Meta: Writing Enjolras, especially slash and romance

Meta related to characters, plots, or other elements introduced by Victor Hugo in Les Misérables.
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Marianne
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Postby Marianne » Wed Apr 29, 2009 6:41 pm

You've more-or-less described the shape the French republican movement took after the failure of 1832: it became more militant, more underground, more heavily planned (and more socialist); as the laws tightened on issues like press, association, and weapons, they began to form small cells that could be called upon at any moment, with the men of one cell not knowing who was in the next, and the commanders of each level in the hierarchy knowing only their immediate superior and the men directly under their command. The revolts got uglier and more brutally suppressed; the leaders started devising strategies for street warfare such as being able to traverse a whole city block by knocking holes in the walls between apartment buildings. At the same time, unconnected to the republican groups, there was a series of assassination attempts on Louis-Philippe.

There were some notable differences, though: while the groups might have had contacts in other cities (especially Lyon, where a revolt among textile workers had been quite brutally put down), they focused mostly on the city and not the countryside, since in general whoever controlled Paris controlled France. (The Commune hadn't happened yet.) And no spy networks that I know of. This might have been related to the idea of republican honor, which was also seeing a resurgence among the revolutionary groups of the time; spying, I think, would've been seen as a sneaky, dirty sort of tactic, and their cause had to stay clean. There was quite a bit of disgust for string-pulling, conspiracies, behind-the-scenes plotting among influential people in salons, and the like; those were the tools of the aristocracy and the small group of 'notables' who had conspired to steal the revolution of 1830 and put Louis-Philippe on the throne. And Enjolras is extremely sensitive to the idea of republican honor, to the point of summarily executing a man who dares besmirch it. So I think he would be reluctant to employ spies.

It's worth noting that all the underground mobilization directed by the Société des Droits de l'Homme et du Citoyen, the Société des Familles, the Société des Saisons, etc. didn't actually accomplish much; there were revolts all through the 1830s, but they were all put down, and it wasn't until 1848 that Louis-Philippe was overthrown--not by republican organizations so much as sheer, overwhelming popular disgust that had been festering for ten or fifteen years.
[Dieu] entend ta voix, ô fille des hommes! aussi bien que celle des constellations; car rien n'est petit pour celui devant lequel rien n'est grand.
- George Sand, Les sept cordes de la lyre

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Col.Despard
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Postby Col.Despard » Wed Apr 29, 2009 9:30 pm

Thanks Marianne - that fills in a lot of the gaps in my grasp of the event and its aftermath and answers many of my questions. I was particularly interested in what, if any, sort of formal organisation the government had to monitor and infiltrate subversive groups. Government spies, and the fear of them, are a not insignificant part of the novel, but I gather from your observations and the novel that the idea behind this was more police officers like Javert and paid informers taking this part rather than secret service agents who specialise in infiltration. I suppose one can't really smash an intelligence network when it doesn't exist! The possibility of honeycombing the Government side by identifying and cultivating sympathisers was inspired by mention in the book of people on the government side turning in sympathy to the Republicans, but (if I recall the passage correctly) these were predominantly general soldiers.

The idea of Enjolras feeling a completely underground guerilla war would betray Republican princpals sounds correct, unfortunately for the direction in which I was taking these ideas! Some of the lines, even in Les Mis, seem rather blurred to me as they are already employing some of the classic tactics of urban guerilla warfare, but I've no doubt they were crystal clear to him. Subversive strategists of the 20th Century saw guerilla warfare as the way forward when faced with an overwhelming power - Boer War farmers, for example, could take part in an ambush in the morning, then slip back home to milk their cows n the evening, part of an apparently faceless citizenry. Medical students in Dublin would plan to ambush a troop convoy, then go on to their exams. But even some military thinkers refused to acknowledge this as legitimate warfare and the perpetrators as co-combatants - for Winston Churchill, wars were fought in the open between clashing armies, not by attackers who hid within the populace. I'm not talking about terror attacks - Collins actively eschewed the use of, for example, random attacks on civilian targets or even the assassination of government officials in retaliation for the deaths of Republican leaders.

