The Art of Travel

A deeply influential 19th-century French realist novelist, best known for Madame Bovary. From a young age, Flaubert was frustrated with the social codes of the French aristocracy and dreamed about leaving his home city of Rouen for “the Orient” (which, at the time, referred to what is now called the Middle East). When his father died and left him an inheritance, Flaubert traveled with his friend Maxime Du Camp to Egypt, where he quickly immersed himself in local customs, started learning Arabic, and became completely enamored with the chaotic way of life that he saw as irreconcilable with (and much better suited to himself than) the rigidity of Europe. Although he was ultimately disappointed in some ways with his trip (he remained depressed at times and found Egypt’s temples mind-numbingly repetitive), Flaubert never forgot his trip to Egypt and began to consider himself a citizen of the world, as it were. For de Botton, Flaubert’s journey to Egypt demonstrates the often-deceptive allure of the exotic as much as its power to revolutionize travelers’ lives by revealing possibilities they could never have imagined at home.

Gustave Flaubert Quotes in The Art of Travel

The The Art of Travel quotes below are all either spoken by Gustave Flaubert or refer to Gustave Flaubert. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Familiar and the Foreign Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Art of Travel published in 2002.
Chapter 3 Quotes

What we find exotic abroad may be what we hunger for in vain at home.

Related Characters: Alain de Botton (speaker), Gustave Flaubert
Page Number: 77
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Yet none of this meant that Flaubert’s original attraction to Egypt had been misconceived. He simply replaced an absurdly idealized image with a more realistic but nevertheless still profoundly admiring one, he exchanged a youthful crush for a knowledgeable love.

Related Characters: Alain de Botton (speaker), Gustave Flaubert
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:
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We are all of us, without ever having any say in the matter, scattered at birth by the wind onto various countries, but like Flaubert, we are in adulthood granted the freedom imaginatively to re-create our identity in line with our true allegiances.

Related Characters: Alain de Botton (speaker), Gustave Flaubert
Page Number: 98
Explanation and Analysis:
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Gustave Flaubert Character Timeline in The Art of Travel

The timeline below shows where the character Gustave Flaubert appears in The Art of Travel. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3: On the Exotic
The Familiar and the Foreign Theme Icon
Expectations vs. Reality Theme Icon
Art, Travel, and the Search for Happiness Theme Icon
As a young boy, the French novelist Gustave Flaubert was one such European captivated by the idea of the Orient. He hated his “sterile,... (full context)
The Familiar and the Foreign Theme Icon
Expectations vs. Reality Theme Icon
The Receptive Self Theme Icon
Flaubert’s father died when he was 24, leaving him a great sum of money. Flaubert quickly... (full context)
The Familiar and the Foreign Theme Icon
Art, Travel, and the Search for Happiness Theme Icon
Just as de Botton’s own attraction to Amsterdam relates to his dissatisfaction with London, Flaubert’s hatred for the French bourgeoisie was what drove him to obsess over the “Orient.” He... (full context)
Art, Travel, and the Search for Happiness Theme Icon
The Receptive Self Theme Icon
First, Flaubert loved the “chaos, both visual and auditory, of Egyptian life.” He wrote of its soundscape,... (full context)
The Familiar and the Foreign Theme Icon
The Receptive Self Theme Icon
In one of Cairo’s cafes, Flaubert wrote about “a donkey shitting and a gentleman pissing in a corner,” which no one... (full context)
The Familiar and the Foreign Theme Icon
Art, Travel, and the Search for Happiness Theme Icon
Thirdly, Flaubert loved camels above all else, writing that “nothing has a more singular grace than this... (full context)
The Familiar and the Foreign Theme Icon
Art, Travel, and the Search for Happiness Theme Icon
...need to understand everything he can about her life. Similarly, on a boat in France, Flaubert spotted a beautiful woman and wrote of his obsessive curiosity about strangers, whose lives (and... (full context)
The Familiar and the Foreign Theme Icon
...attempt to capture that culture’s values. In a town on the banks of the Nile, Flaubert visited a famous courtesan (she was not merely a prostitute, de Botton assures the reader,... (full context)
The Familiar and the Foreign Theme Icon
De Botton wonders whether Flaubert’s interest in Egypt was merely an ideal fantasy he projected onto it. However, he did... (full context)
Expectations vs. Reality Theme Icon
That said, Flaubert was also ultimately disappointed by Egypt in many ways. As his traveling companion Maxime Du... (full context)
The Familiar and the Foreign Theme Icon
Expectations vs. Reality Theme Icon
The Receptive Self Theme Icon
Yet de Botton insists that Flaubert “exchanged a youthful crush” on Egypt “for a knowledgeable love” of it. Although it did... (full context)
The Familiar and the Foreign Theme Icon
Art, Travel, and the Search for Happiness Theme Icon
Leaving Egypt devastated Flaubert, who thought about his trip constantly until the end of his life, and even spoke... (full context)
The Familiar and the Foreign Theme Icon
Art, Travel, and the Search for Happiness Theme Icon
In fact, Flaubert contended that nationality should follow this attraction rather than the contingencies of one’s birth—at times,... (full context)
Chapter 8: On Possessing Beauty
The Familiar and the Foreign Theme Icon
Expectations vs. Reality Theme Icon
Art, Travel, and the Search for Happiness Theme Icon
...place of beauty” by, say, carving a name into it, like the Englishman whose name Flaubert found carved into a pillar in Alexandria; a third is to buy souvenirs. (full context)