L'Éducation sentimentale

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First edition from 1869

L'Éducation sentimentale , Histoire d'un jeune homme , is the last completed novel by the French writer Gustave Flaubert (1821–1880). It was published in 1869 and is now considered one of the most influential novels of the 19th century. There are several translations into German available, including the work was published under the titles The education of the emotions , The education of the heart , The education of feeling , Years of training of feeling , Years of training of the heart , The school of sensitivity and The novel of a young man . The new translation for 2020 is entitled:Apprenticeship in masculinity. Story of a youth .


Flaubert's novel paints a picture of French society in the 1940s with satirical elements in the social scenes and tragic-melancholy or illusory idyllic features in private fates. in Paris. The main character Frédéric Moreau does not want to live a down-to-earth life in the provinces, but dreams of a high position with an elegant lifestyle in the sophisticated city. In the search for success and happiness, he vacillates indecisively between career strategies and opposing emotions. He meets his friends and acquaintances in three different circles: the journalistic-artistic scene with system-critical, reformist or revolutionary tendencies, the established upper-class circles of bankers, merchants, lawyers, etc., who adapt to the prevailing political currents, and the seedy demimonde , in which the other two groups meet in their double standards. He adapts quickly to the various milieus and their rules, but in his zigzag course between unscrupulousness and guilty conscience, in contrast to the protagonists of many traditional development novels, he does not achieve any of his goals, v. a. because he cannot break away from his hopeless love for the married Marie Arnoux.

First part

In 1840 the 18-year-old Frédéric Moreau leaves his mother's manor house in Nogent-sur-Seine (Kp. 2) after a short trip to his heir in Le Havre to study law in Paris (Kp. 3–5). Madame Moreau's husband, who died early, left her financial situation in ruins. Her rental income is low and she has had to sell properties to pay the debts and finance her studies. She hopes that as a lawyer or judge, as well as through a rich marriage and the inheritance of her brother-in-law, he will be able to improve his small paternal fortune and live an upper class. But Frédéric, from whose perspective the plot is mostly told, is light-hearted and weaves into ideas of a career as a minister or as a famous artist. So he starts with a novel project or with compositions and takes painting lessons. With his friends, revolutionary-minded writers, painters and journalists, he strolls through the Latin Quarter or has fun in the Alhambra dance hall. He buys an expensive wardrobe and sells it again when he runs out of money. Like these, all of his actions are volatile and he tires quickly. Only at the second attempt did he pass his exam with the help of his poor school friend Charles Deslauriers, who earned his studies as a clerk and also dreams of social advancement. He advises him to build connections with influential people, e. B. to the banker and speculator Dambreuse, whose business successes are based on his adjustments to the changes of government since the Napoleonic era. He made him various offers, but Frédéric did not pursue this career path, kept breaking contacts and instead sought the friendship of the opaque art dealer and publisher Jacques Arnoux and his wife Marie, whom he met on the return trip from Le Havre. The beautiful young woman occupies his thoughts and he wants to get to know her better (cp. 1). So he uses his tuition to buy pictures in Arnoux's Arts and Crafts shop and expensive clothes and gifts to impress Marie. This passion turns into an obsession that haunts him day and night and prevents serious projects from being carried out. Since Madame Arnoux treats him in a friendly, distant manner and does not encourage him, he does not dare to explain himself to her. On the other hand, he feels that his love cannot be realized, but he does not want to give up hope. The big city life gives him little pleasure and he suffers from Weltschmerz , which increases to psychotic limit states, from which he can temporarily break away at the end of his studies in Nogent. But even in the provinces he is not happy in the long run and he immediately dreams of a luxury life in Paris with a rapprochement with Marie when he becomes a rich heir through the death of his uncle (cf. chapter 6).

