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A collection of sayings and quotations by Gustave Flaubert on books, reading, life, love, dreams, hope, feelings, knowledge, creativity, poetry, writing and travel.

94 Notable Quotes By Gustave Flaubert, The Exponent Of Literary Realism

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Famous As
Novelist, Writer

Born On

Died On
May 8, 1880

Born In
Rouen

Died At Age

Gustave Flaubert was a French novelist who is rightfully included among the greatest literary figures to have ever existed. He is credited for laying the foundations of the branch of literature which is popularly known as literary realism. Writing was Flaubert’s hobby right from the time when he was a child and even though he enrolled to study law in Paris, it was literature that eventually became his career. Flaubert’s decision to become an author was vindicated when his 1857 novel ‘Madame Bovary’ went on to become a huge hit. It is considered among one of the greatest novels ever written. Some of his other major works include ‘Memoirs of a Madman’, ‘Sentimental Education’, ‘Dictionary of Received Ideas’, ‘Three Tales’, ‘Salammbo’ and ‘The Temptation of Saint  Anthony’ among others. Flaubert’s novels became an inspiration for generations of writers and more importantly, one of the greatest short story writers in history, Guy de Maupassant was guided by him in his literary journey. Flaubert was without doubt one of the leading intellectuals of his time, whose novels reflected a sense of reality that was not normally found in novels of that time. The below collection of Gustave Flaubert most famous quotes have been excerpted from his writings, novels and thoughts. We bring to you some of the best quotes, sayings and thoughts from the life and works of Gustave Flaubert.

Do not read, as children do, to amuse yourself, or like the ambitious, for the purpose of instruction. No, read in order to live.

- Gustave Flaubert

Do not read as children do to enjoy themselves, or, as the ambitious do to educate themselves. No, read to live.

- Gustave Flaubert

Be steady and well-ordered in your life so that you can be fierce and original in your work.

- Gustave Flaubert

Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.

- Gustave Flaubert

There is not a particle of life which does not bear poetry within it

- Gustave Flaubert

Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.

- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.

- Gustave Flaubert

One can be the master of what one does, but never of what one feels.

- Gustave Flaubert

It’s hard to communicate anything exactly and that’s why perfect relationships between people are difficult to find.

- Sentimental Education, Gustave Flaubert

Doubt … is an illness that comes from knowledge and leads to madness.

- Memoirs of a Madman, Gustave Flaubert

She wanted to die, but she also wanted to live in Paris.

- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

Never touch your idols: the gilding will stick to your fingers." (Il ne faut pas toucher aux idoles: la dorure en reste aux mains.)

- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

I am irritated by my own writing. I am like a violinist whose ear is true, but whose fingers refuse to reproduce precisely the sound he hears within.

- Gustave Flaubert

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.

- Gustave Flaubert

An infinity of passion can be contained in one minute, like a crowd in a small space.

- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost.

- Gustave Flaubert

It is always sad to leave a place to which one knows one will never return. Such are the melancolies du voyage: perhaps they are one of the most rewarding things about traveling.

- Flaubert in Egypt: A Sensibility on Tour, Gustave Flaubert

The one way of tolerating existence is to lose oneself in literature as in a perpetual orgy.

- Gustave Flaubert

You don’t make art out of good intentions.

- Gustave Flaubert

Pleasure is found first in anticipation, later in memory.

- Gustave Flaubert

There is no truth. There is only perception.

- Gustave Flaubert

One's duty is to feel what is great, cherish the beautiful, and to not accept the conventions of society with the ignominy that it imposes upon us.

- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

There are two infinities that confuse me: the one in my soul devours me; the one around me will crush me

- Gustave Flaubert

Everything, even herself, was now unbearable to her. She wished that, taking wing like a bird, she could fly somewhere, far away to regions of purity, and there grow young again.

- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

I don't believe that happiness is possible, but I think tranquility is.

