”: “homme,” the noun “man,” cast, like a verb, in the future conditional tense); and Lheureux, the purveyor of expensive false dreams, his name taken from the French word for “happiness.”

Finally, it is the very idea that romantic love could be conducive to happiness that is most deeply discredited. When Rodolphe makes Emma fall in love with him at Yonville’s agricultural fair, it’s not exactly Rodolphe she falls in love with. When she is caught in his gaze, the little threads of gold in his eyes and the smell of pomade in his hair sets off a rapture of memories of all of the men she’s been in love with. Because she is in love with love, Rodolphe merely serves as a trigger, and at the time this is marvelous. But as the novel moves on, Emma behaves more and more like an addict. By part three, chapter six, when the novelty of her affair with Leon begins fading, Emma summons an imaginary Leon in a letter-writing delirium. “But while she wrote it was another man she saw, a phantom fashioned out of her most ardent memories, her finest reading, her strongest lusts, and at last he became so real, so tangible, that she palpitated wondering, without, however, the power to imagine him clearly, so lost was he, like a god, beneath the abundance of his attributes” (p. 241). After this free-basing binge, Emma “fell back exhausted.” These “transports of love” gave way to a “constant ache all over her.” (In Crack Wars: Literature, Addiction, Mania, philosopher Avital Ronell extrapolates from this metaphor with wild perfection.)

“There is no goodness in this book,” wrote Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve, the most eminent critic of Flaubert’s time, in an otherwise favorable review of the novel. And yet the book breathes with compassion. Preparing to write the scene of Emma and Leon’s first meeting, Flaubert describes a strategy that informs the whole book in a letter he wrote in the early 1850s to his sometime-lover and literary confidante, Louise Colet: “My two characters . . . will talk about literature, about the sea, the mountains, music—all well-worn poetical subjects. It will be the first time in any book, I think, that the young hero and the younger heroine are made mock of, and yet the irony will in no way diminish the pathos, but rather intensify it” (The Selected Letters of Gustave Flaubert).

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 126 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 126 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2006

    Genius Work Exposing Human Frailty & Cautionary Tale of Poor Judgement

    Charles, Madame Bovary's husband, is not the brightest of creatures, but he dearly loves his wife, puts her on a pedastal, and indulges her by giving her whatever she wants. Although she repays his loyalty and quiet devotion with emotional, financial and physical ruin, his love is steadfast, pure and true. The title is 'Madame Bovary' but the real hero is her sweet kind husband Charles and, to a lesser extent her child, Berthe, who loves her mother unconditionally despite the fact that her mother hardly seems to truly care about anyone but herself. I have heard that one mark of great literature is that its value changes with a reader in direct relationship to the reader's life circumstances and experience. To a very young reader growing up in a time when cell phones, the Internet, and Nintendo are all old school inventions, this book may seem irrelevant. It makes sense that the very young may have extreme difficulty relating. However, given the maturity, serious study and reflection on human interactions, emotions, and the ability to foresee consequences, a more experienced reader and lifelong student will find themes that transcend the test of time. (Such as self-control, generosity of heart, the consequences of infidelity and other forms of impulsivity, loneliness, boredom, what makes a person ordinary vs. extraordinary, etc.) Which brings me to another point I understand about great literature: it stands the test of time. Written in 1857, then banned in France for 'offenses against public morals and religion' then later considered brilliant by his peers and great writers that followed, this book very easily fits into the category of 'great literature.' Like others have said, if one will only SLOW DOWN and deeply consider each event and how it relates to other events both in the book and in present-day reality, one can find great lessons on morality and the human condition that transcend time. (These same things may be said about many other great works, such as any number of those by Shakespeare.) Yes, one can learn a great deal about humanity in this book, if it is given the fair chance it deserves. And hey, if you get little from it now, don't write it off forever--revisit it in 5 or 10 years and see if this book says something different to you then. A marvelous classic!!! Flaubert was a genius!

    10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 5, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Love the French

    I agree with the second review, very fine novel. Flaubert's talent for description is something few (or none) are able to do today. Some may have a problem with the great detail, however if there are any interested in the nineteenth century and how people lived and breathed, this novel should certainly help. (Other than Flaubert, I might also recommend Balzac for having much of the same gift for realism.) Brilliant book, full of sensuality, but not without its darkness. Easily one of the best I have ever read.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 3, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Madame Boring

    I don't see how this book can be deemed one of the best novels ever written. It was a long snooze fest until about half way through the book. So if you can make it to half way you will start liking it! However, even past the half way point I found this book dull and sometimes predictable. It's not really about anything except a wife who cheats on her husband with different 'lovers'. The only thing I'm happy about is that I get to check this off my list of classics to read, but this is definitely not one I'll be re-reading!

    6 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2008

    Brilliant perfection

    This is the best book I have read in a while. The French tend to write in a flowery and beautiful style that can entertain the toughest of critics. It is delicately permiscuous and extremely interesting. Bravo, Flaubert!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 3, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Don't bother with other translations...

    I have read "Madame Bovary" in the original more than once, and have read two other translations of the text. Lydia Davis's is by far the best. She makes available to the reader of English what Flaubert's intent--not just his words. Wonderful and eye-opening!