Interesting point about controlling Paris/controlling France - it narrows down the field of play and makes the tactical objectives of a successful revolution more immediate and clear cut. I'd extended the scope of organisation to other cities and rural areas as I was intrigued by the mentions of the ABC being in communication with an extended network.

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Marianne
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Postby Marianne » Tue May 05, 2009 1:27 am

Oh I have no doubt that the July monarchy had an extensive network of spies, but at that point I get the impression that professional espionage was mostly carried out against large 'legitimate' targets such as foreign powers, and that subversive elements at home were dealt with by the police. The police, no doubt, would have hired informers and sent their own employees to keep tabs on revolutionary groups, but those were considered mouchards--snitches, essentially--rather than full-on espions. There's extensive documentation of police harassment of republican societies: fake complaints about noise/rowdiness to shut down meeting spots, arrests and subsequent imprisonment without charges for long enough to completely ruin some poor working-class sod's life, legal harassment through spurious charges, etc.

And the French republicans--especially circa 1830-32--were obsessed with only acting through legitimate, honorable means. (Of course open street revolt against a despotic government was considered an honorable means; it was practically a tradition by that point.) For every government report of rioters looting armorers' shops, there are anecdotes of promises that "The Republic will reimburse you" being dutifully fulfilled, and of comparatively well-off revolutionaries (journalists, students, etc.) buying a gunsmith's entire inventory in cash and distributing it. And of course scrupulous avoidance of harm to civilians and bystanders.

The possibility of honeycombing the Government side by identifying and cultivating sympathisers was inspired by mention in the book of people on the government side turning in sympathy to the Republicans, but (if I recall the passage correctly) these were predominantly general soldiers.


Yes, pretty much--general soldiers and National Guards. The allegiance of the National Guard (which under the July Monarchy was a predominantly bourgeois civilian militia) was often the determining factor in whether an insurrection succeeded or was brutally suppressed.
[Dieu] entend ta voix, ô fille des hommes! aussi bien que celle des constellations; car rien n'est petit pour celui devant lequel rien n'est grand.

- George Sand, Les sept cordes de la lyre

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Postby Col.Despard » Fri May 08, 2009 12:34 pm

That's great background, Marianne - I love the idea of the Republic reimbusing citizens for comandeered items. This sort of thing seems to to have recurred in later 19th Century revolts, even some dodgy Australian events like the Kelly outbreak in North Eastern Victoria...some even wrote out receipts for the goods they took.

I suppose the scenario I'm positing - which your posts renders rather more remote as a possibility - is something like this. X, an employee of the Government (I'd say Secret Service, but I gather there's no real equivalent?) is active in the aftermath of the barricades...he makes a few whispered remarks to prisinors as they are escorted way, offering to take messages to loved ones etc. Naturally, he is rejected as a government agent/spy.

As time passes and Enjolras and co raise their heads again in underground meetings, it becomes apparent that X is there, taking notes. He is noted as a spy, and seems to fulfill the part.

Matters come to a head one night in the cafe, as X is seen to be standing by the door. Enjolras has a quiet word or two to his lieutenants, then heads out. X follows (and Bahorel or Courfeyrac is at a more discreet distance still). Enjolras ducks into an alleyway, and when X follows, Enjolras confronts him, armed. X produces a list of names and addresses, saying they are to be raided the following night. Enjolras wants to know why X is providing the info - X points out that he has been shadowing Enjolras, making note of all his speeches...and Enjolras has been persuasive.

It turns out that X is right, and those addresses are raided the following night.

Enjolras meets with X and demands to know what X is playing at. The movement has always been undermined by spies and informers. X suggests that Enjolras could play the same game. And so begins the undermining of the intelligence system.

