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2010/11 Group Reads - Archives > The Count of Monte Cristo - Background Information and Resources

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Per request.


message 2: by MadgeUK (last edited Jan 05, 2011 02:04AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Thanks Kate. I found this rather nice French website about Dumas, which has some English translations:

http://www.dumaspere.com/pages/englis...

Here is something about fully rigged sailing ships of the period and the names of sails etc:-

http://wapedia.mobi/en/Full-rigged_ship

These websites have information and pictures of the areas around the port of Marseilles which are mentioned at the beginning of the book, Pomegue, Chateau/Castle d'If, Fort St Jean etc. (click around):

http://www.tompgalvin.com/places/fr/m...

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3044/2...

Marseille is the oldest town in France. The legend surrounding the origins of the town go back to 600 BC. Marseille was founded by Greeks from Phocaea as a trading port under the name ‘Massalia’ and later allied itself with the expanding Roman Republic for protection. It maintained it’s independence until the rise of Julius Caesar. Marseilles was also a very important town during the French Revolution and the French national anthem is called La Marseillaise, a war song sung at that time.

It is said that Mary Magdalen brought Christianity to the Port of Marseille, and the records of Roman martyrs and catacombs above the harbor show that it was an early Christian city. The diocese of Marseille was established in the 1st Century AD.

http://travel.viamichelin.com/web/Des...


message 3: by MadgeUK (last edited Jan 05, 2011 02:05AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Around the period in which the book is set there had been a maritime blockade of French ports directed against Napoleon and the Port of Marseille's commerce had all but disappeared. The Port of Marseille then became bitterly opposed to Napoleon, calling for restoration of the monarchy. This accounts for the secrecy about Dantes' meeting with Napoleon (Chap 1), who had been imprisoned by the English on the Italian Isle of Elba. At the time the book opens, 24th February 1815, his escape was being planned by some Frenchmen, which came to fruition on 26th February, and about which the poet Lord Byron wrote an epigram:-

On Napoleon's Escape from Elba

ONCE fairly set out on his party of pleasure,
Taking towns at his liking, and crowns at his leisure,
From Elba to Lyons and Paris he goes,
Making balls for the ladies, and bows to his foes.

http://www.napoleonguide.com/elba.htm

http://www.elba.org/en/isola-d-elba/i...


message 4: by MadgeUK (last edited Jan 06, 2011 06:46AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments I was told by a French friend yesterday that much of old Marseilles was blown up by the Nazis when they occupied it during WWII because they feared the narrow streets would aid spies and assassins. That seems rather Monte Cristoish!


message 5: by Historybuff93 (new)

Historybuff93 | 287 comments Fascinating! I never knew that, Madge.

Here is a link with information on the real island of Montecristo. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montecristo


message 6: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Thanks for that link HB!


message 7: by MadgeUK (last edited Jan 06, 2011 06:51AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Thanks for that link HB! The island of Monte Cristo features later in the novel so we have to be careful of spoilers.

I have just discovered by googling that another reason for the Nazi raid was because old Marseilles, the Panier, was a Jewish quarter:-

http://www.marseille-provence.info/ma...

There is a photo of the Nazi raid here:-

http://www.marseille-provence.info/ma...


message 8: by Sasha (new)

Sasha MadgeUK wrote: "Around the period in which the book is set there had been a maritime blockade of French ports directed against Napoleon and the Port of Marseille's commerce had all but disappeared. The Port of Mar..."Thanks for posting the history information, it enhances my enjoyment of the book so much.


message 9: by Jeanne (new)

Jeanne (jeanne_voelker) Thanks for the history and the geography. We read Le comte de Monte Cristo (abridged) en francais in high school, but did anyone mention the location of Monte Cristo? I don't think so.


message 10: by MadgeUK (last edited Jan 14, 2011 12:18AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Thanks Sasha and Jeanne. There is a lot that schools don't tell us when we read books. Perhaps if they did we would be keener to read them at the time! I will post more about the Isla di Monte Cristo later.


message 11: by Jeanne (new)

Jeanne (jeanne_voelker) In the February 2011 issue of Writer's Digest, there's an inset of amusing facts about the writing habits of famous writers. These were excerpted from A Writer's Book of Days: A Spirited Companion & Lively Muse for the Writing Life (Revised Edition) by Judy Reeves.

