‘Saint Julian The Hospitaller’ by Gustave Flaubert

Saint Julian The Hospitaller by Gustave Flaubert, 1877

The magic trick:

Using the ancient storytelling method of establishing visions of the future early on and then holding the reader in suspense waiting to see if and how the predictions will come true

Like many great old stories (and when I say “old” here I mean old as in ancient), “St. Julian” is driven by predictions, visions of the future, oracles, and the like.

It’s a (literally) classic way to tell a story, because it instantly creates suspense. Will the predictions come true? Or in the case of “St. Julian,” how will the predictions come true?

And that’s quite a trick on Flaubert’s part.

The selection:

But presently the huge animal halted, and, with eyes aflame and the solemn air of a patriarch and a judge, repeated thrice, while a bell tolled in the distance: “Accursed! Accursed! Accursed! some day, ferocious soul, thou wilt murder thy father and thy mother!”

Then he sank on his knees, gently closed his lids and expired.

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