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The Temptation of St. Antony

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  2,133 Ratings  ·  89 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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Mumbler It seems to be this one at the US National Gallery. Now attributed to "follower of Breughel." Unless there's more than one 'Breughel Temptation Of…moreIt seems to be this one at the US National Gallery. Now attributed to "follower of Breughel." Unless there's more than one 'Breughel Temptation Of St. Anthony" -- this is the one I cound find. I couldn't find a provenance that went back to Genoa, though I didn't keep digging and digging.(less)

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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 avail
Apr 24, 2012 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
Leonard Gaya
Mar 04, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ce livre aurait bien pu finir dans les flammes, si Flaubert avait suivi l'avis de ses amis après la lecture qu'il leur fit de son manuscrit. Fort heureusement pour nous, l'auteur n'en fit rien et, bien au contraire, retravailla son œuvre continuement, si bien qu'elle devint, selon ses propres termes, l'œuvre de toute sa vie (il en existe d'ailleurs plusieurs versions).

Le Saint Antoine de Flaubert tirerait ses influences littéraires aussi bien du Cain a Mystery de Byron, du Faust de Goethe, que d
Feb 18, 2017 rated it liked it
I shamefacedly admit that I don't read a lot of work that wasn't originally written in English. The reason being that I almost always feel like something is lost in translation and that bugs the shit out of me. For some authors, though, one has to make an exception.

As far as I can tell, from my admittedly embarrassing monolingual viewpoint, this is a good translation. It reads fluidly and naturally and, from what I've read about Flaubert's writing style, seems to be true to the author's methodol
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
Mar 20, 2015 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!
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 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
Gabrielle Dubois
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The temptation of Saint Anthony is Flaubert's entire life’s work. He had had the first idea of it in 1845, in Genoa, Italy, by watching a painting by Breughel, The Temptations of Saint Anthony. Besides, in the descriptions of the book, we find many of Breughel's paintings.
Since that time, he hasn’t stopped thinking about it.
In 1846, Flaubert launched into immense readings, without any apparent goal, but all of which gravitated more or less around the Greco-Latin antiquity and led by infinite de
Apr 01, 2013 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
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lett-francese
Mille tentazioni non fanno un'obiezione.
Title: The Temptation of St. Anthony

Author: Gustave Flaubert

Release Date: June 4, 2016 [eBook #52225]

Language: English

E-text prepared by Laura N.R. and Marc D'Hooghe ( from page images generously made available by the Google Books Library Project (
and illustrations generously made available by Bibliothèque nationale de France (

Free download available at Project Gutenberg.

Gustave Flaubert, best known for his masterpiece M

Le monde est l'oeuvre d'un Dieu en délire.

Oh! heureux temps de Saint-Antoine, où êtes-vous? J'écrivais là avec mon moi tout entier!
From a letter dated January 1853
Czarny Pies
Oct 05, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Graduate students in French lit
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
Mar 20, 2015 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
Erik Graff
Feb 11, 2009 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 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous prose, pure lexical honey studded with diamonds.
Dec 12, 2011 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 11, 2011 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
Jun 28, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is the book that Flaubert famously read aloud to his friends for thirty-six hours only to be told he should "burn it and never speak of it again." Though I don't totally agree-- I could read this guy's descriptions of toilet paper and tax returns-- they're right in that it's a static, masturbatory effort that betrays his talent as perhaps the greatest Realist author we've ever had. Like Salambo, which I have never been able to finish, this is Flaubert letting his Romantic side cascade onto ...more
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.
Nov 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: l, parole, francese, di, scena
Una scrittura allucinata per un tesoro nascosto tra le opere flaubertiane. Molto amato.
Oct 14, 2014 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
Bogdan Raț
Sep 15, 2015 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:
Mar 19, 2013 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
Feb 22, 2013 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
Monty Milne
Sep 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
I love novels set amongst the Egyptian Desert Fathers in the 4th century, but this is only my second favourite - Anatole France's Thais takes the first prize. It's still an awful lot of fun, though, especially the fascinating parade of mad and bad devotees of obscure heretical sects. Occasionally, though, one senses that Flaubert is over-egging this particular pudding; too much of it can give one spiritual indigestion.
Nathan Rostron
Aug 08, 2007 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.
Charlie Canning
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The startling thing about Flaubert's rendering of "The Temptation of Saint Anthony" is Flaubert's depiction of the thresholds of temptation. After Saint Anthony had effectively withstood the wiles of the beautiful women who had come out to his desert hermitage to seduce him, he had to deal with the temptresses of antiquity. Night after night in his dreams, day after day in his prayers and meditations, Anthony was enticed and tormented by a seemingly endless parade of seductresses through the age ...more
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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...
“And he beholds the moon; like a rounded fragment of ice filled with motionless light.” 46 likes
“Le monde est l'œuvre d'un Dieu en délire.” 1 likes
More quotes…