Sunday, 15 November 2015

"The Count of Monte Cristo" revisited

  Everyone knows the story of "The Count of Monte Cristo"- perhaps because of the movie.  It is an adventure story beginning with Edmond Dantes, who is sent to prison for relaying a message from Napoleon, living in exile, to his followers in Paris.   
   The three men who conspired to have Dantes imprisoned are then Dantes' targets for revenge.
  At one point, Dantes said, "In return for a slow profound, eternal torture, I would give back the same, were it possible; an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."  He was not interested in a quick duel or guillotine.  So his revenge is well- thought out.
  But it is a long, long tale that winds its way along through 1,272 pages.
  My favourite part was the years of imprisonment, where he met a priest who was tunnelling his way to freedom.  The relationship between these two men was fascinating and Dantes' escape was exciting.  However, it was because of the priest's death that he was able to accomplish the complex feats of revenge.

The middle part of the book is filled with the story of two young men "belonging to the first society of Paris."  
The Carnival at Rome is quite spectacular, since it begins with beheadings.  And then:
"From every street and every corner drove carriages filled with clowns, harlequins, dominoes, mummers, pantomimists, Transteverins, knights and peasants, screaming, fighting, gesticulating, throwing eggs filled with flour, confetti, nosegays, attacking, with their sarcasms and their missiles, friends and foes, companions and strangers, indiscriminately, and no one took offence, or did anything but laugh". (Chapter 36)

The shortened version of the story gave me the basic structure of the story, but the actual novel is delicious in showing the long,  well-planned out retribution for each of the four characters who had a part in Dantes imprisonment.
The skill of the plot is really brilliant and I got very enmeshed and addicted to the action.

The climax is stunning when The Count of Monte Cristo is in a box at the opera and is confronted by the son of one of his 'targets for revenge'.  He is challenged to a duel, accepts, and then continues watching the opera- by William Tell!
  I immediately went to my computer and listened to the "William Tell Overture".  Listen to it here.

Alexandre Dumas lived from 1802-1870.
His books have been translated into 100 languages and have been adapted into 200 films.
This novel was written in serial form.
I have read that, although Dumas was married, in the tradition of higher social class, he had numerous affairs (about 40), resulting in a number of children.  One son, named after his father, also became a successful writer.
This is how Dumas has been described: "the most generous, large-hearted being in the world. He also was the most delightfully amusing and egotistical creature on the face of the earth. His tongue was like a windmill – once set in motion, you never knew when he would stop, especially if the theme was himself."

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