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The Temptation of St. Antony

3.80  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,654 Ratings  ·  60 Reviews
A book that deeply influenced the young Freud and was the inspiration for many artists, The Temptation of Saint Anthony was Flaubert's lifelong work, thirty years in the making. Based on the story of the third-century saint who lived on an isolated mountaintop in the Egyptian desert, it is a fantastical rendering of one night during which Anthony is besieged by carnal temp ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published June 30th 1983 by Penguin Classics (first published 1874)
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At age 24, Flaubert saw Bruegel's painting, The Temptation of Saint Anthony, and decided he would turn it into a play. Like all his literary projects, he took it very seriously. He wanted to describe a 3rd century hermit sitting on a mountain-top in the Egyptian desert and being tempted by the Devil, and he spent most of the rest of his life writing and rewriting it; the final version came out nearly 30 years later, only a few years before his death.

The rest of this review is available elsewher
Dec 07, 2014 Yann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Antoine est un anachorète égyptien des débuts du christianisme, dont la vie nous a été relaté par Anathase (Vie de saint Antoine). D'après cet auteur, il aurait été embêté par des démons venus pour le tenter d'abandonner sa rude et difficile retraite, en lui faisant miroiter tous les plaisirs qu'il abandonnait par sa décision. Il s'agissait de glorifier la résolution d'Antoine qui, loin d'accorder la moindre chance à ces fantômes, les chassait avec vigueur, raffermi par sa foi inébranlable.

Le su
May 01, 2015 Mala rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Not for everyone
Recommended to Mala by: James Joyce
3.5 stars.
My head is still hurting! It's said that Flaubert had read nearly 1500 books for Bouvard and Pécuchet, I wouldn't be surprised if he read just as many for this one!
A vivid and terrifying fever dream, a spectacle of horrors and temptations. It's hard to believe this is the same Flaubert who wrote Madame Bovary.

It is based off of the Christian fable - the monk, Anthony, goes to the desert to meditate and pray, and the devil tempts him - and indeed, how the devil tempts him. All the obsessive desires of lust, of gluttony, and then the seductions of heresy and following false prophets, and then the submission to the vastness of the cosmos, the contradictions o
Katelis Viglas
If one tries to read this novel when he is young, probably he will fail to see its significance. It is an excelent representation and dramatization of Saint Antoine's life. It is certain that Saint Athanasius, the first biographer of the famous Saint, wasn't so much informed and erudite as regards matters of heresis. Of cours it is about fantasy and fiction, but it is exactly beacause of writer's poetic licence and deep erudition that the person of Saint Antoine is enlightened; we can see it beh ...more
Justin Evans
Oct 01, 2009 Justin Evans rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This is a pretty damn weird book, in the best possible way. You always hear about Flaubert as a realist, Flaubert as wanting to write a novel about nothing, Flaubert as being obsessed with form and so on. Well, this was published 17 years after Madame Bovary, and is... not exactly a realist novel. It's more like a medieval passion play with historical people rather than personifications. First Antony is tempted by biblical characters (the Queen of Sheba, Nebuchadnezzar), then he confronted by he ...more
Oct 16, 2013 Kim rated it liked it
This book was interesting to me knowing that there really was a Saint Anthony who lived in the third century A.D. Anthony's parents were wealthy landowners and when they died all their wealth went to Anthony, and he was left with a sister to provide for. However, he decided to follow the words of Jesus, who had said: "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven; and come, follow Me", Matt. 19:21. He then gave away all his property ...more
Mar 26, 2015 Don rated it really liked it
Shelves: france
No pretense here of understanding the esoteric references or Flaubert's intent here at all. But that's the advantage of being a card-carrying philistine, no worries on that point. One can just sit back and enjoy the wild, hallucinatory imagery and the Lovecraft-vibe. This is supposed to be a prose-poem play and you have to wonder whether Flaubert owed a costumer some money or something because, if this was ever produced, it would be a full-employment for costumers program. I'd would so love to s ...more
Erik Graff
May 23, 2015 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Flaubert fans
Recommended to Erik by: Lajla Stousland
Shelves: literature
Having read about the excesses of the desert fathers and being long interested in literary representations of religious figures and the religious/mystical consciousness, I picked up my grandmother's old copy of Flaubert's The Temptation of Saint Anthony during a break from college and read it with some enjoyment. For his time, Flaubert was scandalous.

