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In order to sharpen her understanding of how narrative distance from character could be achieved in fiction, Elizabeth Bowen turned to French novelists, especially Gustave Flaubert, Henri de Montherlant, Guy de Maupassant, and Marcel Proust. She found in French novels examples of narratorial cruelty towards characters. She also adopted the Proustian idea that literature is always a translation of sorts, whether from one language to another or from reality to representation. As previously unexamined archival material proves, Bowen turned her hand to translating passages from Flaubert's L'Éducation sentimentale and Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu in the early 1930s. She also made an attempt to index Flaubert's correspondence. Throughout her career, Bowen commented frequently on French fiction. She reviewed Henri de Montherlant's Pitié pour les femmes and Les jeunes filles when those volumes appeared in an English translation in 1937. She wrote prefaces to Flaubert's major works. In part, she admired the way that national differences were inscribed in French and English fiction. But she principally looked to French fiction for examples of the grandiosity – or littleness – of character within historical frameworks.