"How is it that Flaubert, the last of the great French romantics, still seems so incredibly modern? In this biography, Geoffrey Wall investigates why it is that the author of Madame Bovary still exerts such a hold upon our imaginations." "Gustave Flaubert lived quietly at home with his widowed mother, writing wonderful novels at a rate of five words an hour and escaping to Paris, for refreshment, every few months. A great traveller - to Corsica, Egypt, Greece, Italy, Morocco - he kept company with courtesans, actresses, acrobats, gypsies, idiots and simpletons of every stripe. Flaubert detested his respectable, provincial neighbours, referring to them, on a bad day, as 'the bourgeoisie'. They, in turn, heaped infamy upon his name and contrived to have him persecuted for writing an immoral book. Decent people avoided his company and he returned the compliment." "Flaubert's characters, his novels and his stories live on in the popular literary imagination with the same authority as those of Shakespeare and Joyce. An Egyptian hermit tormented by voluptuous devilish visions; a melancholoy doctor's wife eating arsenic to escape debt and despair; a Carthaginian priestess of the moon ritually caressing a giant snake; an old countrywoman who worships a stuffed parrot. Ancient or modern, sublime or ludicrous, Flaubert's characters are visionaries. They travel towards the dark places of the mind, and their fate prompts our pity, fear and laughter."--BOOK JACKET.