Some familiarity with early Church history allows for a greater appreciation of this text.
Trippy! Dizzying amounts of obscure references and Biblical names/stories/themes - Flaubert was a mad genius, and besides the nearly indescribable excellence of his writing, this work (play? novel?) is humbling in its encapsulation of one man's obsession with learning.
Jan 20, 2016 Kristel rated it really liked it
Saint Anthony or Anthony the Great was a Christian saint from Egypt. Flaubert desired to write an epic of spiritual torment that might equal Goethe’s Faust (German literature). The author spent a large portion of his life writing this story that is written in the form of play script. The work’s form influenced the development of modernist play-texts, notable the “Circe” section of Joyce’s Ulysses. The novel might also be called a prose poem. The work is a fictionalized story of the inner life of ...more
Dec 12, 2011 Matthew rated it really liked it
Beautifully conveyed, and more shocking than À Rebours.

"Antony meets all his enemies one after another. He recognises people whom he had forgotten. Before killing them, he outrages them. He rips them open, cuts their throats, knocks them down, drags the old men by their beards, runs over children, and beats those who are wounded … The blood gushes up to the ceiling, falls back on the linen clothes that line the walls, streams from the trunks of decapitated corpses, fills the aqueducts, and rolls
May 02, 2015 Thomas rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
A voluptuous meditation on the dark underside of asceticism by a master of literary realism. Apparently Flaubert worked on this off and on throughout his life after his friends initially told him he should throw it in the fire. I'm glad he didn't, though it's easy to see why they cautioned restraint in his future endeavors. James Joyce, no admirer of restraint, was so touched by it that he modeled the Circe episode of Ulysses on it.

Lafcadio Hearn's translation is so lyrical that I was sure he w
Bogdan Rat
Sep 17, 2015 Bogdan Rat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Flaubert considered this book his masterpiece. No surprise there, definitely something worthy of being called one's masterpiece.
I was really surprised, in a pleasent way, about the great amount and mixture of details, characters, events and places from a lot of cultures: greek, roman, egyptian, persian, hindu... particulary because he's done that in so few pages, compared with, let's say Goethe, whose influence I felt from the first quarter of the book. Wich is a good thing, don't get me wrong:
Encyclopedic, nightmarish, orgiastic, and beautiful. Flaubert's less than sane genius flaunts mad visions and buffets of esoteric delights across the pages. Similar to Bouvard and Pecuchet, this work is expansive in its breadth of knowledge, a book about books. Different in its themes and topic and how Flaubert creates and plays with the structure.
Jan 01, 2011 Catachresis rated it it was amazing
Fabulous prose, pure lexical honey studded with diamonds.
Oct 14, 2014 Greg rated it it was amazing
Flaubert’s retelling of the temptation of St. Antony is an unexpected, strange, wonderful dramatic prose poem. I do not know of many other examples of dramatic prose poems of historical religious fiction. It is as if Flaubert strove to combine all possible genres into one.

The work itself centers around St. Antony, the 3rd century desert follow who was the subject of St. Athanasius hagiography, which is one of the foundational post-biblical texts of western theology. Flaubert starts by roughly sk
Mar 26, 2013 Elena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: good-stuff
It was so surprising for me to find out a surrealist Flaubert, instead of the dry and cool realism he displayed in Madame Bovary.
This enchanted me and made me think that Salvador Dali had for sure read this before painting his famous Temptation of Saint Anthony, as his vision was so similar - I kept it in my mind while I was reading Flaubert - more even than the Bruegel version, that I have just found out (reading Manny's review) that was the one that inspired Flaubert. Which made me think furth
Mar 05, 2013 Antti rated it it was amazing
Äärirealistista proosaa, hurmahenkisyyttä ja kreikkalaista draamaperinnettä tarjoava kirja, joka ei yritä ollenkaan yhdistellä kirjoitustapojaan, vaan käyttää aina kutakin kun paras vaikutus saadaan.

Flaubertin omana mielikirjanaan se on kiinnostava avainromaani, ja kuvaakin myös kirjailijan omaa luomistuskaa.

Perfektionistin kirja vie lukijaa mukanaan ilman mitään hidasteita.

Dermatologia kiinnostanee, että 200-luvulla Egyptin aavikolla eläneen pyhimyksen yhtä ihovitsausta, erysipelasta, kutsut
Dec 18, 2015 Howard rated it really liked it
Shelves: europe, odd-style
This is Flaubert’s favourite novel, started in 1848 and reworked over many years. It is a sort of novel/play/poem where the real hermit St Antony around 350CE has visions tempting him away.

