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Old 11-20-2013, 08:29 AM   #1
WT Sharpe
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November 2013 Discussion: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (spoilers)

The time has come to discuss the November 2013 MobileRead Book Club selection, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. What did you think?

Last edited by WT Sharpe; 11-20-2013 at 09:49 AM.
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Old 11-20-2013, 08:47 AM   #2
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I'm still plodding through it, not quite halfway yet. It hasn't captured me enough to do more than read for half an hour before I fall asleep!
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Old 11-20-2013, 01:51 PM   #3
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With this book I realized that translation is everything. As a youngster I tried and failed to complete The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo and have avoided Dumas ever since. But I bought the Robin Buss translation for this reading and found it to be an enjoyable page turner. I will never read another translated classic without searching out (and paying for) the translation generally regarded today as superior.
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Old 11-21-2013, 06:41 AM   #4
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I read the the (old) translation from MR and thought it was fine. I was worried that an "old" and translated book might be a drag, but it moved right along.
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Old 11-22-2013, 04:08 PM   #5
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BelleZora is absolutely right. In this case translation makes all the difference.I was able to appreciate my favourite sections even more in the modern version. I doubt that I'll ever bother with the old translation again.
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Old 12-06-2013, 05:49 AM   #6
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Finished at last! What to say? Well, I enjoyed it but it certainly wasn't a page turner for me! Now onto Amos Oz, I'm sooooo behind!
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Old 12-08-2013, 04:23 PM   #7
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Whew, that was a book! Comparing its page count, it's the longest book I've read since I starting keeping count a few years ago. It was hundreds of pages longer than each of Anna Karenina, Middlemarch, the Iliad and the Odyssey combined, each of the first two Kingkiller Chronicle books, each of the first three Game of Thrones books, and twice as long as Buddenbrooks. I knew it was going to be long, but...whew. I did read the Robin Buss "complete" translation.

I thought it was good. Not great, but good. I was most surprised that it wasn't nearly as much of an adventure story as I thought it would be. Well, the beginning few hundred pages were, then...everyone just settles down in Paris for some soap opera cold revenge for most of the remainder of the book. The second part was more Les Liaisons dangereuses melodrama with a superhero-type figure inserted in to mete out the punishment. Speaking of superheroes, the Count reminded me of Batman, complete with his own batcave.

One other film I have to mention is Kill Bill. It must've been at least partly inspired by Monte Cristo, no? The protagonist betrayed and their life almost taken away, then becoming a superhero-type who systematically goes after each of the ones who wronged them.

The morals of the Monte Cristo are questionable. Though a big point is made of the Count going too far and affecting individuals that don't deserve his revenge, I still felt like the author let him off the hook much too easily. Oh yes, he let the Mme Villefort poison three completely innocent people (which by the way the author doesn't chastise the count for) and, oh yes, she also takes her own son's life with hers and that's when he realises he went too far, but it's OK, according to the rationale of the story, because he saved Valentine (even though, of course, he could've "saved" her and many others much sooner with what he knew). And let's not even get into the fact that he decided to "test" the young Morrel by letting him be suicidal for a month before revealing that Valentine wasn't actually dead. Or that the count could have saved his slave Ali from having his tongue cut out, but waited until after the deed was done because, paraphrasing, "he always wanted a dumb slave". What is especially egregious about Ali is that Dumas was a quarter black and his half-black father was born into slavery! Yet he still allowed the black (possibly Arabian but they refer to him as dark-skinned and Nubian) character to be extremely servile, dumb and happy with his enslavement.

Also, though it's more endemic of the times, the general acceptance as fact that Mercedes was wrong to not spend her entire life in mourning for her assumed dead fiance rather than to try and find love and marry again. I do think it's interesting to compare this storyline to the film "Castaway", which now I think must've been something like a Monte Cristo/Robinson Crusoe mash-up. After all, Castaway includes the messiness that goes along with someone assumed dead for years showing up alive and their lover not having waited for them. I remember watching Castaway, thinking perhaps the story tilted too far in favour of the woman; I just wasn't sure if she'd so easily abandon her former lover as she did once he returned. But now I almost see it as a screenwriter reacting to the Mercedes storyline in Monte Cristo.

And, of course, I can't end without mentioning dear Eugenie. What a character! Though Dumas was rather condescending to her all-but-spelled-out homosexuality, she's still a rather extraordinary character for 19th century literature, and I think Dumas had sympathy towards her because he let her get what she wanted by the end (and she was one of the very few characters to do so). I am positive that her character traits must've been what all the non-Buss translations have excised because of the "English attitudes" at the time. But I can't imagine how her character would make any sense without that context. In fact, everything in the book is so inter-related that I can't see how an abridged version works at all. Before reading the book, I read another version's review where the reviewer mentioned characters just popping up out of nowhere and all the sudden being there when they weren't before. It just sounds very confusing to me and I would recommend that anyone who wants to read this in English should get the Penguin Buss translation being the only one available to get the complete story and context.

Finally, I'd like to mention that the Italian costume ball scene in Monte Cristo having to do with the side story relating to Luigi Vampa, gave me a sense of deja vu with the story gothic vampire "Carmilla" that we read some time ago in the club, in particular the scene in Carmilla where they also go to a costume ball. I don't remember the details of the ball in Carmilla and I haven't gone back to check, but nonetheless as I read the scene in Monte Cristo it just seemed like it was eerily similar. Looking at publication dates, it looks like Monte Cristo was earlier by 30 years, so I wonder if Le Fanu (the author of Carmilla) was influenced by it? It's especially striking since Monte Cristo also includes talks of vampires (people often compare the Count to a vampire) and lesbianism (Eugenie and Louise).

Anyway, all in all, The Count of Monte Cristo is a good story, worthy of at least one read being such a classic and because it does have some really good parts and it gives a somewhat sensationalist but also rather satiric view of French history and society at the time.
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Old 01-29-2014, 04:37 PM   #8
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How many pages do the different translations have? Feedbooks has a copy with 1187 pages. Is that the new or the old translation?
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