"Alexandre Dumas, the elder, wrote his nonfiction on rose-colored paper, his fiction on blue, and his poetry on yellow."


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) | 1483 comments Mod
Jeanne wrote--

"Alexandre Dumas, the elder, wrote his nonfiction on rose-colored paper, his fiction on blue, and his poetry on yellow."

What an odd fellow...Oh well, what ever worked for him, I suppose.


message 13: by MadgeUK (last edited Jan 14, 2011 12:35AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments He wrote prolifically so I guess that was one way of keeping his compositions in order!

From my Notes: 'When he wrote the CMC, between 1844 and 1846, he was simultaeously writing different serials on different subjects for a number of other newspaper proprietors..."never in the whole course of French literature has there been anything comparable to Dumas' output...novels from eight to ten volumes showered down without a break on the newspapers and bookshops". Dumas' readers proved insatiable and Dumas, the John Grisham or Stephen King of his day, was always ready - perhaps too ready, to oblige them.'

My Notes also say that this is why there are a great many errors and contradictions in his books, because he did not have time to edit them. We might have some fun finding some of these in CMC!


message 14: by Jan (new)

Jan (auntyjan) | 485 comments Did they have coloured paper then and how expensive would it have been?


message 15: by Loretta (new)

Loretta (lorettalucia) LOL @ "the John Grisham or Stephen King of his day."


message 16: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Jan wrote: "Did they have coloured paper then and how expensive would it have been?"

I expect it was expensive Jan but Dumas was wealthy enough not to care!:).


message 17: by MadgeUK (last edited Jan 14, 2011 08:07AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Loretta wrote: "LOL @ "the John Grisham or Stephen King of his day.""

Another bit of trivia: 'Being able to write 14 hours a day, Dumas produced a steady stream of plays, novels, and short stories. Before 1843 he had already created fifteen plays. Historical novels brought Dumas an enormous fortune, but he could spent money faster than he made it. He produced some 250 books with his 73 assistants, especially with the history teacher Auguste Maquet. However, Dumas rewrote everything with his own hand. Whatever he read or heard he could remember it. His works were not faithful to the historical facts, but blend skillfully history and fiction. Once at a gathering, in which Dumas described the battle of Waterloo, a general complained, "but it wasn't like that; I was there!". This prompted Dumas to reply, "you were not paying attention to what was going on." !!

Imagine what he could have done with a computer at his disposal!!!


message 18: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments We were discussing the readability of Dumas earlier in the month and folks might be interested in what my Notes say about the tempo of the novel:-

'The impetus of the narrative carries us along: we never pause to ask ourselves whether it is entirely realistic because we understand that sooner or later Dumas will return to the theme that really involves and enthrals us. Wrongs will be righted, evildoers will be punished, the just will be rewarded - there is no need to pussyfoot around with the paraphernalia of subconscious motivations or the minutiae of psychological analysis where such momentous issues are at stake. Dumas consoles us for the disappointments of life. The world of his novel is one where the rank outsider always wins at Wimbledon, Billy Elliott's ambition to be a dancer overcomes obstacles within family and community, and where we believe - Dumas compels us to believe - that the Count of Monte Cristo is indeed the instrument of Providence so that - just fleetingly, just once - "everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds."'


message 19: by MadgeUK (last edited Jan 16, 2011 10:49AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Following his literary successes, Alexandre Dumas built a Renaissance castle just outside Paris, on the Seine at Port Marly. Dumas was very fond of animals and kept a menagerie there - it looks to be a fantastic place! It fell into disrepair but is now a public museum. (The translation here is rather peculiar.:O

http://www.chateau-monte-cristo.com/

I've just downloaded his quaint little book Adventures with my Pets which was written when he was at the Chateau. It has a number of interesting stories about his dogs, cats, birds, monkeys etc and contains quite a few biographical details about his life - but it is badly edited and full of typos!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Adventures-Wi...


message 20: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments MadgeUK wrote: "Following his literary successes, Alexandre Dumas built a Renaissance castle just outside Paris, on the Seine at Port Marly. Dumas was very fond of animals and kept a menagerie there - it looks to..."