So Antony experiences a whole host of mental challenges as a series of episodes of varying length including food, money, famous people, the flesh, Sheba, religious sects, Helen of Troy, idols, Budda, Greek gods, science. The interactions are very erudite and certainly not graphic or explicit like Dante’s Infer
Aida Ghazar
Sep 30, 2015 Aida Ghazar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Temptation of St. Anthony is a lyrical ballad written in prose form,in which Flaubert masterly,and with thoughtfully and carefully chosen words,narrates one night of the hermit's life in the Egypt desert,where he experiences the temptations.Flaubert was inspired by the Hieronymus Bosch's painting he had seen in Genoa.
St. Anthony's hallucinations begins by sunset,he is tempted through the night by many biblical and historical characters,from the "seven deadly sins" to his one time disciple H
Jan 24, 2016 Beverly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-bymrbyd
From Amazon: "A book that deeply influenced the young Freud and was the inspiration for many artists, The Temptation of Saint Anthony was Flaubert’s lifelong work, thirty years in the making. Based on the story of the third-century saint who lived on an isolated mountaintop in the Egyptian desert, it is a fantastical rendering of one night during which Anthony is besieged by carnal temptations and philosophical doubt." I am glad that I read this only because now I won't have to read it again. I ...more
Nathan Rostron
Aug 08, 2007 Nathan Rostron marked it as shelved-indefinitely  ·  review of another edition
I have this awesome illustrated copy with naked ladies and stuff. I'm sure it was Flaubert's intention, the randy sot.
Sep 26, 2014 Fabio rated it it was amazing
Pure exuberance of thought. The act of writing taken to a most indulgent yet polished and insightful end.

It's no surprise that this book was revered by minds like Wilde's and Freud's. Its a work of genius, of expansive, list-making, encyclopedic, overwhelming genius.

Replete with references that dwarf even the most exotic catalogues of heresy, and not unlike the best paintings on the subject (Bosch, Michelangelo,
Rops, Brueghel, and Dalí all turned their eye to this abyss), the book is more a m
Jul 10, 2011 Mohammed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I kept hearing about Gustave Flaubert through discussion by critics of his famous novel 'Madame Bovary'. So I did my research on the author and one book caught my attention, his last novel, which he considered his masterpiece. Temptations of Saint Anthony, which concerned a famous Christian Egyptian, saint who faced supernatural visions from the Devil to tear apart his faith. 19th century literature in concerning belief in God has always been one of my favorite subjects so when I saw the novel i ...more
Greg Morrison
May 24, 2013 Greg Morrison rated it really liked it
Shelves: illuminations
"It was yet again the Devil, and in his double guise: the spirit of fornication and the spirit of destruction."

The closet drama - a play never meant to be performed - is dead. Our conventions, which masquerade as the only way for the world to reach paper, dictate a subdued prose. Show, don't tell. Details, details, details. Write what you know. Authenticity. Is it especially surprising that we're coming through a memoir boom?

Flaubert defies realism, and instead has stage directions like:

"On the
Delicious lists, fascinating philosophies, nightmarish visions, and hallucinatory images. Flaubert writes a novel (which almost reads like a play) that describes in detail the dreams that Anthony has during a single trying night. Flaubert's writing is not so much poetic as precise (which I am led to believe was his goal in writing). He culls names and images from history, myth, legend, religion, and science to concoct scenes and characters who confront Anthony and challenge his faith. There are ...more
Nathan Marone
One Goodreads review called this book a "fever dream". That's about right to me. The parade of heretics, mythological figures, and pagan gods can be overwhelming at times. I admit that I eventually tired of flipping back to the glossary to figure out the historical context of a character that would deliver one line. Still, Flaubert's book is the type of nightmare that only a dedicated mystic could have. It is among the finest apocalyptic works I can think of.
Feb 03, 2014 Larry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very strange book, and certainly not for everyone, but right up my alley. A compendium of early Christian myth and yet another sui generis masterpiece from the astounding Flaubert who invented at least three different *kinds* of fiction (not including this artifact which seems to have only influenced poets; novelists have not followed, unless there's a whole body of fiction I'm tragically unaware of).
Czarny Pies
Nov 13, 2014 Czarny Pies rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Graduate students in French lit
Recommended to Czarny by: Mme. Rathe one of my undergraduate French lit profs. I never made it to the next level.
Shelves: french-lit
I find it rather strange that Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary and Salambo are on the Papal Index (L'Index librorum prohibitorum) of books prohibited to Catholics but that this work is not. The Temptation of Saint Anthony did not deserve to have been omitted from the Index. Indeed it deserves a special place of honour.

This loopy work reads like the script from Monty Python's Life of Bryan. Indeed it is a truly savage parody of the monastic vocation as Saint Anthony is shown to suffer in the most
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Gustave Flaubert (December 12, 1821 – May 8, 1880) is counted among the greatest Western novelists. He was born in Rouen, Seine-Maritime, in the Haute-Normandie Region of France.

Flaubert's curious modes of composition favored and were emphasized by these peculiarities. He worked in sullen solitude, sometimes occupying a week in the completion of one page, never satisfied with what he had composed,
More about Gustave Flaubert...

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“And he beholds the moon; like a rounded fragment of ice filled with motionless light.” 33 likes
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