    "Madame Bovary" is a true world classic and deserves every reader's attention.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2011

    Classic

    Emma Bovary believes love and marriage are supposed to be like a flowery romance novel, and is she in for disappointment! She expects marriage to a doctor to provide her with all the adoration and frivolities she desires, but finds that real life can never live up to her fantasies. She involves herself in affairs to fill the emptiness at the expense of a man who truly adores her. She is an actress, the stage is her actual life, and her end is like a tragic heroine...just like she wanted! Amazing cautionary tale, even in the 21st century!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2008

    I Declare Myself Dissapointed!

    This book held great potential and the writing was beautiful, but it left me dissatisfied. This was due to its painful redundancy when referring to her affairs. Madame Bovary was about a young women in an unfulfilling marriage that left her in a tragic state of boredom. However she would not be denied her passion which she wished so strongly for. She had two affairs and both were so similar in the end that were begging for something more. The ending was depressing, but the moral that it conveyed I must say was the most satisfying part. Over all I truly wish Flaubert would have done more. I declare myself dissapointed.

    3 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2007

    Tragic and Passionate

    Madame Bovary is a story of passion, adventure, and desire as Emma Bovary is a young woman filled with romantic fantasies and in need of great excitement however she finds herself bored in a dull relationship. She takes these desires and indulges them in a series of affairs. Gustave Flaubert¿s imagery and symbolism throughout the novel characterize Emma, and the tone of the book changes as much as Emma¿s personality and mood. Towards the beginning of the novel, the reader will feel sympathy for Emma due to the lack of attention from her husband, Charles however, one cannot help but to grow a disliking and annoyance of Emma as she desperately throws herself at other men for attention and treats her caring, kind husband harshly. Flaubert emphasizes the importance of the choices one makes and how they will affect you sooner or later, whether it be lying to a spouse or pushing away the one¿s that truly love you. Emma finds herself alone, desperate, and full of melancholy as her tangled web of lies create more problems, getting her deeper and deeper into trouble. Though the ending is depressing, it brings an uplifting feeling that shows Charles¿s never ending love for Emma and warns the reader of the hardships deceit can bring. Madame Bovary is interesting and full of an excitement that keep the pages turning, and though it isn¿t my favorite book, it is good novel that gives an insight in life and teaches a great lesson of human folly.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 8, 2011

    Anon

    Do not download!! Book is incomplete.

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2007

    Good for the wrong reasons

    I have put off reading this for years, having listened to others absolutely salivate over it. I find the heroine devoid of anything that commands interest or respect. People comment on how controversial Flaubert was on writing about adultery the way he does-however, how dangerous is it really to give a character come-uppance by poisoning her for her two affairs? Ooh! Flaubert, if you wanted to really frighten people, how about making one of her affairs into a happy relationship with no regrets and let Charles die anyway? It's a cautionary tale however you look at it-working people, get above your station and this is what happens... Emma, get over it. You don't have to rise at 5 to plough the land and milk the cows, as would have been your fate as a farm girl. You have a secure home, a little girl, (although you show pathological indifference, you sometimes show flashes that you care for her),and a husband that adores you. Channel your imagination into something other than wasted fantasies. No matter how pathetic a woman is,and we've all met them, she inevitably finds something to do with her life. This is not a convincing portrayal of depression either, if that's what the defenders of this novel would argue. However, I was utterly charmed by the minutiae of country life, the petty things upon which people placed importance, the pictures of the land, the food, the traditions. Truly the highlight of the book. Also flawed is the way that the reader is catapulted into how the heroine feels-we are expected to understand and if not sympathise, at least relate. there is no slow build-up. The reminiscings about the convent are wasted too-so, she refinds religion later, as a nod to her forgotten childhood? Weak.

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2007

    One of the best-written books I've ever read

    Falubert is a master of clearly depicting physical, emotional and visual details. It's a painful predicament we find Emma Bovary in, but she is of free will makes her own choices. Don't let the subject of this book dissuade you. If you like great reading, Madame Bovary is a must.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2012

    Read this on college

    Read this book years ago and quite frankly detested the book. I almost gave up but i persevered and the ending was most satisfying in that it was over.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2002

    not so good

    I read this as a school study... it gets alright in the middle, but I really had to push my way through. I'm not sure why this is considered to be such a 'classic'.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2013

    Bad translation!

    This ebook is a horrible translation of Flaubert's great novel. It reads as if the publisher used google translate and didn't review the final product. Obvious errors such as "enfin" presented as "in fine" instead of "therefore," "le cure' " presented as "the village cure" instead of "the village priest" are inaccurate and inexcusable.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2013

    Hey faith

    Can you write about jb having sex and blojobs and stuff with brooklyn?please?:)

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2013

    Hi fath

    Can u write one about having sex

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 29, 2013

    Phenomenal Translation

    I was reading a free (or nearly free) public domain version of this classic novel on my Nook but got tired of the stilted and awkward translation. I eventually switched to the Lydia Davis translation and am very glad I did. This translation really makes the novel come alive for readers in English. Flaubert was a groundbreaking novelist whose work still resonates today - this translation makes that clear.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2012

    Not the full book

    This is just a sample of the novel and not the full book--was not advertised as sample only.

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  • Posted June 17, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    My God...

    I never though I would read a book where I would hate every single character, but that was before I read Madame Bovary.

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  • Posted March 4, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Make sure you get either the Geoffrey Wall translation or the la

    Make sure you get either the Geoffrey Wall translation or the latest, Lydia Davis'. I don't see why Barnes & Noble makes it so difficult to find different versions of the same book. I added them as recommendations so you should be able to click on the image to the left to find the better translations.

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