Now, it actually did play out like that in 1918 - 1922 (by the end of it, there were several Republican spies in the very heart of the intelligence network in Dublin, the Castle). But that's another century and the parallels are not exact.
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Marianne
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Postby Marianne » Fri May 08, 2009 8:21 pm

That sounds like a wonderful plot for a fic, and I think it would be feasible--just not at high government levels, since suppression and surveillance of seditious groups was handed over to the police. And now that I think about it, I'm not sure whether at that point it would have been handled by the regular police or by the Sûreté; the latter presents some interesting possibilities, especially as Javert was at least partially modeled on Vidocq, but I'm just not sure whether it would be accurate to have the Sûreté keeping tabs on political groups rather than organized crime syndicates and the like. The impression I get is that intimidation tactics against the Société des Amis du Peuple, for example, were carried out by the regular police, but I will have to re-check my sources when I get home and unpack. And there's always the possibility of flat-out bending the truth for the sake of a good plot; the "if Hugo can make shit up about French history then by Jove so can I" approach.

I'm still not sure whether that's exactly what you're getting at, because while the Sûreté was roughly analogous to Scotland Yard or the FBI in terms of function (criminal investigation), it was a subdivision of the Parisian police force rather than a national agency high up in the government hierarchy. Definitely not, say, the CIA or the Kremlin. But even though it's not exactly what you originally proposed I think it would be really really cool to adapt your idea to the Sûreté because OMG ties to Vidocq, and Patron-Minette could probably be worked in somehow, and involving the Sûreté just seems so much more... closely tied to the plot of Les Mis than some shadowy upper-level espionage plot.
[Dieu] entend ta voix, ô fille des hommes! aussi bien que celle des constellations; car rien n'est petit pour celui devant lequel rien n'est grand.

- George Sand, Les sept cordes de la lyre

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Col.Despard
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Postby Col.Despard » Tue May 12, 2009 11:15 am

Thanks for all that, Marianne - it all helps refine and direct where my research goes. I wouldn't dream of putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard for a longer post-barricade piece until I know more about both the era and the geography. I've been to Paris, but always tagged along with my French speaking friends and would be hard pressed to even pinpoint on a map where we stayed!

'm still not sure whether that's exactly what you're getting at, because while the Sûreté was roughly analogous to Scotland Yard or the FBI in terms of function (criminal investigation), it was a subdivision of the Parisian police force rather than a national agency high up in the government hierarchy. Definitely not, say, the CIA or the Kremlin.

I think you've nixed my initial idea with data...in Britain at the time, there was a well-established espionage network that collected data. This would be true of any major power dating back to goodness-knows-when (you couldn't be a major power without spies and informants). The British, however, infiltrated and comprimised every major Irish rebellion from the time of occupation. They knew who you saw, who you spoke to, what you had for breakfast. It was so all pervasive that the Kelly outbreak in Australia of 1878 - 1888 has been called a "classic" Irish rebellion because it had the inevitable supporter - turned - informant and various other paid spies.

Where the Irish War of Independence differed is that they turned the tables. Michael Collins even had himself smuggled into a secret service archive, where he was able to peruse the files on himself and his fellow revolutionaries (he was tremendously tickled to see himself described as coming from a "brainy West Cork family"). He studied them to find *their* every movement, and paralysed the network of agents by rendering them afraid to leave their bases of refuge, e.g. Dublin Castle.

But without that established beauracracy of paperwork and records, the dynamic changes.

On the other hand, Collins exceeded in recruiting the invisible. Not the high profile diplomats etc, but their invisible secretaries, assistants, etc. Often by subtle means of persuasion (he was able to win the loyalty of a Unionist widow by returning her children to her from where they'd been comandeered by her husband's family in the UK, denying her custody). The British even managed to appoint his cousin to a confidential administrative posititon...Collins' comment was along the lines of "Jaysus - how did these people ever get to run an Empire?" She copied documents by slipping in an extra sheet of carbon paper and smuggled them out to him.

