montagnarde1793: (la douce melancolie)

Well, I'm back from my long hiatus. It's not really that I had nothing to post about, or even that I was technically too busy to post, but that I was too tired. I can't quite figure out why this might be; after all, I've had my reading to do, and I've been trying to re-learn Latin to match it up with my French vocabulary in place of my English, and working on getting my visa so I can be in France all next year. But really, I haven't been doing all that much, so go figure. At all events, after so long an absence, I've collected quite a few things to share with you all (though you'll forgive me if I don't post on them all at once.)

The first is: go back in time two days and have a(nother) happy 14 juillet.

The second is, as I've long suspected, in terms of understanding of the French Revolution, the divide between the francophone and anglophone worlds counts even more than the divide between left and right. What I mean by this is not, of course, that the right-wing has ever understood or will ever understand the Revolution in any language, but rather that even the most left-wing elements of the English-speaking world haven't got a clue. Granted, they understand what's wrong with someone like Schama, but that doesn't stop them from finding Ruth Scurr and even Carlyle laudable historians - if ones that seem to have missed their cherished central point that

"[The Jacobins] attempted to create a society founded on reason, liberty, equality and fraternity on the basis of private property and of social relations that presupposed the exploitation of one class by another. It was an inevitably utopian project that ultimately could be sustained only on the basis of the Terror, and then only on a temporary and tenuous basis."

 Which, as we know, is an oversimplication at best. I mean, it's good of them to acknowledge the existence of the counterrevolution, as they do elsewhere, but you'd think while they were at it they might realize the role played by said counterrevolution in the Terror, instead of blaming it entirely on the Revolutionaries' supposed easy acceptance of exploitation - as if they could have foreseen the growth of capitalism in the 19th century. And anyway, I fail to see in what way this is any different or any better than the revisionist argument that the Revolutionaries' failure to create "new men" was inevitable due to human nature. Replace "human nature" with "nascent capitalism" and you have the same argument. In fact, you don't even really have to do any replacing, since the revisionist definition of "human nature" *is* capitalism. Either way, I fail to see how any of this contributes to our understanding of the Revolution. Probably because it doesn't. Any more than Scurr, with her recycled arguments, or Carlyle with his flowery romanticizing, do.

...In other news, [ profile] maelicia's post on a couple of relatively recent (you can tell you spend too much time studying historiography when a movie that came out when you were five and a musical that was produced two years later seem recent to you, but I digress) adaptations of Victor Hugo's Notre-Dame de Paris reminded me that, while I knew enough about the novel to realize that the Disney movie had eviscerated it, I had, due to school-related interruptions, never gotten past about page 50, and that I really should read it. I did, and it is amazing in all the ways only good old VH can be amazing - I swear, he's the only author that can make me drop whatever I'm doing for days at a time to read and obsess over one of his novels - and thus makes a close third for me after Les misérables (because nothing can beat that) and Quatrevingt-Treize (because no novel set in the Middle Ages, no matter how good, can ever beat a good novel about the Revolution).

I must admit a couple of flaws: 

First, some of the digressions - which are remarkably few, I might add - make a bit less sense than those in his later novels. I mean, in what way could anyone possibly think that Phoenician architecture is heir to Hindu architecture? Much as I love you, VH, please stick to Europe - I'm afraid when you venture outside it, your logic tends to fail.

Second, I think there may have been just a few coincidences too many in the story of the Sachette (no wonder she's left out of almost all adaptations).

Third, as in the other two Victor Hugo novels that I've read (I'm afraid I can't compare with those I haven't) there seems to be a decided lack of intelligent and rational female characters. Now, I can forgive Victor Hugo, as a man of the 19th century, for this in a way that I wouldn't forgive a modern author; in the same sense as I don't expect medieval characters to rail against the monarchy. But it is a flaw, even if it's an understandable flaw. Because really, there has to be something wrong with a novel where the stupidity of the victim of the principle character (and I maintain, though I realize that this point is subject to discussion, that Claude Frollo is the protagonist, in an tragic/anti-hero kind of way) means I can't feel that sorry for her.

Even given all that though, the book is amazing. An intricate, moving, and thought-provoking goat-song. ;)

I also finished the most depressing trilogy I have ever read: Paule Becquaert's Troubles series. Seriously, it starts with Thermidor and just goes downhill from there. Needless to say, it ends tragically. Though there is a certain beauty to the ending as well. You don't really realize it until the very end, but the antagonist has certain similarities to Claude Frollo. Except that he's much less sympathetic, a) because there's no evidence that he started out as a good person, or a particularly learned one, before beginning his descent, and b) because his victims are far more likeable than La Esmeralda.

Now, Troubles is not without its flaws either. There are a few plot threads that get resolved far too neatly and quickly for my taste, and the protagonist annoys me by being far more Christian than deist - the implication, I think, being that Robespierre was too, an implication for which I see no evidence. All in all though, the series is very well written. Just be prepared to be more depressed than you would ever believe a novel had the capacity to make you if you take it on.