Second part

In 1845, Frédéric returned to Paris with good financial resources. He buys a two-seater carriage with a horse and a house suitable for parties. He is also carefree with his money when buying the facility and having fun, so that his capital is increasingly melting. A lot has changed in his previous circle of friends. Deslaurier's attempt to do his habilitation failed due to the presentation of crazy ideas. Arnoux, who in the meantime had to give up his art business and his magazine and now produces faience in a factory, now lives in modest circumstances and no longer gives any parties. For Frédéric, his wife has lost some of its socially elegant attractiveness in the simple ambience, but in her current roles as mother and housewife it has gained in human charisma ("serious, solemn and almost pious and devout"). Arnoux's unsuccessful speculations and affairs sparked a marital crisis and she becomes Frédéric's confidante. Her counter-figure is Rose Annette Bron (Rosanette), a revealing half-world lady ("dandy-playful [...] lively and entertaining") and at the same time the mistress of Arnoux, the rich old Oudry and the young actor Delmar. Frédéric met the woman called "Marschallin" by her friends at an exuberant costume ball in her apartment. From a distant observer's perspective, the author describes the festival as an incoherent sequence of conversations and pictures, with sad faces appearing under the running make-up with increasing duration, and demonstrates the idleness of social conventions that cover up personal rivalries (Chapter 1). Two other circles in which Frédéric moves contrast with this milieu. The political discussions of his Boheme friends, a group of egocentric individualists, are openly controversial on the part of Senecal, Deslaurier's friend, revolutionary-dogmatic, opinionated . On the other hand, the guests in the house of the banker Dambreuse, where the conservative businessmen and high officials meet, are stiff, bourgeois, but ambiguous and difficult to understand. Frédéric hopes to get support from them for a position in the civil service, while the landlord advises him to pursue an economic career.

Frédéric's temporarily controlled passion for Marie is given new hopes by Arnoux's financial difficulties and marital crisis. He lends him fifteen thousand francs to impress his wife with his helpfulness and to win her over. He was given a piece of land as security, but it later turned out to be encumbered with a mortgage. More than twenty years later, at their last meeting, the virtuous beloved will give him back the money (III, 6). He had actually promised his friend Deslauriers the sum for the establishment of a newspaper, and he had rashly promised Dambreuse it for the purchase of shares. He quickly allows himself to be persuaded into friendship services, lends money, but then changes his plans depending on the situation and does not keep appointments. Sometimes moods tempt him to isolate himself in elegant company and to gamble away opportunities, e.g. B. in the defense of his friend Arnoux, his secret lover Rosanette or the temporarily imprisoned alleged bomb maker Senecal. At one point he even becomes abusive until de Cisy is challenged to duel (Chapter 4). At the time of Arnoux's crisis, he thinks the time has come for his confession of love (cp. 3). But Marie rejects him, even though she secretly loves him. In response to his allegation that she had “bourgeois principles”, she replied that she was tied to her family and that she did not boast “being a great lady”. Disappointed, he now wants to turn to easy-going women and needs money for it (cp. 4). He sells a leasehold with his fortune, puts half of the money in government bonds and speculates with the other half on the stock exchange. Then he tries to get one of the vacancies at Rosanette's, but has wealthy rivals, v. a. Cisy.

Frédéric's disappointed friends, whom he has promised financial support and who envy him for his wealth, take revenge for his inconsistent behavior. Pellerin's revealing portrait of Rosanette, which he ordered but not paid for, is exhibited in a shop window, stating that he is the owner. In a newspaper article in the “Leucht” newspaper, the writer, apparently Hussonnet, mocked him, easily recognizable for the initiated, as “a simpleton who ran up” from the province and puzzled over the motives for his duel. “The advocate” Deslauriers uses the confession of his old undecided friend for himself and comes up with the idea to use his contacts to Dambreuse for his advancement and to win Madame Arnoux as lover with Frédérics mortgage claims. On the other hand, he advises him to return to Nogent and become engaged to Louise, the provincial natural daughter of the wealthy neighbor Roque. This is also the wish of her father, the manager of the rural property of Dambreuse, and his mother, because Roque's fortune and the nobility title from the family of his mother, the daughter of Count de Fouvens, which he can reactivate, would be combined. But Frédéric hesitates once again during his short visit (Kp. 5), because Louise is too poorly educated in his arrogant judgment and, compared to Madame Arnoux or Madame Dambreuse, not socially acceptable in the city, and he cannot reciprocate her love for him. So he postpones the motion expected of him.

After his return to Paris, despite a critical analysis of his situation and the people around him, he got back into the old cycle of his emotions and weak decision-making (Chapter 6). He supports Rosanette financially, although she can now be supported by the extremely wealthy Russian Prince Tschernukoff. Out of consideration for Marie, he does not pursue his claim to Arnoux any further. He and his revolutionary friends agreed on the dissatisfaction with the political situation in February 1848. Everyone wanted to fight for a republic. Then the situation comes to a head for him. He confesses to Marie when he happens to meet her while complaining about two faience figures that he ordered for Louise. In her country house in Auteuil he experiences a brief idyll of love with her and misses advertising for his daughter Roques and participation with friends in the revolutionary struggles. But his hope for the continuation of the platonic to a sexual relationship is not fulfilled, since Marie regards the illness of her son Eugen and his rescue from suffocation as a divine warning against adultery and does not come to the agreed meeting