Enjolras might well have had contacts in important positions, even if they weren't high profile diplomats, politicians etc....
"The principles of freedom, of humanity, and of justice, will finally triumph over falsehood, tyranny and delusion, and every principle inimical to the interests of the human race" - Edward Despard, 1803

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Postby Col.Despard » Sun Jul 19, 2009 10:13 pm

I've just been rereading some of the ffnet stuff on Enjolras (bad idea, I know) and I'm completely bemused by some of the characterisations. It's canonical that he doesn't emote all over the place, and it's clear that he's a reserved and even taciturn character who isn't going to go into rhapsodies about what a lovely Spring day it is while knocking back a bottle or two of red with Grantaire, but why does it therefore follow that he is thoroughly, obnoxiously rude and even cruel to his friends?

There seems to be a strain of fanonical interpretation that would have him spending a good deal of his time reprimanding his colleagues, if not actually nagging them like a fishwife. Snappy, cranky, and quite pissy about everything from drinking to reciting poetry.

I get quite the opposite impression from the book. He seems perfectly happy to let his friends rattle on around him. He'll disagree when something strikes him close to home (e.g. his response to the Rousseau comment, and that was just Courfeyrac trying - and succeeding - in getting a rise out of him), or he'll add his own rare comment (like the crime and its expiation), but he doesn't seem to actually mind their exuberant personalities and differing voices. Enjolras and his Lieutenants makes it explicit he appreciates their individual characteristics and sees them as strengths - and not merely their philosophical and scientific leanings, but also their personalities...their humour and laughter. He doesn't harrangue them to get back on mission when they're reciting poetry, and he doesn't get snippy with Combeferre when he's talking cannon parabola...he just seems to accept that that's how they are. He isn't even provoked into a response by Lesgle's very personal comments and jests about his (lack of) relationship with women.

I think it's notable that the only time he's ever really willing to violate a point of principle, or change a course of action he's set down, is when he is prepared to exchange Javert for Prouvaire. In that instance, he is putting the life of his friend above that of his principles.

It's also notable that he thinks of Lesgle as Bossuet - using his nickname suggests to me that he isn't utterly emotionally removed from his friends.

Ah well - I'm largely preaching to the choir here, I know...it's like the incredibly irritating idea (oft noted here as a pet peeve) which would have it that Enjolras is determined on getting all his friends killed in a gesture of doomed stupidity, and that they obediently follow him lamblike to the slaughter.

I seriously think that some folks would be much, much happier and consider him a more pleasant character if he was emotionally incontinent, angsting all over the place and getting on the razz with his friends all the time.

Argh. I shouldn't get so whipped up about fanfic, but honestly...why do so many people take this magnificent character, who is written so specifically, and make him such a bastard? Reserved, idealistic and determined does not equate to bitchy and pissy.
"The principles of freedom, of humanity, and of justice, will finally triumph over falsehood, tyranny and delusion, and every principle inimical to the interests of the human race" - Edward Despard, 1803

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Postby MmeBahorel » Mon Jul 20, 2009 12:13 am

Inability to write "reserved" I think is a large part of it, plus taking the Le Cabuc scene to the logical extreme, ignoring everything that came before it.

Even the friend of mine I role played with for years who did Enjolras and based him heavily on a friend of hers who ran the Communist student group at her university (yes, she was a former member of the Communist Party, and yes, this was middle America c. 2000) had him at one point utterly annoyed with Courfeyrac, shortly after meeting him, because he was perky and annoying. Courfeyrac is perky and can be annoying, but that's what makes him fun, and Enjolras canonically is perfectly fine hanging around him when he's being annoying, so even Enjolras partisans who give him a girlfriend and insist on the fact that he has an obviously magnetic personality (which a lot of fan Enjolratti don't exactly have because they're so bitchy) can fall victim to the extremes of interp.

