The Family Idiot: Gustave Flaubert, 1821-1857, Volume 4 / Edition 2

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Seen by many as the culmination of Sartre's thought and project, and viewed by Sartre himself as an attempt to answer the question, "What, at this point in time, can we know about a man?" this monumental work continues to perplex its fascinated critics and admirers, who have argued about its precise nature. However, as reviews of the first volume in this translation agreed, whatever The Family Idiot may be called—"a dialectic" (Fredric Jameson, New York Times Book Review); "biography, philosophy, or politics? Surely . . . all of these together" (Renee Winegarten, Commentary); "a new form of fiction?" (Victor Brombert, Times Literary Supplement); or simply, "mad, of course" (Julian Barnes, London Review of Books)—its prominent place in intellectual history is indisputable.

Volume 4 consists of part three, books one and two, of the original French work. This volume, the fourth in a projected five-volume English-language edition, includes Sartre's discussion of the onset of Flaubert's illness, or neurosis, in 1844, and a significant reading of his L'Education sentimentale.

Sartre's approach to his complex subject, whether jaunty or judicious, psychoanalytic or political, is captured in all of its rich variety in Carol Cosman's translation.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In this second in a proposed five-volume translation of Sartre's biographical magnum opus, Sartre traces the psychosocial development of Flaubert from childhood through young adulthood. The philosopher's excursuses on such topics as comedy as a social agency and aesthetic theory realized through the life of Flaubert are relevant and provocative inclusions in a text already made engrossing by the facts of the novelist's development (from ``imaginary child'' to actor to writer) and Sartre's psychoanalytical insights. As she did in Volume 1, Cosman has rendered the text both faithfully and readably. A necessary addition to philosophy and literature collections, along with Volume 1 and Hazel Barnes's commentary, Sartre and Flaubert (both LJ 9/1/81).Francisca Goldsmith, Golden Gate Univ. Lib., San Francisco
Originally published in Paris as part two, books two and three, of L'idiot de la famille... (Editions Gallimard, 1971). This is the third of a projected five-volume translation of Sartre's 1971 novel/biography/ secondary school, his rebellion against the faculty, attraction to Romantic literature, friendships and rivalries; and through law school. Includes Sartre's most sustained analysis of Flaubert's novel Madame Bovary. Perhaps an index is planned for the whole set. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226735184
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/1991
  • Series: Family Idiot Series, #4
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 366
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Carol Cosman is coeditor of The Other Voice and The Penguin Book of Women Poets. Her translations include The Old and the New: From Don Quixote to Kafka, by Marthe Robert.

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Table of Contents

Translator's Note
Part Three: Elbehnon, or the Last Spiral
Book One: The "Fall" Seen as the Immediate, Negative, and Tactical Response to an Emergency
The Event
Gustave's Diagnosis
Neurosis as Response
Book Two: The Crisis Seen as a Positive Strategy in the Light of Subsequent Facts; or, "Loser Wins" as a Conversion to Optimism
"Loser Wins" Rationalized
The Real Meaning of "Loser Wins"

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