third part

The February Revolution of 1848 has begun. Frédéric goes to the Tuileries and watches the rebels. He participates in the political discussions with revolutionary ideas and writes an article that will earn him the recognition of his friends and the respect of Dambreuse, who proposes to run for the constituency of Nogent. But at an election meeting caricatured by the author, he tried unsuccessfully to run for membership. Even his friends cannot support him in the actions because of his absence. Disappointed, he goes to Rosanette, becomes her lover and spends a few happy days with her in June, isolated from the social-revolutionary June uprising in the idyllic forest of Fontainebleau , while his friends in Paris take part in the actions (Chapter 1). He and Rosanette get to know each other and she tells him how her alcoholic mother seduced her into prostitution. The news of Dussardier's injury wakes Frédéric's guilty conscience and they return to Paris.

The socialist uprising is suppressed. The citizens worried about their wealth have calmed down and are celebrating their festivals again. At the Dambreuses (Kp. 2), Frédéric encounters conservative society and, when hints of his affair with Rosanette are made over dinner, the envious interest of Marie Arnoux, Louise Roques and that of the hostess. He denies the allusions and gives each of the ladies the impression of his affection. After Louise and Marie learn the truth, Frédéric stays with the pregnant Rosanette. Their ignorance and bad taste displease him more and more, v. a. compared to the noble demeanor of Madame Dambreuse, who could help him as a lover into the higher world of the powerful and the rich. She reacts surprisingly quickly to his advertising (Chapter 3). After the death of her husband a short time later, she offers him the marriage. He agrees, because she could offer him a feudal life as the sole heir. But the deceased, perhaps as revenge for the affair he noticed with his wife, bequeathed his fortune to the illegitimate daughter Cecile, who was married to Frédéric's former student colleague Martinot. For Frédéric, the connection loses its attractiveness, especially since he has now discovered selfish, domineering qualities in his lover and she can no longer help him to run for election to the departmental deputies. However, he feels guilty about withdrawing from her. Nor can he part with Rosanette, since she is the mother of his son, who soon dies of an infectious disease. Rather, he has to furnish her with a new apartment and take over her debts from earlier times. So he leads a double life with two women (Kp. 4), but becomes more and more entangled in excuses and lies.

The trigger for the last phase of his Parisian relations and the end of his illusions is the bankruptcy of Arnoux. In order to evade his obligations and police persecution, he has apparently planned to flee the family abroad. Frédéric fears that he will then never see Marie, his only true love, again. He therefore borrows the sum demanded from Madame Dambreuse in order to prevent Arnoux from being punished, but no longer meets him, wrongly accuses Rosanette of having sued Arnoux out of jealousy of Marie, and leaves her. The separation from Madame Dambreuse and the termination of her wedding preparations soon followed, when she demonstratively bought Marie's Renaissance silver casket at an auction of Arnoux's household effects against his objection, which is associated with memories for Frédéric because it was also in Rosanette's apartment . This happened symbolically on the day before the coup d'état of December 2, 1851 and with it the end of the republic: “[He] r could only think of himself, of himself, so lost he felt in the middle of the ruins of his dreams, so sick , he was sadly full and deeply discouraged ”(Chapter 5). Disaffected, he leaves Paris, seeks refuge in Nogent with Louise and on arrival sees her leaving the church in her wedding dress as Deslaurier's wife. When he returned, the uprising was put down in Paris: Senecal, a former socialist now working as a police officer, shot dead the loyal Republican Dussardier.

After 16 years, Frédéric meets Marie again. They confess: “We loved each other very much!” “Without belonging to each other!” “Maybe it's better that way!” “We could have been so happy!” Frédéric thinks: “And how deep and strong [her Love] if it had survived such a great separation! "(Cp. 6)

In the last chapter, at the time of the Second Empire of Napoleon III., Frédéric and Deslauriers meet again after a long time and confess that they have both botched their lives, one with his dream of true love, the other with his dreams of power while Her socially critical childhood friends succeeded in making a career leap through the arrangement with the political circumstances. Frédéric, on the other hand, has lost most of his fortune and is now living in a middle-class family. His pragmatic childhood friend and advisor also dreamed of social advancement. But the "advocate" did not have the hoped-for success despite his ambition. At times he benefited from political developments, but after the uprising he got between the socialist and conservative front lines, lost his job as a commissioner in Troyes and now works as a legal advisor to a company. He was also unhappy in his private life. He married Louise Roque, who was disappointed by Frédéric, but who left him because of a singer. The two friends remember their youth and the best thing they have experienced: their first unsuccessful visit to the brothel. (Chapter 7).