We quit role playing years ago, but it's the reason I have exceedingly well developed Combeferre, Courfeyrac, and Feuilly, and am still working at the other characters. Those were the three I played and thus have been engaging with for over ten years (BotM was conceived initially as an AU role play in 1999 and Sébastien is an outgrowth of a character another girl created - I invented Charles but my RP partners made him gay with a crush on Enjolras and then gave him Sébastien), while I'm both influenced by and reacting against her Enjolras. There are things she invented that I realise I've mentioned but am using in wholly different ways than she intended.

Enjolras is fascinating because he is the leader and most extreme of the students, but remembering he is one of them and only actually smacks down R on a regular basis (as do the others because there's a difference between R annoying and Courfeyrac annoying) is difficult if what you were attracted to is the marble lover of liberty. Hugo puts him on a pedestal, yes, and he must be capable of the scene with Le Cabuc, but that's nearly four years after we first meet him, after the betrayal of '30. I don't see any of them being the same in 1832 as they are in 1829. Things have happened. If all of them hadn't done the barricade thing before, the vast majority have. Hugo mostly ignoring '30 has meant fandom mostly ignoring '30, while I've seen it, ever since I stopped to look at early 19th c. French history thanks to the awesomeness of this novel, as a gaping hole that I need to fill. (and if I write Corner of the Sky all the way to Feuilly's death, I'm tacking back in the deleted scene of Patron Minette coming to the barricade because Feuilly hearing Babet's voice and going "oh god, don't let him see me, don't let him say anything" would be awesome.) Possibly because I was always a poli sci major at heart.

I'd blame some of it on the musical, too, except he's only actively pissy with R. Some actors may take it =excessively with Marius, but my favourites have never been actively pissy with him for being late, just over the whole "random girl in the street is more awesome than overthrowing the government" - and why wouldn't you be rather annoyed at that kind of a challenge when you're expecting to join a mass riot any day now? Dallyn Bayles may always be my absolute favourite because he could turn "who cares about your lonely soul? We strive towards a larger goal," into something universal and not at all a personal smackdown. Sure, Dallyn was also incredibly hot with a gorgeous voice and amazing stage presence, but his twist to those lines was one of the most awesome things I've ever seen in LM. (I should probably admit here that I think I'm up to 125 performances since the beginning of 2000, 128 overall. I literally followed the US national tour for years and ran a website for them from 2002 to when they closed, plus I was a regular for the 2002 cast in London.) Everyone since has had to live up to Dallyn. But if fangirls are not focusing on the context - that Lamarque won't live the week out and thus some form of action is imminent though the exact timing hasn't yet been determined - then sure, Enjolras might seem like a jerk for harshing Marius' love buzz and thus "jerk" is part of his character. But in context, with Marius more important in the musical and some form of action imminent, it's really more Enjolras facepalming and going "are you serious? We're days from possibly going into battle and you're actually saying some pretty girl you saw for a moment is more important than the freedom of man? WTF, dude? This better not be because you're scared and getting cold feet." That's the context, not "Enjolras is a jerk and hates women." If that were true, his reaction to Éponine's death would be "Marius, throw your whore back out in the alley and get to work". (I hate that Éponine is conflated with M. Mabeuf, but it ought to serve against painting Enjolras as a complete misogynist, which it doesn't. Quit picking and choosing all the bits of novel and musical canon that support your side instead of taking each canon as a coherent whole!)

Yeah, that was really long to say "nuance gets you nowhere in most of fandom".
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard

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Postby Col.Despard » Mon Jul 20, 2009 10:44 am

Great response - gack. I'd forgotten the musical (I know, I know - duh!). I'm most impressed that *anyone* has managed to invest a meaning other than pissiness in Enjolras' "you're no longer a child!". It ranks up there with "cut the fat ones down to size" for lines it's hard to envision Brick Enjolras spouting ("we must slaughter the capitalist running pig dogs...oh, yeah...and something about light. Everything returns to light.") I like your take on the context - it's a pity that most people are going to ignore the political milieu and just go with "but it's twoo wuv you're demeaning, you big meanie!"

