#44. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

By dancingintheraine

November 4, 2012

Category: Uncategorized

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<p>This book is #44 on the 2011 list and #65 on the 2012 list. </p>

<p><i>The Count of Monte Cristo</i> (French: <i>Le Comte de Monte-Cristo</i>) is an adventure novel by French author Alexandre Dumas (<i>père</i>). It is one of the author’s most popular works, along with The Three Musketeers. He completed the work in 1844. Like many of his novels, it is expanded from plot outlines suggested by his collaborating ghostwriter Auguste Maquet.

<p>The story takes place in France, Italy, islands in the Mediterranean, and in the Levant during the historical events of 1815–1838 (from just before the Hundred Days to the reign of Louis-Philippe of France). The historical setting is a fundamental element of the book. An adventure story primarily concerned with themes of hope, justice, vengeance, mercy and forgiveness, it focuses on a man who is wrongfully imprisoned, escapes from jail, acquires a fortune and sets about getting revenge on those responsible for his imprisonment. However, his plans have devastating consequences for the innocent as well as the guilty. </p>

<p><i>The Count of Monte Cristo</i> was originally published in serial form the <i>Journal des Débats</i> in eighteen parts. Publication ran from August 28, 1844 to January 15, 1846. It was first published in Paris by <i>Pétion</i> in 18 volumes (1844-5). Complete versions of the novel in the original French were published throughout the nineteenth century. </p>

<p>Carlos Javier Villafane Mercado described the effect in Europe: </p>

<p><i>”The effect of the serials, which held vast audiences enthralled … is unlike any experience of reading we are likely to have known ourselves, maybe something like that of a particularly gripping television series. Day after day, at breakfast or at work or on the street, people talked of little else.”</i></p>

<p>George Saintsbury stated: “<i>Monte Cristo” is said to have been at its first appearance, and for some time subsequently, the most popular book in Europe. Perhaps no novel within a given number of years had so many readers and penetrated into so many different countries.  This popularity has extended into modern times as well. The book was translated into virtually all modern languages and has never been out of print in most of them. There have been at least twenty-nine motion pictures based on it … as well as several television series, and many movies [have] worked the name ‘Monte Cristo’ into their titles. The title Monte Cristo lives on in a famous gold mine, a line of luxury Cuban cigars, a sandwich, and any number of bars and casinos—it even lurks in the name of the street-corner hustle three-card monte.”</i></p>

<p>Modern Russian philologist Vadim Nikolayev determined The Count of Monte-Cristo as a megapolyphonic novel. </p>

<p>The most common English translation was originally published in 1846 by Chapman and Hall. Most unabridged English editions of the novel, including the Modern Library and Oxford World’s Classics editions, use this translation, although Penguin Classics published a new translation by Robin Buss in 1996. Buss’ translation updated the language, is more accessible to modern readers, and reverted content that was modified in the 1846 translation because of Victorian English social restrictions (for example, references to Eugénie’s lesbian traits and behavior) to Dumas’ original version. Other English translations of the unabridged work exist, but are rarely seen in print and most borrow from the 1846 anonymous translation. Everyman’s Library published a revised English translation by Peter Washington in 2009, with an introduction by Umberto Eco. This edition claims to have streamlined the 1846 translation by removing some repetitions and redundancies in Dumas’ original text. </p>

<p>The success of <i>Monte Cristo</i> coincides with France’s Second Empire. In the book, Dumas tells of the 1815 return of Napoleon I, and alludes to contemporary events when the governor at the Château d’If is promoted to a position at the castle of Ham. The attitude of Dumas towards “bonapartisme” was conflicted. His father, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, a Haitian of mixed descent, became a successful general during the French Revolution. When new racial-discrimination laws were applied in 1802, the general was dismissed from the army and became profoundly bitter toward Napoleon. In 1840 the ashes of Napoleon I were brought to France and became an object of veneration in the church of Les Invalides, renewing popular patriotic support for the Bonaparte family. </p>

<p>In <i>Causeries</i> (1860), Dumas published a short paper, “<i>État civil du Comte de Monte-Cristo</i>”, on the genesis of the Count of Monte-Cristo. It appears that Dumas had close contacts with members of the Bonaparte family while living in Florence in 1841. In a small boat he sailed around the island of Monte-Cristo accompanied by a young prince, a cousin to Louis Bonaparte, who was to become emperor of France ten years later. During this trip he promised the prince that he would write a novel with the island’s name in the title. At that time the future emperor was imprisoned at the citadel of Ham – a name that is mentioned in the novel. Dumas did visit him there, although he does not mention it in “<i>Etat civil</i>”. In 1840 Louis Napoleon was sentenced to life in prison, but escaped in disguise in 1846, while Dumas’s novel was a great success. Just in the manner of Dantès, Louis Napoleon reappeared in Paris as a powerful and enigmatic man of the world. In 1848, however, Dumas did not vote for Louis Napoleon. The novel may have contributed, against the will of the writer, to the victory of the future Napoleon III. </p>

<p>Alexandre Dumas wrote a set of three plays that collectively told the story of <i>The Count of Monte Cristo: Monte Cristo</i> (1848), <i>Le Comte de Morcerf</i> (1851), and <i>Villefort</i> (1851). The book itself went on to inspire the plot for a wide array of novels, from Lew Wallace’s <i>Ben-Hur</i> (1880), a Science Fiction retelling in Alfred Bester’s <i>The Stars My Destination</i>, to Stephen Fry’s contemporary <i>The Stars’ Tennis Balls</i>.</p>

<p>The book is considered a literary classic today. According to Luc Sante, “<i>The Count of Monte Cristo</i> has become a fixture of Western civilization’s literature, as inescapable and immediately identifiable as Mickey Mouse, Noah’s flood, and the story of Little Red Riding Hood.” </p>

<p>I absolutely loved this book, despite the details literally crammed in the 1462 pages.  The story flowed as if it was unraveling before my very own eyes.  The read was easy, and the plethora of details was not overwhelming to the storyline.  Having seen the 2002 movie version, I quickly became disenchanted with the movie as the story took different twists, tinted by different facts and knowledge.  I am convinced that a miniseries plotted as close to the facts of the book will be successful.  Definitely a read I recommend to anyone who likes a tale. After I finished the last page, I’m left holding a book, and saying good bye to a character that has occupied my mind for 1,462 pages, but satisfied as the laces of the bow were tightened neatly.</p>

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