Books: Before Bovary

FLAUBERT IN EGYPT

by FRANCIS STEEGMULLER

232 pages. Atlantic-Little, Brown. $8.50.

Gustave Flaubert, the master of style, the father of realism, used to tweak his mighty mustaches and quiver his 19th century, man-of-letters jowls while he told interviewers, "Madame Bovary, c'est moi." Indeed she was, and this book documents it.

He made merciless fun of poor Emma Bovary, that silly little goose of a Norman schoolgirl, who dreamed in the convent of a mysterious East full of "sultans with long pipes, swooning under arbors in the arms of dancing girls . . . tigers . . . Tartar minarets on the horizon ... kneeling...

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