The 1830 point you raise is particularly pertinent. Because his inflexible purpose is so emphasised, there seems to be an assumption that he is static in all ways. And yet we're told very clearly that, while he remains immovable on immediate methodology, by June 1832 with the influence of Combeferre his vision has actually changed and broadened to become more universal. So I can well see him having been influenced by other factors, like the disappointment of July.

The La Cabuc scene is brutal (and should be), but is it just me, or do many glib what-a-cold-bastard interpretations ignore Combeferre's response, which I think is essential to reading the scene? Not only does he express his solidarity in sharing the sentence Enjolras has passed on himself, but he and Prouvaire - one would say pretty understandably shocked, judging from the hand-holding - look at Enjolras with both admiration and compassion. Combeferre demonstrated in the Artillery Captain episode that he is perfectly capable of challenging Enjolras, but in this instance he comprehends what has happened. The compassion comes because they know that, as crystalline as Enjolras is, the decision was a terrible one for him as well. I don't think Combeferre is supporting him because he's his BFF, and I don't think Combeferre is going to be easily seduced by a manufactured stance.

I think people are entitled to interpret the character as they wish, and even if I don't agree with it I can see a case to be made for Enjolras as a coldly manipulative individual, one concerned with image etc. I think it's very possible not to like him if you find the cold abstract elements of his character alienating.

It's the stories depicting a pettiness in him that amaze me...the shrill, vindictive prissiness that just seems so alien to how he's written. The character has major flaws, but they're on a grand scale. I'm not sure how he's supposed to have managed Grantaire...having worked with colleagues I actually *liked* who had drug and alcohol issues, I'm pretty sympathetic to Enjolras getting fed up with a man who isn't even a friend - more a stalker. And even then he does give him a chance. If Enjolras was as petty and cruel as he's written, he would have spurned Grantaire's intrusion on his magnificent death, not offered him a hand and a smile.

Enjolras seems, if anything, more sinned against than sinning in terms of barbs, however good natured, from his friends. He has Courfeyrac winding him up about Rousseau, he has Bossuet passing comments on his lack of a love life, he has Grantaire calling him a statue...he's not exactly grinding them under an iron bootheel (barring smacking down Grantaire, and even Courfeyrac is fed up with him when they're building the barricade). He sends word to Bossuet from the funeral, and Joly and Bossuet respond with a "meh", deciding to skip the funeral and just go to the barricades (how fortuitous that their friends happened to pass the Corinth). He's not exactly a control freak, either - while he's an amazing strategist, the others do a fair bit of freewheeling as well. He's not so married to being in charge that he can't declare Marius the chief. It's more gesture than actuality, but the little man of fanfic couldn't even manage a semblance of reliquishing any control.

I think part of the problem may be his tendency to see people and actions in fairly abstract terms, which makes him seem ever more removed from common humanity. He reminds me somewhat of Ahab - "All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event – in the living act, the undoubted deed – there, some unknown but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike through the mask!" But whereas Ahab sees, for example, Moby Dick as an avatar for a vast malevolent fate, Enjolras, I suspects, sees men and events as a pasteboard mask for a positive metaphysical construct - the "Light". Of course, there's always a duality in the character - just as we are told he's the unusual combination of warrior and scholar, he sees men and events as practical reality as well as symbolic of a greater meaning.

I'm still groping towards a better understanding of the character and am grappling with those problems in writing him...how to avoid making him utterly ice, and at the same time not endowing him with a gooey marshmallow centre that he certainly doesn't posess either.