There are, doubtless, I few more things I could say, but I'll leave it here for now. Hopefully, I'll be able to make myself update again in a few days. Perhaps even tomorrow...

montagnarde1793: (maximebust)

So I have a few fun translation related things to share with you. ^__^ No, of course I'm not procrastinating on writing the paper I have due tomorrow or the laundry I have to do before [info]trf_chan  gets here. Why do you ask? >.>

The first is, I was in a translation symposium here at school on Tuesday, and I thought some of you might appreciate the poem I translated, as it's by Victor Hugo and has Revolutionary themes.

All it lacks is a title... )

Gah, I have a feeling I'm going to have a problem with formatting with that. Try to ignore it if it's strange, will you?

Next, while looking for a decent analysis of how the Revolutionaries related to Antiquity (I'm sure I've seen some books on the topic--off the top of your head, do any of you know of any good ones?), I found this little gem in a footnote to a collection of Robespierre's speeches from the 1880s. It almost makes me understand what people see in Camille. Almost. XD;

"Ce discours prononcé aux Jacobins provoqua un vif enthousiasme : 'Qui pourrait ne pas partarger [sic] la sainte indignation que Robespierre fit éclater aux Jacobins dans un discours admirable ?' s'écrie Camille Desmoulins dans les Révolutions de France et de Brabant. Ce discours fut aussitôt publié en brochure, et voici en quels termes l'annonce le même Camille Desmoulins: 'Discours sur l'organisation des gardes nationales, par Maximilien Robespierre (et non pas Robertspierre, comme affectent de le nommer des journalistes qui trouvent apparemment ce dernier nom plus noble et plus moelleux, et qui ignorent que ce député, quand même il se nommerait la bête comme Brutus, ou pois chiche comme Cicéron, porterait toujours le plus beau nom de la France.'"

"This speech provoked a keen enthousiasm when pronounced at the Jacobins: 'Who could not share the sacred indignation that Robespierre made to burst forth at the Jacobins in an admirable speech?' cries Camille Desmoulins in the Revolutions of France and Brabant. This speech was immediately published in pamphlet form, and here are the terms in which the same Camille Desmoulins announces it: 'Discourse on the Organization of the National Guards, by Maximilien Robespierre (and not Robertspierre, as journalists affect to name him who apparently find this last name nobler and more smooth, and who are unaware that this deputy, were he even to call himself the dim-witted, like Brutus, or chickpea, like Cicero, would still bear the finest name in France.'"

...Well, it at least has the merit of amusing me greatly.

Lastly, whilst I wait to decide whether or not I can like the historical Romans, I can at least enjoy the 18th century conception of them. And now you can too! (:D?) Because I've decided to post my translations of Marie-Joseph Chénier's "Brutus et Cassius, ou les derniers Romains" ("Brutus and Cassius, or the Last Romans") here, scene by scene. Unfortunately, this was never performed, but it's still a primary source from the Revolution, and though I know in many, if not most, circles it's considered sacrilege to say such a thing, I personally think it's an improvement on Shakespeare's version of the same events.

A couple of notes, before I post the beginning of the play itself:

1. The original can be found here, page 183.
2. If I've mistranslated the Latin quote introducing the piece, someone please correct me. I've only been studying Latin since January, after all.
3. You'll notice I've largely omitted Marie-Joseph's message to André. Why? While I'm sure it's fascinating (and I'm not saying that facetiously), it's longer than the play itself. If anyone who can't read French is dying to know what it says, I'd be happy to translate it as well, but I figure it's the play that's most important.


So, without further ado, I give you Act I, Scene I. )
montagnarde1793: (Maxime/Saint-Just)

So, I'm taking a break from Éléonore for a bit, to basically do the same thing (though with a lot less material) for Saint-Just; I'll return to Éléonore though, because I'm far from done with those excerpts.

(The title of this entry, by the way, comes from Gluck's "Iphigénie en Tauride"--Pylade says it to Oreste, and I thought it was rather appropriate for the switch in focus. What? I'm morbid and my mind always seems to go to Thermidor. ;O;)

So to begin:

*Le Sigh*

Monday, 19 December 2005 23:04
montagnarde1793: (Default)
Well, here I am again: I really ought to be packing for my trip to New York tomorrow, but I couldn't deal with it any longer, so was forced to make an attempt at a (short) entry.

Someone spilled the juice from an orange that was on a plate on the table on (one of) my biography(ies) of Robespierre. The irony is killing me.

In other news, Ariel will be gone to Singapore next semester, and I've spent the last, I don't know how long translating "Autour de Robespierre: Le Conventionnel Le Bas" from French into English and making a power point presentation on characters (non-fictional) who will be appearing in my novel. I really need to make an outline for that.

I do hope tomorrow's trip goes all right. The last thing I need is to get into another row with my sister.


Partie-Socialiste: I just finished Quatre-vingt-treize by Victor Hugo. I won't give anything away, but it really has a sad and moving ending. And speaking of sad and moving, I am reminded that I need to read some Zola. Perhaps Lolotte will lend me her copy of The Debacle.


montagnarde1793: (Default)

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