- Gustave Flaubert

Stupidity lies in wanting to draw conclusions.

- Gustave Flaubert

You must write for yourself, above all. That is your only hope of creating something beautiful.

- Gustave Flaubert

The public wants work which flatters its illusions.

- Gustave Flaubert

Writing is a dog’s life, but the only one worth living.

- Gustave Flaubert

He had the vanity to believe men did not like him – while men simply did not know him.

- November, Gustave Flaubert

But, in her life, nothing was going to happen. Such was the will of God! The future was a dark corridor, and at the far end the door was bolted.

- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

We must laugh and cry, enjoy and suffer, in a word, vibrate to our full capacity … I think that’s what being really human means.

- Gustave Flaubert

I tried to discover, in the rumor of forests and waves, words that other men could not hear, and I pricked up my ears to listen to the revelation of their harmony.

- November, Gustave Flaubert

Sadness is a vice.

- Gustave Flaubert

She would have liked not to be alive, or to be always asleep.

- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

The denigration of those we love always detaches us from them in some degree. Never touch your idols: the gilding will stick to your fingers.

- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

Haven't you ever happened to come across in a book some vague notion that you've had, some obscure idea that returns from afar and that seems to express completely your most subtle feelings?

- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

An author in his book must be like God in the universe, present everywhere and visible nowhere.

- Gustave Flaubert

He had carefully avoided her out of the natural cowardice that characterizes the stronger sex.

- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

Of all the icy blasts that blow on love, a request for money is the most chilling.

- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

You need a high degree of corruption or a very big heart to love absolutely everything

- November, Gustave Flaubert

The more you approach infinity, the deeper you penetrate terror

- Gustave Flaubert

What wretched poverty of language! To compare stars to diamonds!

- Flaubert in Egypt: A Sensibility on Tour, Gustave Flaubert

By trying to understand everything, everything makes me dream

- Gustave Flaubert

Talent is a long patience, and originality an effort of will and intense observation.

- Gustave Flaubert

And she felt as though she had been there, on that bench, for an eternity. For an infinity of passion can be contained in one minute, like a crowd in a small space.

- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

She was the amoureuse of all the novels, the heroine of all the plays, the vague “she” of all the poetry books.

- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

What baffled him was that there should be all this fuss about something so simple as love.

- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work.

- Gustave Flaubert

After the pain of this disappointment her heart once more stood empty, and the succession of identical days began again.

- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

Love art. Of all lies, it is the least untrue.

- Gustave Flaubert

And he beholds the moon; like a rounded fragment of ice filled with motionless light.

- The Temptation of St. Antony, Gustave Flaubert

Isn’t ‘not to be bored’ one of the principal goals of life?

- Flaubert in Egypt: A Sensibility on Tour, Gustave Flaubert

Maybe happiness too is a metaphor invented on a day of boredom

- November, Gustave Flaubert

The whole dream of democracy is to raise the proletariat to the level of stupidity attained by the bourgeoisie.

- Gustave Flaubert

Everything measurable passes, everything that can be counted has an end. Only three things are infinite: the sky in its stars, the sea in its drops of water, and the heart in its tears.

- The Letters of Gustave Flaubert, Gustave Flaubert

Anything becomes interesting if you look at it long enough.

- Gustave Flaubert

Years passed; and he endured the idleness of his intelligence and the inertia of his heart.

- Sentimental Education, Gustave Flaubert

Sentences must stir in a book like leaves in a forest, each distinct from each despite their resemblance.

- The Letters of Gustave Flaubert, Gustave Flaubert

Thought is the greatest of pleasures —pleasure itself is only imagination—have you ever enjoyed anything more than your dreams?

- Gustave Flaubert

When you reduce a woman to writing, she makes you think of a thousand other women

- Gustave Flaubert

She did not believe that things could remain the same in different places, and since the portion of her life that lay behind her had been bad, no doubt that which remained to be lived would be better.

- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

To be simple is no small matter.

- Selected Letters, Gustave Flaubert

Read in order to live.

- Gustave Flaubert

Love, to her, was something hat comes suddenly, like a blinding flash of lightening - a heaven-sent storm hurled into life, uprooting it, sweeping every will before it like a leaf, engulfing all feelings.

- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

For him the universe did not extend beyond the circumference of her petticoat.

- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

In my view, the novelist has no right to express his opinions on the things of this world. In creating, he must imitate God: do his job and then shut up.

- Gustave Flaubert

One day, I shall explode like an artillery shell and all my bits will be found on the writing table.

- Gustave Flaubert

She was as sated with him as he was tired of her. Emma had rediscovered in adultery all the banality of marriage.

- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

(Egypt) is a great place for contrasts: splendid things gleam in the dust.

- Flaubert in Egypt: A Sensibility on Tour, Gustave Flaubert

I have always tried to live in an ivory tower, but a tide of shit is beating at its walls, threatening to undermine it.

- Gustave Flaubert

For her, life was as cold as an attic with a window looking to the north, and ennui, like a spider, was silently spinning its shadowy web in every cranny of her heart.

- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

Emma was no asleep, she was pretending to be asleep; and, while he was dozing off at her side, she lay awake, dreaming other dreams.

- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

It is an excellent habit to look at things as so many symbols.

- Bouvard and Pecuchet, Gustave Flaubert

And the more he was irritated by her basic personality, the more he was drawn to her by a harsh, bestial sensuality, illusions of a moment, which ended in hate.

- Sentimental Education, Gustave Flaubert

On certain occasions art can shake very ordinary spirits, and whole worlds can be revealed by its clumsiest interpreters.

- Bouvard and Pecuchet, Gustave Flaubert

My foregrounds are imaginary, my backgrounds real.

- Gustave Flaubert

Abstraction can provide stumbling blocks for people of strange intelligence.

- Bouvard and Pecuchet, Gustave Flaubert

God is in the details.

- Gustave Flaubert

For a long time now my heart has had its shutters closed, its steps deserted, formerly a tumultuous hotel, but now empty and echoing like a great empty tomb.

- Gustave Flaubert

Do not imagine you can exorcise what oppresses you in life by giving vent to it in art.

- Gustave Flaubert

He took it for granted that she was content; and she resented his settled calm, his serene dullness, the very happiness she herself brought him.

- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

It was the fault of destiny!

- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

As for the piano, the faster her fingers flew over it, the more he marveled. She struck the keys with aplomb and ran from one end of the keyboard to the other without a stop.

- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

What an awful thing life is, isn’t it? It’s like soup with lots of hairs floating on the surface. You have to eat it nevertheless.

- Gustave Flaubert

Let us not kid ourselves; let us remember that literature is of no use whatever, except in the very special case of somebody's wishing to become, of all things, a Professor of Literature.

- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

The writer must wade into life as into the sea, but only up to the navel.

- Gustave Flaubert

… Her heart remained empty once more, and the procession of days all alike began again. So they were going to follow one another, like this, in line, always identical, innumerable, bringing nothing!

- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

Indeed, for the last three years, he had carefully avoided her, as a result of the natural cowardice so characteristic of the stronger sex...

- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

There are some men whose only mission among others is to act as intermediaries; one crosses them like bridges and keeps going.

- Sentimental Education, Gustave Flaubert

Come, let’s be calm: no one incapable of restraint was ever a writer.

- Flaubert in Egypt: A Sensibility on Tour, Gustave Flaubert

One mustn't look at the abyss, because there is at the bottom an inexpressible charm which attracts us.

- Gustave Flaubert

I detest common heroes and moderate feelings, the sort that exist in real life

- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert

My life which I dream will be so beautiful, so poetic, so vast, so filled with love will turn out to be like everybody else's - monotonous, sensible, stupid.

- Gustave Flaubert