So want to read Patron Minette at the barricades! I hope you do take it up that far. And I still want to see more of your Enjolras...!
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Postby MmeBahorel » Mon Jul 20, 2009 1:16 pm

Marianne's website has a section of deleted scenes. The first one is Babet offering to join the revolution; the second one is Tholomyès getting pwned. The second one is definitely Hugo writing his own fanfic - there's no real need for it in the novel, but it's awesome :)

And I need to get to work but will comment further tonight, probably.
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Postby Marianne » Mon Jul 20, 2009 4:14 pm

Yes and I need to revise the quarry/Patron-Minette scene, because it was the first one I translated and there are parts that are flat-out wrong. Including, regrettably, the punch line, which should be "If any one of you comes into my barricade, I will have him shot."

Anyway... jeez, I go away for a weekend and the two of you hash out something that has always bugged me about Les Mis fanfiction, but which I could never quite articulate. And I think that, much like the "oh noes they died for nothing" and "they were just kids who didn't know what they were doing because they were blinded by Enjolras' Magic Charisma or something" tropes, it's the direct result of reading the students' scenes as isolated parts and ignoring the whole in favor of pre-conceived notions: be it a succession of Enjolras actors who did play up the overbearing-and-pissy interpretation of his lines in the musical, or a clumsy attempt to fit Les Mis into the 20th century narrative of disastrous revolutions and failed utopias and the scary side of nationalism, or Turning and Empty Chairs interpreted in the most dismal and infantilizing way possible, or even just the existing fanon.

It does make me wonder, though, about the people who write Enjolras as cranky and petty and judgmental. Because fandom has a huge concentration of nerds, and I doubt I was the only nerd to spend most of my teenage years looking on in mild bemusement while friends and acquaintances were dating and drinking and partying and apparently having the time of their lives--and to be generally thought of as an uptight judgmental prude because I was more interested in books and ideas, and people interpreted "sorry, doesn't float my boat" as holier-than-thou condemnation. Maybe I'm generalizing my experience too much, but I'd think that a bunch of nerds would sympathize, if anything, with the guy who quietly sits it out while his friends are carousing but who's in his element once things get back to business.
[Dieu] entend ta voix, ô fille des hommes! aussi bien que celle des constellations; car rien n'est petit pour celui devant lequel rien n'est grand.

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Postby Eppie Sue » Mon Jul 20, 2009 8:24 pm

Marianne wrote:I doubt I was the only nerd to spend most of my teenage years looking on in mild bemusement while friends and acquaintances were dating and drinking and partying and apparently having the time of their lives--and to be generally thought of as an uptight judgmental prude because I was more interested in books and ideas, and people interpreted "sorry, doesn't float my boat" as holier-than-thou condemnation. Maybe I'm generalizing my experience too much, but I'd think that a bunch of nerds would sympathize, if anything, with the guy who quietly sits it out while his friends are carousing but who's in his element once things get back to business.

just chiming in to say that NO you're not ;). Much sympathy for the guy who sits out.

As for what's been said about musical!Enjolras' harshness toward Marius and in general: No, it's not canon, but musical-wise there has to be a counterpart to Marius. Of course, what they did, is turn the actual disagreement about Buonaparte - Marius as Naopleon fanboy being smacked down by Combeferre and Enjolras - into an argument about love vs revolution, because they only establish Marius' character as the romantic hero. Therefore, the cuts that have been made on Enjolras' character are due to the cuts on Marius' character, and they are due to the restrictions of a three hour stage show.
What Hugo can do in endless exposés and aide-mémoires - reminding us about the misery of circa 1830 Paris, of the ideas and ideals of the revolutionairies - the musical has to do in a few lines, in a few minutes. And Enjolras is the only political character in the musical, it's the only way to communicate the quintessence, the only way to make the barricades not simply appear as a stage for the paths of Javert and Valjean, and Marius and Valjean to intertwine.

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Postby Col.Despard » Mon Jul 20, 2009 10:31 pm

I love those deleted scenes! I hadn't been aware that they existed, so the first time I read them on Marianne's site it was like getting a brilliant new shiney Christmas present...ooooo, look...it's Proprietary Enjolras and His Barricade! I'll be a bit disappointed, though, if the line about shooting is substantially different...it's a great kicker. I'd love to read your take on Babet actually showing up on the big day, MmeBahorel. Be an interesting spin if he's there as combatant and Claquesous is there as undercover police agent (and agent provocateur?)

