Flaubert's politics

5 posts


I came across Flaubert's letters to George Sand , the female novelist and libertine whom Baudelaire (with good reason) called a "stupid slut". They reveal him, I think, to be something of a Nietzscheian avant la lettre , or at any rate a modern reactionary. There are even traces of Sorel, in his attacks on eighteenth-century absolutism, which paved the way for the structure of modern politics and the identification of the state with the highest form of reason. His literary realism was evidently correspondent with a cynical political realism.

He despises the Paris Commune and democracy, the mass and its Christian indulgence towards the weak and suspicion of the strong; he is enthusiastic for an aristocracy of natural virtues and talents:

He even shares Nietzsche's fears of the Sinofication of Europe:

He ridicules Sand's petty anti-classism:

More quotes:

Bob Dylan Roof

What a hopeless morass of ill-defined, contradictory sentiments; I wasn't aware that he struggled so mightily with nihilism.

I read in a Joseph Conrad biography that, on the whole, Flaubert seemed to fall within the tradition of pessimistic liberalism that emerged during the 19th-century. The author suggested that Conrad mirrored this disposition in his pessimistic depictions of European civilization.

Yes, his views are bizarre and inconsistent. The Commune was the last manifestation of the middle ages? He is an individualist, but supports technocracy (and yet hates Comte)? The same was said of Sorel, though. Irving Horowitz said he was mentally unstable and had a "polyglot mind", for all his contradictions.

What do you make of his remarks on de Maistre?

Pessimistic liberalism would seem to amount to nothing less than nihilism. Liberals who doubt the immanent security of progress and who refuse the alternative, the security of custom and tradition, opt for the security of sensual and aesthetic gratification.
Bronze Age Pervert

Some of Nietzsche on Flaubert:

(from Twilight of the Idols)

From Beyond Good and Evil:

This last quotation is very good. It shows most definitely that Nietzsche was, even at that time, fed up and bored with the attack on the bourgeois; the attempt to interpret the Last Man as bourgeois is part of the Marxist appropriation of Nietzsche.
Niccolo and Donkey
That's a great quote and it approaches a truism. We all carry the mental image of Socrates wandering around, thinking, thinking, thinking.

What would have been Nietzsche's view on the bourgeoisie as the true revolutionary class?