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Brian Nelson

Brian Nelson

Brian Nelson is Emeritus Professor of French at Monash University and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. His publications include The Cambridge Introduction to French Literature and Zola: A Very Short Introduction. He has translated numerous novels by Emile Zola for Oxford World’s Classics. He is currently engaged as general editor (with Adam Watt) and contributing translator on a new edition of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time for Oxford University Publishing.

Brian Nelson reviews 'Charles Baudelaire' by Rosemary Lloyd

September 2008, no. 304 01 September 2008
Charles Baudelaire (1821–67) occupies a pivotal position in the development of modern writing, not just as the poet of Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil, 1857) but as the proponent, in his critical writings, of a modern aesthetic based on the experience of city life. More than any other French poet of his time, he marks the transition from the Romantic to a proto-modernist poetic style and ... (read more)

Brian Nelson reviews 'The Family Idiot: Gustave Flaubert, 1821–1857, an abridged edition' by Jean-Paul Sartre, translated by Carol Cosman, edited by Joseph S. Catalano,

May 2023, no. 453 26 April 2023
The Family Idiot (originally published in French in three volumes in 1971–72) is a study of Gustave Flaubert (1821–80). It was published in a fine translation by Carol Cosman, in five volumes, between 1981 and 1994. The Sartre scholar Joseph S. Catalano has produced a skilful, beautifully edited abridgment of this gargantuan opus. Jean-Paul Sartre had a lifelong obsession with Flaubert. The r ... (read more)

'Émile Zola' by Brian Nelson

August 2005, no. 273 01 August 2005
Unlike Flaubert, the ‘hermit of Croisset’, who turned away from his age in an attitude of ironic detachment, Émile Zola (1840–1902) embraced his century in a way no French writer had done since Balzac. Zola’s ambition was to emulate Balzac by writing a comprehensive history of contemporary society. Through the fortunes of his Rougon-Macquart family, he examined methodically the social, se ... (read more)

Brian Nelson reviews 'Selected Poems from Les Fleurs du mal' by Charles Baudelaire, translated by Jan Owen

January-February 2016, no. 378 21 December 2015
The Flowers of Evil (Les Fleurs du mal, 1857) is the most celebrated and most influential collection of verse in the history of modern French poetry. Its author, Charles Baudelaire (1821–67), is seen as the embodiment of a sensibility we regard as 'modern'. T.S. Eliot called him 'the greatest exemplar of modern poetry in any language'. Baudelaire's modernism is based on the experience of city l ... (read more)

'The divine stenographer: Victor Hugo and the glory of narrative' by Brian Nelson

July–August 2011, no. 333 29 June 2011
For many of his contemporaries, Victor Hugo (1802–85) was the most important literary figure of the nineteenth century. He was considered the greatest French poet; he became the leader of the Romantic movement with the staging of his anti-classical play Hernani (1830); and he wrote monumental, hugely popular novels. He was also an iconic political figure. He played an active part in the 1848 Rev ... (read more)