Flaubert and the Arab World: A Look Back at a Little-Known Story

Flaubert, a writer with ties to the Arab world

When we think about it Gustave Flaubert’s name, we think in particular of his novels such as Madame Bovary (1857) and L’Éducation sentimentale (1869), works that are now part of the pantheon of 19th century French literature. Echoing the work of Honoré de Balzac, the novelist is known as one of the leading figures of the realistic movement alongside such illustrious writers as Emile Zola or Guy de Maupassant, whose naturalistic school is the continuity of the realistic movement.

It is less known, however, that Gustave Flaubert undertook several trips to the Arab world during his youth. Indeed, the writer traveled a few years later through Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine and also Tunisia and Algeria. Apart from his Carnet de voyage à Carthage, none of Flaubert’s great works really reflects on the travels of the French writer. However, the latter left a lot of correspondence with his neighbors from his moments of exploration of the Arab world. These are valuable writings for contemporary researchers in history and literature who wish to question the nature of the link who united Flaubert with the Arab world.

A colloquium to discuss the links between Flaubert and the Arab world.

It is to answer these questions the University of Sfax, in Tunisia, decided to organize a symposium to analyze the complexity of Flaubert’s relationship with the Arab world. Through the study of Gustave Flaubert’s writings, the participants of the colloquium will try contextualize and learn from the ties that then united the European intellectual elite with the East.

The colloquium has one dual purpose: to understand and understand Flaubert’s vision of the Arab world at the time to explain how this view is representative, or not, of 19th-century European mentality, and to analyze the reception of Flaubert’s writings by the people of the Middle East and North Africa.

In this way academics will be able to try to answer a multitude of questions that still feed debates within academic research circles: is the Flaubertian view of the Arab world based on ethnocentrism or on diversity, diversity and cultural coexistence? Does such a multicultural vision of the world explain why Flaubert occupies an important place in Arab countries today and why he is an interesting object for researchers and translators??

During this colloquium, which will conclude its activities, so many questions have been studied and answered Friday December 4.

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