Gustave Flaubert

Madame Bovary
  • Madame Bovary

    • Gustave Flaubert

    • John Hurt (Read by)

    • Conrad Nelson (Read by)

    • Full Cast (Read by)

    • Sarah Smart (Read by)

    John Hurt stars in this BBC radio dramatisation of Gustave Flaubert’s infamous tale of adultery and tragedy

    Beautiful Emma meets and marries Doctor Charles Bovary. He's happy for the first time in his life – but Emma is distraught that her marriage lacks the passion and romance of her fantasies.

    Dazzled by the splendour of a Marquis’ ball, she longs for excitement and soon becomes infatuated with a young solicitor, Léon Dupuis. But when Dupuis moves away, her memories of him lead her to despair – and into the arms of wealthy landowner, Rodolphe Boulanger.

    As she moves from one illicit liaison to another, Emma’s complicated life begins to unravel. Exhausted from her debts and her affairs, she feels she is left with only one course of action…

    A French masterpiece of betrayal and wantonness, Flaubert’s notorious novel features Sarah Smart as Emma Bovary, Conrad Nelson as Charles, Jude Akuwudike as Rodolphe and James D’Arcy as Léon.

    Cast and credits
    Narrator – John Hurt
    Charles – Conrad Nelson
    Emma – Sarah Smart
    Madame Bovary Snr – Brigit Forsyth
    Monsieur Rouault/Maître Guillaumin – Russell Dixon
    Viscomte/Dr Lariviere – Martin Reeve
    Nastasie/Mère Rollet – Julie McCabe
    Madame Lefrancois – Siobahn Finneran
    Monsieur Homais/Priest – David Fleeshman
    Léon Dupuis – James D’Arcy
    Monsieur Lheureux – Seamus O’Neill
    Félicité – Sarah Jayne Hallworth
    Rodolphe Boulanger – Jude Akuwudike
    Justin – Sam Curtis
    Berthe Bovary – Daisy Jones

    Written by Gustave Flaubert
    Dramatised by Diana Griffiths from a translation by Margaret Mauldon
    Pianist: Stephen Reynolds
    Produced by Pauline Harris

    First broadcast BBC Radio 4, 4-15 September 2006

Gustave Flaubert was born in Rouen in 1821, the son of a distinguished surgeon and a doctor's daughter. After three unhappy years of studying law in Paris, an epileptic attack ushered him into a life of writing. Madame Bovary won instant acclaim upon book publication in 1857, but Flaubert's frank display of adultery in bourgeois France saw him go on trial for immorality, only narrowly escaping conviction. Both Salammbo (1862) and The Sentimental Education (1869) were poorly received, and Flaubert's genius was not publicly recognized until Three Tales (1877). His reputation among his fellow writers, however, was more constant and those who admired him included Turgenev, George Sand, Victor Hugo and Zola. Flaubert's obsession with his art is legendary: he would work for days on a single page, obsessively attuning sentences, seeking always le mot juste in a quest for both beauty and precise observation. His style moved Edmund Wilson to say,'Flaubert, by a single phrase - a notation of some commonplace object - can convey all the poignance of human desire, the pathos of human defeat; his description of some homely scene will close with a dying fall that reminds one of great verse or music.' Flaubert died suddenly in May 1880, leaving his last work, Bouvard and Pécuchet, unfinished.

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