The Michael Jackson of his day.


message 21: by Linda2 (new)

Linda2 | 3744 comments Christopher wrote: "Jeanne wrote--

"Alexandre Dumas, the elder, wrote his nonfiction on rose-colored paper, his fiction on blue, and his poetry on yellow."

What an odd fellow...Oh well, what ever worked for him, I s..."


I guess he was so prolific that he worried about getting the pages mixed up.


message 22: by MadgeUK (last edited Jan 25, 2011 10:28AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments If anyone is interested in watching a film of The Count of Monte Cristo, I looked at several versions on Youtube today and came to the conclusion that this 1998 French TV mini-series was the most accurate, although it lacks the emotion and derring-do of the novel. The sub titles are satisfyingly close to the text. It was filmed in France (Marseille, Paris) and Italy (Naples, Campania) and the scenery and costumes are superb. It is far less romanticised than the 2002 English version.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHX_kn...


message 23: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 114 comments MadgeUK wrote: "If anyone is interested in watching a film of The Count of Monte Cristo, I looked at several versions on Youtube today and came to the conclusion that this 1998 French TV mini-series was the most a..."

And, of course, it features Gérard Depardieu. It does make some regrettable changes near the end, but it is mostly a joy to watch.


message 24: by Connor (new)

Connor (connork) That was not at all how I imagined Edmond Dantes. That is how I imagined the prison though. It's kind of cool to see what is different about the movie and the book.


message 25: by MadgeUK (last edited Jan 26, 2011 02:19AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments I didn't find Gerard Depardieu as good looking as I thought Dantes to be but otherwise it was OK. (I haven't looked at the end Laurele - will do so today.)


message 26: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 114 comments MadgeUK wrote: "I didn't find Gerard Depardieu as good looking as I thought Dantes to be but otherwise it was OK. (I haven't looked at the end Laurele - will do so today.)"

Good looking? No, but he is able to act all the reinventings of Dantes very well. Hint: as far as I can tell, there is no Camille in the book.


message 27: by Linda2 (new)

Linda2 | 3744 comments Depardieu is a great actor, but not handsome. I saw him in an incredible Cyrano de Bergerac.


message 28: by MadgeUK (last edited Jan 27, 2011 02:52AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Laurele wrote: Hint: as far as I can tell, there is no Camille in the book. ..."

For some reason the film director appears to have put Camille, a young Frenchwoman, in the place of Haidee the young Greek slave whom the Count refers to as an adopted daughter - it is Haidee he takes to the Opera and Haidee for whom he provides apartments etc. But in the film Haidee makes a first appearance much later.

Camille may be meant to be the 'ghost' of Villefort's mother-in-law who was poisoned by his second wife, Heloise, whilst living at Auteuil. The name Camille is interesting because it means an attendant at a religious ceremony, or altar server. I wonder if this idea appeared in one of Dumas' manuscripts but did not appear in the final publication of the book?


Depardieu is also too fair to be as Dumas described the Count: 'We have already said that there was something in the count which attracted universal attention wherever he appeared. It was not the coat, unexceptional in its cut, though simple
and unornamented; it was not the plain white waistcoat; it was not the trousers, that displayed the foot so perfectly formed -- it was none of these things that attracted the attention, -- it was his pale complexion, his waving black hair, his calm and serene expression, his dark and
melancholy eye,
his mouth, chiselled with such marvellous delicacy, which so easily expressed such high disdain, --these were what fixed the attention of all upon him.' (Dantes is described as Byronic by Madame Danglars when she sees him at the opera.)


message 29: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Alexander Dumas was a mulatto and suffered from racial prejudice all of his life. This biography gives some details of his experiences:-

http://www.intermix.org.uk/icons/icon...

I wonder whether Dumas' account of the Count of Monte Cristo freeing Haidee the slave and installing her as an independent person in a beautiful home was a comment on the slavery of his grandmother?


message 30: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 114 comments MadgeUK wrote: "Alexander Dumas was a mulatto and suffered from racial prejudice all of his life. This biography gives some details of his experiences:-

http://www.intermix.org.uk/icons/icon...

I won..."


I should think it had a lot to do with it.


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