‘A Simple Heart’ by Gustave Flaubert, translated by Robert Baldick

I encountered this one as a student, and thought there was something enjoyably grotesque about the story of Felicité’s attachment to her parrot. Years later I find the piece quite different. It now seems to be about the situation of a woman who loves, but is never loved back. Is she ‘simple’ in the negative sense of the word? Or does the faith she places in others – and in her bird Loulou – fill her life with meaning?

First published 1877 as ‘Un Coeur Simple’. Translation in Three Tales, Penguin Books, 1961. Available online in various translations including here

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