The Letters of Flaubert and Turgenev.

Back in 1985 the NY Times published a pretty extensive selection from the correspondence of Flaubert and Turgenev, and I recommend it to one and all; it’s full of gossip, amusing remarks, and insights. Some snippets:

Turgenev from Paris to Flaubert on Nov. 24, 1868: […] P.P.S. Find another title. ”Sentimental Education” is wrong.

Flaubert from Paris to Turgenev on Nov. 27, 1878: I have just turned 60. This is the start of the tail end of life. A Spanish proverb says that the tail is the hardest part to flay. At the same time it’s the part that gives least pleasure and satisfaction.

Flaubert from Croisset to Turgenev on Jan. 21, 1880: Thank you for making me read Tolstoy’s novel [War and Peace] . It’s first-rate. What a painter and what a psychologist! The first two [volumes] are sublime; but the third goes terribly to pieces. He repeats himself and he philosophizes! In fact the man, the author, the Russian are visible, whereas up until then one had seen only Nature and Humanity. It seems to me that in places he has some elements of Shakespeare. I uttered cries of admiration during my reading of it . . . and it’s long! Tell me about the author. Is it his first book? In any case he has his head well screwed on! Yes! It’s very good! Very good!

Very good indeed. (Thanks, Steven!)


  1. Very eye-opening. Flaubert was a moaner. Old, becoming a hermit. Turgenev, on the other hand, was full of life.

    Flaubert, being bored by the British and the Germans who were to be found everywhere in Switzerland: Yesterday I very nearly embraced three calves I met in a meadow through fellow feeling and the need to let myself go.

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