In this, his last novel, unfinished on his death in 1880, Flaubert attempted to encompass his lifelong preoccupation with bourgeois stupidity and his disgust at the banalities of intellectual life in France. Into it he poured all his love of detail, his delight in the life of the mind, his despair of human nature, and his pleasure in passionate friendship. The result is “a kind of encyclopedia made into farce,” wholly grotesque and wholly original, in the spirit of Gargantua and Pantagruel, Don Quixote or Ulysses.
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