  • Frédéric Moreau, the protagonist, young man from the French provinces, who begins and ends as a member of the middle class
  • Uncle Barthélemy, Frédérics ancestor
  • His mother is the daughter of Count de Fouvens, his father, a civil indebted landowner, died before he was born
  • Jacques Arnoux, businessman and speculator whose line of success fell in the course of the novel, art dealer, publisher, faience manufacturer, trade in religious objects, lover of rosanett and other courtesans, has to leave Paris after his bankruptcy and dies in Brittany
  • Marie (Angèle) Arnoux, his virtuous wife, mother of two children, Marthe and Eugène, on whom her caring focuses, platonic love with Frédéric, moves to live with her son in Rome at the end of the novel
  • Dittmer, Guest Arnoux '
  • Monsieur Dambreuse (Count d'Ambreuse), for strategic reasons, turned away from the nobility in 1825 and turned to industry, influential networked as a member of parliament, banker and stock market speculator, very adaptable dignitary, dies in the third part of the novel, does not inherit his fortune to his Wife but to his illegitimate daughter Cecile
  • Madame Dambreuse, his much younger, self-confident and elegant wife with her own fortune, has an affair with Frédéric, offers him marriage after the death of her husband, and after breaking up with Frédéric, marries an Englishman
  • Cécile, officially Dambreuse's niece, in fact his illegitimate daughter. She marries Martinon and inherits her father's fortune
  • Monsieur Roque, Louise's father, landowner and administrator and tax collector of Dambreuse, reactionary and proponent of harsh punishments for the revolutionaries
  • Eléonore, his wife
  • Louise (Elisabeth-Olympe-Louise) Roque, his red-haired daughter, natural country girl, passionately in love with Frédéric, marries Deslauriers, leaves him for a singer
  • Catherine, housekeeper at Roque
  • Rosanette (Rose-Annette) Bron, "The Marschallin", courtesan with many lovers, e. B. Oudry; Jacques Arnoux; Frederic, with whom she has a son who dies in infancy. At the end of the novel, Frederic learns that she is Oudry's widow and has an adopted son
  • Oudry, guest at Arnoux and Dambreuse, lover and later Rosanett's husband
  • Frederics college friends and acquaintances of the revolutionary political 48s and the artist scene
    • Delmas or Delmar, actor, singer, speaker at political meetings, lovers of Rosanett and C. Vatnaz '
    • Charles Deslauriers, Frédéric's close friend, envious, rival and somewhat parasitic relationship with the wealthier Frédéric, lawyer, called “The Advocate”, very ambitious, varied professional biography, but cannot achieve his high ambitions
    • Dussardier, simple and honest shop worker, friend of the Vatnaz, participates as a committed republican in the protests and revolts throughout the book, is killed by the policeman Sénécal in the revolt against the coup
    • Marquis de Cisy, neat nobleman, lawyer, lives at the end of the novel as the pious father of eight children in his castle
    • Marquis Aulnays, Cisys godfather; M. de Forchambeaux, his friend; Baron de Comaing, another friend; M. Vezou, his tutor
    • Hussonet, journalist, publisher, playwright, controller of the theater and the press during the Second Empire
    • Baptiste Martinon, lawyer, son of a wealthy farmer, becomes an ambitious careerist and protégé Damreuse's senator, marries his daughter and sole heir Cecile, at the end of the novel a senator
    • Pellerin, untalented painter v. a. Portraitist; becomes a photographer
    • Regimbart, “The Citizen”, revolutionary chauvinist, strolls through the cafes every day, lives off the income from his wife's tailoring
    • Sénécal, Deslaurier's bosom friend, engineer, math teacher and uncompromising dogmatic revolutionary becomes a policeman and kills the republican Dussardier in the coup d'état in 1851, is lost at the end of the novel
    • Clemence Vatnaz, actress, courtesan, frustrated feminist with literary ambitions, at times girlfriend of Rosanette, the actor Delmas and Dussardiers

Notes on understanding

Autobiographical references

In 1864 Flaubert wrote about his work: “I want to write about the moral history of the people of my generation, or more precisely about the history of their feelings. It's a book about love and passion; but a passion as it can exist today - namely an inactive one. ”The author presents his concerns by describing the encounters between different people over a period of several years. The protagonist Frédéric Moreau is a symbolic figure of the less tragic than sad path of the“ Quarante -huitards ”, that is, the generation of the 48th, who was put in a spirit of optimism by the February Revolution of 1848, but then politically disappointed by the further development, to which Flaubert also attributed himself. Not only the personality of the main character, but also his relationship with the art dealer Arnoux and his passion for his wife Marie have autobiographical references: her role models were apparently Élisa Foucault , the great love in the author's life, and her husband, the publisher Maurice Schlesinger .

