The Count of Monte Cristo: Classic or Dud

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Been flipping back through this for some light entertainment on train rides in the last few days. Kind of diverting, kind of not; I think I have most of it basically memorized, having read it many many times since it was first assigned to us in 8th grade. I love the big moves and the big payoffs but on each reread, the exact details of the Count's machinations become more clunky and require more suspension of disbelief - not to mention the huge info-dumps from secondary characters, all of whom are entangled in some exTREMEly unlikely coincidences that bind together all the Count's enemies in such a web that in fact he barely has to do anything. For all my fandom I've never gone for the unabridged edition, but now I'm wondering if it might be more enjoyable since there are chunks in the middle of this where it really is just scene advancing the plot, scene directly following up that plot thread, scene advancing the plot and a lot of the characters end up ciphers with the Count as a teenage fanfic insert badass who's pulling all the strings. Can anyone who's read both abridged and unabridged give any sense of what kind of "deleted scenes" there might be?

For all that... the badass parts are so badass. The whole origin story is awesome, the premise obviously undergirds a thousand superhero myths (with Zorro, the Scarlet Pimpernel and Batman being probably the clearest descendents), and mannn is it always so satisfying when the Count finally reveals himself (or, in maybe the most emotionally effective scene, is identified by someone else). I could read that shit all day.

Gorefest Frump (Doctor Casino), Sunday, 12 July 2015 16:05 (four years ago) link

One of the handful of novels I've read two dozen times. I haven't read the full version either. The stuff that fascinates me now are the politics: the return of Napoleon, then Louis XVIII.

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 12 July 2015 16:34 (four years ago) link

I've purchased a copy of it a couple of months ago and it's waiting on the shelf for when I need something entertaining and escapist. This thread will help it jump the queue.

Aimless, Sunday, 12 July 2015 18:06 (four years ago) link

Entertaining and escapist is about right. And yeah, the recent-history setting is cool; it's neat how he skips past most of the Bourbon Restoration (and the Hundred Days) to set it in the near-present-day, but with these ghosts of the skipped-over period catching up to the characters. Sometimes this is kind of gratuitous; everybody that's wronged our hero turns out to fulfill their innate bad characters by committing more horrible sins in the interim, so that the Count has something to use against them. But I love things like the stricken grandfather with a burning Bonapartist secret, who communicates only by blinking his eyes, solely to make his scenes more intense and suspenseful.

Has there ever been a good movie of this? It's so pulpy that it clearly wants to be filmed, but cramming so many big emotional payoffs into one feature seems impossible, plus I expect there'd be a temptation to gussy it up with some swashbuckling action to liven up the parlor intrigues. Would be a cool miniseries I guess.

Gorefest Frump (Doctor Casino), Sunday, 12 July 2015 18:22 (four years ago) link

You're in luck, there's a p good French mini-series w/ Ger Dep (caveat - I haven't read the novel):

sʌxihɔːl (Ward Fowler), Monday, 13 July 2015 11:12 (four years ago) link

How Monte Cristo appears to drop the revenge idea only to resume it with renewed force on Danglars is great.

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 13 July 2015 11:27 (four years ago) link

oh thks for miniseries link I'll have that

abridged version and unabridged great in v different ways, everyone otm rly

depth and flavour and teasing of unabridged lends it a huge satisfaction tho.

such a wonderfully childish enterprise in intent and conception if not in execution obv

irl lol (darraghmac), Monday, 13 July 2015 11:38 (four years ago) link

Always thought this was an interesting exchange from Aldous Huxley's Paris Review interview:


As you see it, then, the novelist’s problem is to fuse the “essay element” with the story?


Well, there are lots of excellent storytellers who are simply storytellers, and I think it’s a wonderful gift, after all. I suppose the extreme example is Dumas: that extraordinary old gentleman, who sat down and thought nothing of writing six volumes of The Count of Monte Cristo in a few months. And my God, Monte Cristo is damned good! But it isn’t the last word. When you can find storytelling which carries at the same time a kind of parable-like meaning (such as you get, say, in Dostoyevsky or in the best of Tolstoy), this is something extraordinary, I feel. I’m always flabbergasted when I reread some of the short things of Tolstoy, like The Death of Ivan Ilyich. What an astounding work that is! Or some of the short things of Dostoyevsky, like Notes from Underground.

sʌxihɔːl (Ward Fowler), Monday, 13 July 2015 11:46 (four years ago) link

How Monte Cristo appears to drop the revenge idea only to resume it with renewed force on Danglars is great.

