“A Simple Heart” (“Un Coeur Simple”), by French writer Gustave Flaubert, is one of the stories in his Three Tales (Trois Contes), published in 1877. It received admiring reviews at the time and has continued to be second only to his novel Madame Bovary (1857) in recognition and acclaim.
Originally entitled “Le Perroquet” (“The Parrot”), “A Simple Heart” is the story of one woman’s apparently fruitless existence. The protagonist, a hardworking, good-hearted, poor and uneducated woman named Félicité, is said to have been modeled after a maid employed by Flaubert’s family during his childhood, a much beloved woman of tremendous character. The story is unusual among the author’s writings because it is about goodness. In this story of a simple housemaid’s life and death, the reader is invited to view a world of boundless, if not reciprocated, love and spirit. Félicité, a woman of simple mind and devoted heart, suffers tremendous loss but continues to her last breath to love unconditionally. Some critics have suggested that Félicité’s apparently meaningless life and misplaced worship of the parrot, Loulou—whom she adores and whom she imagines, in her dying moment, to be an incarnation of the Holy Ghost—reflect Flaubert’s melancholy and disillusionment with life and with organized religion, particularly the Roman Catholic Church. Most critics agree that this is a poignant account of a sweet, simple, and unrewarded life, one which may have been happy precisely because it was unexamined. It does not matter that Félicité may have misinterpreted or simply not interpreted many of the events in her life: she dies smiling, and thus lives up to her name to the last.
Edition enriched by photographic appendix- Download here
Flaubert Project is supervised by Coralie Besse, Marie Laffont and Francesca Mazzucato.
A version of “A simple heart” is being translated into Italian and English.