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Re: I need this book. DomA Send a noteboard - 11/05/2011 02:23:35 PM
Oh dear. I bought it.

:) That was fast.

This sounds like Eco.

It's completely Eco-like. It's a little similar to "Foucault" in a way (just not as much as I would have liked, or perhaps not in the ways I expected the books would be alike). There he sought to expose the mechanisms of "esoterism" and did so by brilliantly trapping the readers using its methods, catching them in a non existing conspiracy that fed on itself. It made for an amazing intellectual puzzle that was pure fun to get immersed into (no to mention how many other books Foucault's Pendulum made me read. It must be close to a hundred, and no other novel ever came close to that). In this novel, he sought to deconstruct the mechanisms of hatred (with massive foreshadowing of the XXth century events - there's a lot of "one day, someone will have the guts to apply the final solution of that (insert some racial slur against germans) monk Luther" and to the XXIth.

It's very clever again, but it's not as fun as the "Foucault", perhaps because the subject matter is so unpleasant and the sheer absurdity of the protagonists' hatred is depressing. Eco has a strong point, though, when he points out in the days of political correctness when these aspects of the difficult and very chaotic birth of democracies, the excesses of nationalism etc. are less and less well-known, it's good from time to time to go take a look at the cultural sewers and be exposed to the raw material again, if only to realize the west, especially but far from exclusively the US, are developping much the same cultural reflexes against the muslims this time.

I'm still analyzing my own thoughts and reactions to the book, that's why I haven't finished the review.

I am talking about sheer weight in my hand.

Too much for nothing in French, they used a very large font for some unknown reason.

Aramis, while brilliant is never quite as loveable as Athos.

That's for sure. It's Aramis's ambiguity that I find attractive, I think (I love brilliant and a bit shaddy characters). Athos is touching and loveable. Porthos is hilarious, in a tradition that survives even today, for eg in some characters from Kaamelott. I like d'Artagnan, but at times he's like the prototype of the French man and has quite a few of the aspects of the French that makes me want to slap them.

Le Fils des Mousquetaires (I think that was the title) where Aramis is EVIL. Well, to an extent, anyway. I read it when I was very young and impressionable.

Have you seen La fille de d'Artagnan with Sophie Marceau? It's a pretty funny movie (better, in fact, than all adaptations of the novels so far. It's a bit of a mystery how the books have never been captured well on film even though they're perfect for that... It puzzles a lot some Dumas scholars (one wrote an essay on that).

I wouldn't put Scott so much as Dickens or Thackeray as his contemporary, but yes.

It discusses Scott's influence on the young Dumas, and how this influence increased during his career as a novelist, but it doesn't discuss Dumas' foreign contemporaries like Dickens (he's never even mentionned), Bertoli etc.

I was a bit more surprised that Eco did the same (but I had some expectations about how roman-feuilleton would play a larger role in Prague's Cemetary. It's mostly limited to Dumas's Balsamo and its masonic plot, and Eugène Sue's Les Mystères de Paris - and in a whole other way to Monte Cristo (the first two are discussed a lot, there are many nods in the plot and literary devices to the third - but to Balsamo again as well).

Did I tell you about the open letter I found from Thackeray to Dumas, asking the latter to finish Ivanhoe. It makes sense in the context of Bertiere's observations on the "unreal" attitude to history. It does recall Scott's treatment of it.

You did. IRRC, it's a bit in this context she brings up Scott.

Thank heavens for Maquet. I have always enjoyed the history bits. The Norwegian translation of Bragelonne cut out almost all of it. I am still shocked and appalled.

It's not the only one, far from it. At one point I amused myself by looking at some English editions of Dumas. It's appalling how unfaithful they are, at least the old ones (but has Dumas been re translated of late, at least his classics? Some of the books that had not seen an English edition yes, but the better known ones?). It's not altogether surprising, though. First, the translators had to work really fast as the public was anxious to get the books - so everything they had to research to be able to translate they seemed to have cut (a truculent description of a multi course meal turns into "an abundant meal", and so a lot of other typically French stuff), and then they seemed to have cut everything they felt interested only the French (like many historical details) or would necessitate explanations/notes). Of course Dumas's jokes about the appalling English cuisine got the cut, at least in early editions.

In the 19th century editions (at least, again), they also seemed to have cared not one bit for the prose as such. They did nothing to reflect the fact it was French, "adapting" it to English tastes rather than translating it, so where Dumas would use three or four adjective to be very precise, they'd use one and no matter it was more vague or ambiguous when the original text was not. That was hardly an English prerogative, the French were even worse and tended to embellish English by inventing missing words and stylistic effects (Jane Austen's early translations were a case in point. I've heard Dickens' as well, but never read anything by him in French).

I have very strong feelings about he Raoul-Louise thing. I have actually never been able to forgive the real Louise. Whenever her name shows up in books I find myself getting angry. I cannot imagine the books without that. It is like when people call The Two Towers "filling". I don't get it. The Norwegian translation, while it kept the skin and bones of Raoul and Louise and ... oh dear, I cannot remember his name: Raoul's friend -- all the court intrigues have been cut. While it worked well for me when I was a kid, I am growing steadily angrier about it as I grow older and read the original. That is another of my projects: a proper Norwegian translation of the whole book.

Well, you could have less interesting projects than that!

My opinion of the Raoul-Louise parts (and IRRC it's a bit the one Bertière defends, but I forget) it's that it's very much a matter of tastes. In a way, it's undeniable that if you see the story as the third act of the Musketeers, the story of Raoul is really a massive disgression if it's main purpose is to set up one last tragedy for Athos. One might also argue Raoul as a kind of surrogate son to the musketeers is a bit disappointing.

OTOH, the readers of Dumas who also love his more complex, more historical novels like Balsamo, the Queen's necklace etc. find much to enjoy in Bragelonne.

As I read it much later (mid 30s) than the other two (at around 14 y.o.) I guess I can see why Bertière wasn't as interested in the Raoul-Louise parts. She knows the source material really well, and as she points out, some of it was virtually lifted from Mémoires by Maquet. I can see why it would feel a little bland to someone like her. It's nowhere as fictionalized as the material was in the first two books and it doesn't keep the historical figures to the background (like Anne and Buckingham), or transform them fully into literary characters (like Richelieu, for instance) - but historically speaking this vision of the early years of Louis XIV's rule is terribly outdated.

I recently taught English Restoration literature, and I cannot tell you the fun I had reading up on the period and getting flashbacks to the novel. Monk, especially. Do you remember if Pepys shows up? I really need to reread it.

Pepys... hmmm... I vaguely remember he does make an appearance (something about shopping for a chicken?) but I might be mixing up novels!

That does sound good. I haven't read anything by him. Perhaps it is time I did.

The Louis XIV would be my favourite. It offers a very great deal of context and perspective. The Louis XVI is nearly as good, though (and again, a lot of context - it is also an history of the early years, and the roots, of the Revolution).
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