Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Gustave Flaubert

French Writer, Western Novelist known for his first novel, Madame Bovary

"Success as I see it, is a result, not a goal."

"Success is a consequence and must not be a goal. I've never sought it (though I desire it) and seek it less and less."

"Success is a result, not a goal."

"Such killings were part of the natural order of things, an inevitable consequence of belonging to a royal household."

"Surely it could not have been a dove God had chosen to speak through, since doves could not talk."

"Stupidity consists in wanting to reach conclusions. We are a thread, and we want to know the whole cloth."

"Stupidity is something unshakable; nothing attacks it without breaking itself against it; it is of the nature of granite, hard and resistant."

"Stupidity lies in wanting to draw conclusions."

"Style is as much under the words as in the words. It is as much the soul as it is the flesh of a work."

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

"That man has missed something who has never left a brothel at sunrise feeling like throwing himself into the river out of pure disgust."

"That was how they would have liked to be: what they were doing was to dream up ideals and then refashion their past lives to match them. Speech is a rolling-machine that always stretches the feelings it expresses."

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

"The artist must be in his work as God is in creation, invisible and all-powerful; one must sense him everywhere but never see him."

"The artist must manage to make posterity believe that he never existed."

"The artist ought no more to appear in his work than God in nature."

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

"The better a work is, the more it attracts criticism; it is like the fleas who rush to jump on white linens."

"The brazen arms were working more quickly. They paused no longer. Every time that a child was placed in them the priests of Moloch spread out their hands upon him to burden him with the crimes of the people, vociferating: "They are not men but oxen!" and the multitude round about repeated: "Oxen! oxen!" The devout exclaimed: "Lord! Eat!""

"The citadel of Machaerus rose east of the Dead Sea on a basalt Peak shaped like a cone, girdled by four deep valleys; two about its sides, one in front, and the fourth behind."

"The clerk assured her warmly that idealistic natures were rarely understood."

"The cold made them clasp each other the tighter; their sighs seemed more profound; their eyes, though they could scarcely discern them in the gloom, seemed bigger, and in the stillness that enfolded them a word, softly murmured, would fall upon their hearts like the note of a crystal bell and pass, trembling with infinite vibrations, into silence."

"The cult of art gives pride; one never has too much of it."

"The curtain fell."

"The conversation flagged. Madame Bovary frequently relapsed into silence, while Leon himself seemed ill at ease. He was seated on a low chair near the fire, and kept turning over the ivory needle-case in his fingers. She plied her needle, pressing down the hem of the cloth from time to time with her nail. She did not speak, and he too held his peace, just as entranced by her silence as he would have been by her words."

"The difficulties he foresaw were so formidable that he quickly banished the disagreeable subject from his mind."

"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."

"The day before yesterday, in the woods of Touques, in a charming spot beside a spring, I found old cigar butts and scraps of pƒt‚. People had been picnicking. I described such a scene in Novembre eleven years ago; it was entirely imagined, and the other day it came true. Everything one invents is true, you may be sure. Poetry is as precise as geometry. Induction is as accurate as deduction; and besides, after reaching a certain point one no longer makes any mistake about the things of the soul."

"The deplorable mania of doubt exhausts me. I doubt about everything, even my doubts."

"The fire had gone out, but the clock went on ticking, and Emma vaguely wondered how all these things could be so still when her own heart was so full of turmoil."

"The finest works of art are those in which there is the least matter. The closer expression comes to thought, the more the word clings to the idea and disappears, the more beautiful the work of art."

"The disparaging of those we love always alienates us from them to some extent. We must not touch our idols; the gilt comes off in our hands."

"The faster the word sticks to the thought, the more beautiful is the effect."

"The fires died down, perhaps because the fuel was exhausted or because too much was piled upon them. Little by little, absence chilled the flame of love, the pangs of regret were dulled by habit."

"The hearts of women are like those little pieces of furniture with secret hiding - places, full of drawers fitted into each other; you go a lot of trouble, break your nails, and in the bottom find some withered flower, a few grains of dust - or emptiness!"

"The heart, like the stomach, wants a varied diet."

"The future is the worst thing about the present."

"The hours go by without my knowing it. Sitting there I'm wandering in countries I can see every detail of--I'm playing a role in the story I'm reading. I actually feel I'm the characters--I live and breathe them."

"The future was a dark corridor, with the door at its end firmly closed."

"The idea of bringing someone into the world fills me with horror. I would curse myself if I were a father. A son of mine! Oh no, no, no! May my entire flesh perish and may I transmit to no one the aggravations and the disgrace of existence."

"The memories of her past life, which till then had always been so clear and definite, vanished so completely in the splendors of the moment that she could hardly persuade herself they were not a dream. There she was."

"The impressions made on his mind by this kind of reading took such a hold of it that he felt a need within him of reproducing those pictures of bygone days. His ambition was to be, one day, the Walter Scott of France. Deslauriers dreamed of formulating a vast system of philosophy, which might have the most far-reaching applications."

"The man is nothing, the work - all"

"The morality of art consists, for everyone, in the side that flatters its own interests. People do not like literature."

"The more humanity advances, the more it is degraded."

"The more you approach infinity, the deeper you penetrate terror."

"The most important quality of art and its aim is illusion; emotion, which is often obtained by certain sacrifices of poetic detail, is something else entirely and of an inferior order."

"The most exaggerated speeches usually hid the weakest of feelings - as though the fullness of the soul did not overflow into the emptiest phrases, since no one can ever express the exact measure of his needs, his conceptions or his sorrows, and human speech is like a cracked pot on which we beat out rhythms for bears to dance to when we are striving to make music that will wring tears from the stars."

"The most important thing in the world is to hold your soul aloft."

"The music was still throbbing in her ears, and she forced herself to stay awake in order to prolong the illusion of this luxurious life she would so soon have to be leaving... She longed to know all about their lives, to penetrate into them, to be part of them."