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Gustave Flaubert was born in Rouen, Normandy in 1821, son of a prominent surgeon. He is best known for Madame Bovary, which he published in 1857, and which established him (greatly against his will) as the leader of the "realist" school.

Flaubert composed "Un coeur simple" in 1877 and published it in his Trois Contes, which is the last work he completed before his death in 1880. "Un coeur simple" was widely acclaimed and has been the most popular of the three stories. Indeed Oscar Wilde is said to have described the story as being "everything that it is possible to know about style."