Flaubert's studies for the "Temptation" were tremendous. For nearly thirty years he touched and retouched, altered, enlarged, condensed. He kneaded into its substance the knowledge, incessantly sought, of all religions and philosophies; of all the forms man's speculations had taken in his endless endeavours to explain to himself Life and Fate; humanity's untiring, passionate effort to find the meaning of its mysterious origin and purpose, and final destiny. How terrible, how naive, how fantastic, bloody, grovelling, and outrageous were most of the solutions accepted, the gigantic panorama of the book startlingly sets forth. What gory agonies, what mystic exaltations, what dark cruelties, frenzied abandons, and inhuman self denials have marked those puzzled gropings for light and truth are revealed as by lightning flashes in the crowding scenes of the epic. For the Temptation of St. Anthony is an epic. Not a drama of man's actions, as all previous epics have been, but a drama of the soul. All its movement is in the adventure and conflict of the spirit. St. Anthony remains always in the one place, almost as moveless as a mirror.
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