Quotations by Flaubert, Gustave


Nothing is more humiliating than seeing fools succeed where one has failed.

[Rien n’est humiliant comme de voir les sots réussir dans les entreprises où l’on échoue.]

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) French writer, novelist
Sentimental Education, Part 1, ch. 5 (1869) [tr. Baldick (1964)/Wall (2004)]
    (Source)

Alt. trans.:
  • "Nothing is more humiliating than to see idiots succeed in enterprises we have failed in."
  • "There is nothing so humiliating to see as blockheads succeed in undertakings in which we ourselves fail." [Ranout ed. (1922)]
  • "There is nothing so humiliating as to see blockheads succeed in undertakings in which we fail." [tr. Bouvard ed. rev. (2003)]
Added on 30-Jan-20 | Last updated 30-Jan-20
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For some men, the stronger their desire, the more difficult it is for them to act. They are hampered by mistrust of themselves, daunted by the fear of giving offence; besides, deep feelings of affection are like respectable women; they are afraid of being found out and they go through life with downcast eyes.

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) French writer, novelist
Sentimental Education, Part 2, ch. 3 (1869)
    (Source)

Elsewhere as Book 2, ch. 16.
Added on 27-Feb-20 | Last updated 27-Feb-20
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Our ignorance of history makes us calumniate our own time. We have always been like this. Some calm years have deceived us. That is all. I too believed in the softening of manners. We must erase this error and esteem ourselves no more than people esteemed themselves in the time of Pericles or Shakespeare, atrocious epochs in which fine things were done.

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) French writer, novelist
Letter (8 Sep 1871) [tr. Tarver]
    (Source)
Added on 20-Dec-07 | Last updated 30-Jan-20
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Success is a consequence and must not be a goal.

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) French writer, novelist
Letter (Feb 1876)
Added on 18-Nov-11 | Last updated 21-Nov-11
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Anything becomes interesting if you look at it long enough.

[Pour qu’une chose soit intéressante, il suffit de la regarder longtemps.]

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) French writer, novelist
Letter to Alfred Le Poittevin (16 Sep 1845)
    (Source)

Alt. trans.: "To make something interesting, just look at it for a long time."
Added on 20-Feb-20 | Last updated 20-Feb-20
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There is no “True.” There are only ways of perceiving.

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) French writer, novelist
Letter to Léon Hennique (3 Feb 1880) [tr. Steegmuller (1982)]
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Added on 12-Mar-20 | Last updated 12-Mar-20
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Stupidity lies in wanting to draw conclusions.

[L’ineptie consiste à vouloir conclure. […] Oui, la bêtise consiste à vouloir conclure.]

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) French writer, novelist
Letter to Louis Bouilhet (4 Sep 1850)
    (Source)

The phrase is used twice in the letter. The initial phrase is usually translated to "foolishness" or "folly," the second to "stupidity."
Added on 23-Jan-20 | Last updated 23-Jan-20
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One must not always think that feeling is everything. Art is nothing without form.

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) French writer, novelist
Letter to Louise Colet (12 Aug 1846)
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Added on 19-Mar-20 | Last updated 19-Mar-20
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Do not imagine you can exorcise what oppresses you in life by giving vent to it in art.

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) French writer, novelist
Letter to Louise Colet (25 Nov 1853)
Added on 22-Apr-14 | Last updated 23-Jan-20
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An author in his book must be like God in the universe, present everywhere and visible nowhere.

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) French writer, novelist
Letter to Louise Colet (9 Dec 1852)
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Added on 13-Feb-20 | Last updated 13-Feb-20
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