The Dictionary of Received Ideas by Gustave Flaubert.

The Dictionary of Received Ideas (Le Dictionnaire des idées reçues) was written by Gustave Flaubert in the 1870s, but not published until 1911 after his death. It's a book I've mentioned before here and there, but last night I finished Bouvard et Pécuchet (1881), which has at the end The Dictionary and I enjoyed reading it again (which, I think, makes it about the tenth time I've read it!). I decided it should have it's own post as this satire of the Second Empire is an absolute genius of a work.

Flaubert remarked that the subtitle of his Dictionary ought to be "An Encyclopaedia of Human Stupidity": it is, essentially, an attack: an attack on clichés, the bourgeoisie (and the petite bourgeoisie), and ignorance,  pedantry, misinformation, and prejudice, common themes in Flaubert's novels, and indeed his friend Émile Zola's, but this is a comic work in which Flaubert's wit is comparable to (and surpassing) Oscar Wilde's. It is such a fun read, far too short sadly (less than 40 pages), and, as with the best classics, remains very much relevant to today. Here are a few of my favourite entries:


An excellent read, in short! It's usually an appendix of Bouvard et Pécuchet, but there's an online edition here should you wish to look at it now.

Comments

  1. How hysterical and sarcastic! It really does display his personality.

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    1. I'll have to take your word for that - know next to nothing about Flaubert the man :)

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  2. Flaubert and humour! How interesting! After reading Madame Bovary I would have thought that he didn't have a humorous bone in his body, but it appears that I'm wrong. I'm putting this on my TBR list.

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    1. Been years since I read Madame B, but do remember you didn't like it so much :) This will rectify your hate for sure!

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  3. thanks, I have t g back to that great classic!

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  4. Oh, I must have this :)

    Have you read The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce? It's pretty much the same thing. I love it.

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    1. I've not read it, but I did read about it today when compiling this post! I'm going to try and get a copy or see if it's online :)

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  5. This looks like a great book to read! I associate Gustave Flaubert with brooding, seclusion while in deep thought about 'le mot juste" but never wit! Thanks for bringin this book to my attention!

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    1. You're not the only one to have said that - there's a few who don't think he's much fun. But yes, this will change your mind! I like a bit of Flaubert :)

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  6. Oh God, I admit I would have never imagined it was something written by Flaubert! It made me giggle.
    Now I absolutely want to read the "Dictionary..." :D

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    1. Do read it, it's so funny! :)

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  7. Have you read "Sentimental Education"?

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    1. I have - it was a while ago and I remember enjoying it very much :)

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    2. Great. I finished reading it a few days ago and loved it. A sad book but now and then very funny.
      How's the Russian literature challenge going?

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    3. It's going ok - I don't think I'll read 12 as I hoped. I'm reading War and Peace right now, and I think I'm right in saying it will be my 9th Russian novel of the year. If I can squeeze in one more and make it a round 10 I'll be happy! I need to read some Dostoyevsky, so I dare say I'll go for The Insulted and the Injured next. How's it going for you?

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    4. I've just read 7 ("Pnin" not counted). 1 of them is "War and Peace". I hoped for more, but many books got in the way. Like the other day I read "Sentimental Education", then that made me move onto Flaubert's correspondence. And now exams are coming, it's quite unlikely that I can get to 8.
      Not nice.
      But I'm looking forward to your post on "War and Peace".

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  8. You may not enjoy this as much as I do, but I'm gonna share it anyway:
    http://www.boredpanda.com/what-words-actually-mean/

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    1. Thank you! I love "synonym"! That sums up my approach to them :)

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