domingo, 31 de marzo de 2019

The Three Musketeers

The Three Musketeers [Trois mousquetaires] (Oxford World's Classics, 2009)
by Alexandre Dumas [translated from the French by William Barrow]
France, 1844

Whatever his defects as a writer's writer, the feuilleton kingpin Alexandre Dumas' "vitality & exuberance," as bigtime Dumas fan Himadri of The Argumentative Old Git has put it, certainly won me over during the course of the 600+ pages of The Three Musketeers which I read at last with great enjoyment earlier in the month.  For somebody who'd been worried that such an old-fashioned combination of historical fiction bromance + high testosterone swashbuckling might not = enough to satisfy my jaded entertainment needs at such an extended length, I'm pleased to report that I was almost constantly amused by the novel's good natured humor (d'Artagnan to his attendant: "Well done, Planchet!  You are the very king of valets"), the arch dialogue among the various musketeers ("'Faith,' said Aramis, 'I confess that I am reluctant to fire upon these poor devils of citizens.'  'He is a bad priest,' said Porthos, 'who pities heretics.'"), the Count Fosco-like villainy of its smiling villains ("'My compliments to the cardinal.'  'My compliments to Satan!'") and, hell, even the clumsy segueways ("We will now leave the two friends, who had nothing very important to say to one another, and follow Aramis") and the weird hand porn ("It was one of those perfumed gloves which the lover likes to pull from a pretty hand") (303, 427, 565, 331 & 225). Dumas, who would seem to have nothing in common with a modern day descendant like Mathias Enard other than an infatuation with storytelling, also pulls off a scene in which a terrified character's hair stands on end in the face of death, and on a biographical note was apparently quite a likable personality himself filling "his leisure hours," as David Coward's intro inform us, "with writing and love-affairs" (ix).  Thumbs-up.

Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870)

4 comentarios:

  1. The standard French idea of bromance entertainment starts pretty jaded. You're probably safe (I mean unsafe) wherever you look. It's the 19th century French who did not like stories about detectives nearly as much as they liked stories about thieves.

    I do remember, as a tender youth, being a little shocked by the amorality and anti-heroism of the Musketeers.

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    1. Ha, touché about the jaded/bromance thing as measured by the French fondness for thieves vs. detectives. And that carries on into the 20th century with the Fantômas books and Louis Feuillade films. Your point about the amorality of the musketeers is one that hadn't really crossed my mind. I guess they are less "wholesome" than they might have been in others' hands. In any event, I re-started Sue's The Mysteries of Paris last night. I'll have to keep many of these 19th century points in mind!

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  2. After all the adventures and high jinks, I particularly like the very sombre mood of the closing section.

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    1. I found that very interesting too, all the more so after what happened to d'Artagnan's love interest. Too much reality! I was surprised, I have to confess, to discover Dumas to be more of a "complete" novelist in terms of his range than I had expected and not just a writer of popular adventure tales. That was a pleasant surprise for me.

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