― The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, July 13, 2015 7:27 AM Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

Renewed force, but also tempered in the end. But yeah, there's a funny stop-start-restart aspect to it. Honestly, the last third of the book does kind of suffer from what feels like authorial equivocating about who deserves the worst fates and what order they should play out and so on. Also kind of surprising to realize how little page space Mercédès in fact gets given what you'd think would be a really central role. I might really have to do the unabridged one of these days; Wiki is already hinting at whole characters and subplots that I've never seen.

Gorefest Frump (Doctor Casino), Monday, 13 July 2015 16:07 (four years ago) link

A wise decision, for Mercédès is a bore.

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 13 July 2015 16:28 (four years ago) link

Well, she should be more interesting! What a strange life she's lived; and oddly enough, like the Count, she had (we're told) great leisure in which to educate herself and develop lady-like pursuits. In theory they would actually have lots in common, though of course for the Count much of his learning is strategic and for her it was to distract herself from her sad life.

Gorefest Frump (Doctor Casino), Monday, 13 July 2015 17:06 (four years ago) link

one year passes...

Doc, I just finished the unabridged Robin Buss translation from the 1990s - cannot recommend highly enough.

Love all the coincidences, leisurely deviations and info-dumps - they're just so ripe and fun. Mercedes certainly comes across well. Valentine and Morrel are wet but you root for for them.

Agree re: badassery. Surprised how insane and wonderful this was.

Chuck_Tatum, Monday, 19 September 2016 09:41 (three years ago) link

Cool, thanks!

Silence, followed by unintelligible stammering. (Doctor Casino), Monday, 19 September 2016 15:44 (three years ago) link

I always disliked how Monte Christo dropped Albert as soon as he exhausted his use.

The burrito of ennui (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 19 September 2016 15:47 (three years ago) link

Right, but that's the Count's personality, isn't it? He loves the Morrels, but almost drives them to suicide twice! He gives huge bribes to reprehensible randos, then leaves Mercedes almost nothing. It's the most interesting tension in the novel - does Dumas think he's the hero or not?

Chuck_Tatum, Monday, 19 September 2016 20:37 (three years ago) link

I even felt pretty bad for Villefort at the end.

Chuck_Tatum, Monday, 19 September 2016 20:44 (three years ago) link

one year passes...

Has anyone read a decent translation of The Three Musketeers? Richard Pevear's version seems to be the go-to these days, but it's full of clunk compared to the Robin Buss translations.

Chuck_Tatum, Monday, 9 October 2017 22:56 (two years ago) link

one year passes...

just finished volume 1 of this at the weekend having. first time.

read les mis last year and picked up this because french / similar size and was delighted to find that it's a similar time period, it's like a continuation almost.

also loving the fact that it's all plot and no (so far) 50 page digressions into nuns, or the battle of waterloo, or any of the other bits of les mis that read like wikipedia.

(this is the project gutenberg version btw, so probably an old translation (1888). but it reads fine)

> He loves the Morrels, but almost drives them to suicide...

yes, thought this was odd, the way he dragged out the gift. i guess it took time for the thing to be built but still...

> ...twice!

argh, SPOILERS 8)

koogs, Monday, 25 February 2019 18:11 (one year ago) link

four months pass...

This is pretty niche but there's a fabulous (if typo-ridden and butt-ugly-covered) new translation of TWENTY YEARS AFTER on Amazon and I highly highly recommend it over all the other translations:

Chuck_Tatum, Sunday, 7 July 2019 21:38 (eight months ago) link

Is Amazon coagulating all the reviews again because this one is pretty damning

> Loved the story - read after The Three Musketeers. A really super sequel BUT it was not a great translation - words like "Zounds" littered throughout.

koogs, Monday, 8 July 2019 06:02 (eight months ago) link

Yeah, that review’s not from the new translation.

Chuck_Tatum, Monday, 8 July 2019 21:45 (eight months ago) link

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