Replay Event: Laird Hunt, Ben Taylor, and Judith Thurman discuss “The Letters” of Gustave Flaubert

“His letters, recently reissued and collected in a single volume for the first time, are every bit as hilarious and humane as his best fiction. ” Becca Rothfeld, The Washington Post.

Immortalized by Madame Bovary, The Sentimental Education and A Simple Heart, Flaubert is considered the father of modernity in French literature. Additionally, the Master has also penned one of the “loveliest, liveliest correspondence in the history of literature,” which is considered, to this day, a bible for writers all over the world as shown by André Gide’s words:

“Sa correspondance a, durant plus de 5 ans à mon chevet, remplacé la bible. C’était mon réservoir d’énergie” —

(“For over 5 years at my bedside, his correspondence replaced the Bible. It was my power source.”)

What is it, in this correspondence, that sparkles in readers an urgent need to converse with Flaubert, the same way he was conversing with Montaigne while reading his Essays?

On January 31, novelist Laird Hunt, author Ben Taylor, and author and New Yorker staff writer Judith Thurman read from and discussed a selection of Flaubert’s Letters.

Our media partner for this event was Lapham’s Quaterly.

LAIRD HUNT is the author of eight novels, including the 2021 National Book Award finalist Zorrie. He is the winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Fiction, the Grand Prix de Littérature Américaine, the Bridge Prize and a finalist for both the Pen/Faulkner and the Prix Femina Étranger. Hunt’s reviews and essays have been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Daily Beast, the Guardian, the Irish Times and the Los Angeles Times, and his fiction and translations have appeared in many literary journals, including Conjunctions, McSweeney’s, Bomb and Zoetrope, in the United States and abroad. A former United Nations press officer, Laird Hunt now lives in Providence where he teaches in Brown University’s Literary Arts Program.

BEN TAYLOR‘s memoir, The Hue and Cry at Our House won the 2017 Los Angeles Times/Christopher Isherwood Prize for Autobiography and was named a New York Times Editors’ Choice; his Proust: The Search was named a Best Book of 2015 by Thomas Mallon in The New York Times Book Review and by Robert McCrum in The Observer (London); and his Naples Declared: A Walk Around the Bay was named a Best Book of 2012 by Judith Thurman in The New Yorker. He is also the author of two novels, Tales Out of School, winner of the 1996 Harold Ribalow Prize, and The Book of Getting Even, winner of a 2009 Barnes & Noble Discover Award, as well as a book-length essay, Into the Open. He edited Saul Bellow: Letters, named a Best Book of 2010 by Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times and Jonathan Yardley in The Washington Post, and Bellow’s There Is Simply Too Much to Think About: Collected Nonfiction, also a New York Times Editors’ Choice. His edition of the collected stories of Susan Sontag, Debriefing, was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in November 2017. Taylor is a founding faculty member in the New School’s Graduate School of Writing and teaches also in the Columbia University School of the Arts. He is a past fellow and current trustee of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and serves as president of the Edward F. Albee Foundation. His latest work is Chasing Bright Medusas, a Life of Willa Cather

JUDITH THURMAN is a staff writer at the New Yorker. She writes about books, culture, and fashion. She is the author of Isak Dinesen: The Life of a Storyteller, which won the 1983 National Book Award for nonfiction, and Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Biography and the Salon Book Award for biography. The Dinesen biography served as the basis for Sydney Pollack’s movie Out of Africa. A collection of her New Yorker essays, Cleopatra’s Nose, was published in 2007. She received the Rungstedlund Prize and the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award for prose style, from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Her latest book, A Left-Handed Woman: Essays, was published in December 2022 by FSG.



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