The title

The title of the novel is to be understood ironically (which none of the various German translations suggest). Because unlike z. B. the youthful Julien in Stendhal's Le Rouge et le Noir or the young Rastignac in Honoré de Balzac's Le Père Goriot , each introduced to love by a mature married woman and thus actually growing up in her “feelings”, i.e. her sex life Men are made, Frédéric ultimately does not experience such an "education" from the adored, mature woman. Instead, he has an affair with a courtesan and at the same time with the wife of a banker. His feelings for these two women remain as indifferent as those for his enthusiastic, unfulfilled love. The new translation by Elisabeth Edl (2020) bears the title: Apprenticeship Years of Masculinity. Story of a youth . Flaubert's irony should be made clear here by the fact that the term “masculinity” initially arouses a certain expectation, which is then critically disassembled in the course of the novel: Here Flaubert's disillusioning irony shows what this “masculinity” actually is.


L'Éducation sentimentale has two precursors, published only posthumously: Memoires d'un fou (1838) and L'Éducation sentimentale (1845). The second version was revised from 1864 and appeared in 1869 under the same title.


L'Éducation sentimentale was mostly criticized negatively by Flaubert's contemporaries because of its disillusioning tendency. It was not until the 20th century that the work was recognized in terms of its importance as a forerunner of the modern novel


In the film Manhattan , Woody Allen's main character describes this novel, among other things. as one of the reasons why it is worth living. On the other hand, Jean-Paul Sartre noted in his war diary in 1939 that Flaubert's character in the novel was a “miserable thing, carved in marble”.


  • Walter Pabst (ed.): The modern French novel. Interpretations. E. Schmidt, Berlin 1968.
  • Pierre Bourdieu (1992): “Flaubert as Flaubert's analyst. A reading of the education of the heart “, in: The rules of art. Genesis and structure of the literary field , translated into German by Bernd Schwibs and Achim Russer. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main, 1999, ISBN 3-518-58264-X , pp. 19-79 ( prologue ).
  • Pierre Bourdieu: The rules of art. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2001.


  • A young man's novel . German by Alfred Gold and Alphonse Neumann; Bruno Cassirer , Berlin 1904.
  • The school of sensitivity . German by Luise Wolf ; JC C Bruns, Minden 1915 (also online with zero paper, 2012)
  • The school of sensitivity . German by Andrew Barbey; Georg Müller, Munich 1923 (also with Könemann, 1999)
  • The education of the heart . German by Emil Alfons Rheinhardt; List, Leipzig 1926 (also at Deutsche Buchgemeinschaft, 1932)
  • The school of sensitivity . German by Hans Kauders; Gutenberg, Zurich 1946 (as The Upbringing of Feelings also in Manesse, 1971)
  • Years of apprenticeship of feeling . German by Paul Wiegler ; Structure, Berlin 1951 (also with Rowohlt, 1959 and with Insel, 1977)
  • Years of learning of the heart . German by Walter Widmer ; Winkler, Munich 1957 (also with Deutscher Bücherbund, 1962 and with Goldmann, 1968)
  • The education of the feelings . German by Heidi Kirmße; Rütten & Loening, Berlin 1974.
  • The education of the heart . German by Emil Alfons Rheinhardt, revised by Ute Haffmans; Diogenes, Zurich 1980.
  • The education of the feelings. Story of a young man . German by Cornelia Hasting; Haffmans, Zurich 2000; revised edition 2001 (also in Piper, 2001 and in Fischer Taschenbuch, 2010)
  • Years of apprenticeship of feeling. Story of a young man . German by Maria Dessauer; Insel, Frankfurt am Main 2005.
  • Apprenticeship in masculinity. Story of a youth . Edited and translated by Elisabeth Edl ; Hanser, Munich 2020.

Web links

Commons : L'Éducation sentimentale  - collection of images

Individual evidence

  1. Georg Lukacs: The theory of the novel . Neuwied 1963.
  2. Marcel Proust: Speaking of you style de Flaubert . In: MP: Essais et articles . Ed. Th. Larget. Paris 1920.