It Begins! The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

Last week I posted a “review” of Middlemarch by George Eliot. I don’t really call it a real review per se because it was more about my experience reading it as a read-a-long with Lydia from The Literary Lollipop and my Shelfari friend, Ellie. After four months of reading Middlemarch, we finally finished and Lydia is now hosting a read-a-long of The Count of Monte Cristo for get this…the next 5+ months! Is this daunting? No! It’s only five chapters a week and the last one was so much fun that I can’t wait to start this one.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usLydia will be using the Modern Library edition of The Count of Monte Cristo which was translated by Chapman and Hill in 1846. This is the unabridged version that is most widely available and includes the Oxford Classics publication.

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I will be using the Penguin Classics edition of the book that was translated by Robin Buss in 1996 and updated in 2003. It includes some portions that were removed in the Chapman and Hill version and includes updated language. I chose this version because searching around the internet looking for which version was the most complete translation, the Robin Buss translation seemed to be the most complete. So, if you are looking to read this, you might want to pick up both copies and determine which is most important to you—the updated language and less omissions or the preservation of the Victorian language and the original translation.

To get us in the mood to read, here are a few tidbits about the book and Alexandre Dumas:

The Man:
  • Dumas was a popular writer and wrote for money (he was paid by the line…hence the LONG 1200+ page The Count of Monte Cristo) so he was dubbed, “Alexandre Dumas and Co.”
  • His work was frowned upon by those in serious literary and art circles because he wrote for pay.
  • George Eliot thought that ‘the French’ [writers] looked for melodramatic situations and characters rather than dealing with everyday life which she felt revealed human nature (taken from A Note on the Text in the Penguin Classics translation). –After just finishing Middlemarch and reading this in the notes, I feel this is an especially satisfying way to spend the next read-a-long! hehehe
  • The lack of respect for Dumas in literary circles has most likely contributed to the book not being retranslated very often.

The Book:
  • The Count of Monte Cristo is a precursor to other detective novels—the man who finds the truth and uses it to prosecute the wrongdoer.
  • Edgar Allan Poe and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle have some of the same elements in their work that is contained in The Count of Monte Cristo
  • The story of Edmund Dantès is inspired by the true story of a man named François Picaud who was denounced by his friends as an English spy shortly after he became engaged to a woman named Margeurite.
    • The plot was concocted by a cafe owner named Mathieu Loupian who was jealous of Picaud’s relationship with Margeurite.
    • Picaud was a servant to a rich Italian cleric while in prison and became very close to him. The cleric died and left his money to Picaud and also told him where to find a hidden treasure.
    • Picaud was eventually released from prison and found the treasure and began to investigate who betrayed him so he could exact his revenge.
See?! The truth IS stranger than fiction! Does this make you want to read the book any more than if you hadn’t known these things? A few people have told me that they are intimidated by Dumas, but I find him to be one of the more accessible classic authors. It’s most likely due to him being a writer for the masses rather than a writer for the art.

If you have any interest at all in the intrigue, betrayal, and revenge of this novel, head over to The Literary Lollipop EVERY Wednesday starting October 13, 2010. We will be reading this book in five chapter increments. Totally doable! Easy peasy! I hope you’ll join in. The story is just fantastic! I know this because as some of you know, I accidentally read the abridged edition some years ago. I felt I had to remedy my error.)!
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