The great French novelist Gustave Flaubert’s Sentimental Education, published in 1869 is consider to be a romantic novel. In reality, it includes vivid descriptions of France’s social classes, political institutions and practices that lead to the famous 1848 social revolution and the failure of the Second Republic in his country. That event was followed by major upheavals in Europe, particularly in the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Italy, and the Austrian Empire.
Professor Edward T. Gargan of the University of Wisconsin in an essay published in the Encyclopedia of 1848 Revolutions note that Flaubert took exhaustive care to document and looked for testimonies to authenticate the novel.
Of particular interest, in today’s context of most discussed and for many admired “Spring” and other street revolutions or movements are the descriptions of the behavior of their leaders and activists once in power. Flaubert’s main character attending an assembly “..was astonished at their abominable style of talking, their pettiness, their spite, their dishonesty—all these people, after voting for the Constitution, now striving to destroy it; and they got into a state of great agitation, and launched forth manifestoes, pamphlets, and biographies.”
Herman Hesse in his famous novel The Glass Bead Game published in 1943 also touches this particular dark side of the human condition and its relation to power. In a conversation, the main character tell a friend to “consisted of an unbroken succession of rulers, leaders, bosses, and commanders who with extremely rare exceptions had all begun well and ended badly. All of them, at least so they said, had striven for power for the sake of the good; afterward they had become obsessed and numbed by power and loved it for its own sake.”
Excerpt From Flaubert, Gustave. “Sentimental Education.” Barnes&Noble, 2009-06-01. iBooks. Check out this book on the iBooks Store Link: Flaubert, Gustave. “Sentimental Education.”
Excerpt From Hermann Hesse. “The Glass Bead Game.” Henry Holt and Company. iBooks. Check out this book on the iBooks Store. Link: Hermann Hesse. “The Glass Bead Game.”