Ah yes - the assumption that if you're not actively carousing, you're regarding those who are with a censorious eye. I was a very serious little insect in my teens...my High School friends were so amused by my political activism that they once wrote "[Candidate's Name] Sux!" on my school shoes. In what turned out to be indeliable marker. Yes, I did say they were my friends. I get the impression that Enjolras cops a bit of flack from his friends for being so serious...although I'm sure that, if anyone else were to criticise or mock him, Bossuet and co would lead the defensive charge. There's something so poignant about his little muttered response (defence?) to the charge that he's cold because he fights without having a lover to inflame his passions - he doesn't even refute the charge by pointing to his passion for his country aloud, just murmuring it under his breath. He's probably said something along those lines in the past and been howled down with laughter...can you imagine what Courfeyrac and Bossuet would do with Patria?

Pissy!Enjolras often suffers from a distinct lack of priorities. In one story he wakes up after having been saved from the barricades, learns that several of his friends are dead along with Grantaire...and then proceeds to bitch about Grantaire. Erm...what? Wouldn't he be rather more preoccupied with - oh, I don't know - the general fate of the barricade, the rising, and the small matter of his dead friends? Instead, he has a semi-hysterical little spit over Grantaire. Issues, man, issues. It's not even slash-angst...he's just being, well, cranky and petty.

Pissy!Enjolras often seems to be verging on hysteria. One of the character's most notable characteristics is his self-control...but not in fanon. Small things set him off. Writing poetry? How dare you! Drinking? In HIS cafe? This is a Serious Political Meeting I'll have you all know.

I sort of hear him with this rising, shrill, high-pitched voice. Oh, wait - then he's cold. He veers between the two...either icy cold, or shrieking. And glaring. A lot. Not just when he suffers unlooked for attentions from strange women...no, he glares freely at his friends. Must dilute the impact a bit.

I take your point about the dramatic necessities of paring down the roles in the musical, Eppie Sue - you're absolutely right. I do reserve the right to giggle, though, about Enjolras and his cranky "get back on mission! We're plotting to kill bloated capitalists here!"
"The principles of freedom, of humanity, and of justice, will finally triumph over falsehood, tyranny and delusion, and every principle inimical to the interests of the human race" - Edward Despard, 1803

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Postby MmeBahorel » Tue Jul 21, 2009 12:17 am

Marianne: I think people give all the nerd characteristics to Combeferre because we can't see ourselves being as awesome as Enjolras. Also, if you see yourself as a nerd and kind of a loser, how can you possibly see anything in common with the leader of a revolutionary movement who is incredibly hot and everyone is in love with him, and he has renounced (I think this is important) the world in favour of the revolution. It's calling, like to the priesthood, not just a general dorky interest that takes over your life. A preference for Augustine as the model, not "insert pious-from-birth saint here".

Failed utopias seem rather more 19th c. to me - and I don't mean ideal communities but the constant failure of liberal revolutions. Liberalism advancing through top-down rather than bottom-up mechanisms, no meeting in the middle. I'm not quite seeing what you're trying to get at here with a 20th c. historical context. Hungary '56 and Czechoslovakia '68? Imperial repression of liberalism is imperial repression, whether the victim is technically subordinate to the oppressor or whether it is "fraternal assistance". Or straight up Russian revolution as a disastrously failed utopia? I am so confused. Possibly because I have too many different directions go to within what is rather my academic field.

Eppie: Of course, and I never meant to imply that there was something wrong with the musical (and that bit about Buonaparte replaced by love is what I wanted to post when I got home *g*). But the conflation of musical and novel tone (I can't even call them different canon in this instance, I think, because it's not so much in the text itself but in the purpose of the text and the context) leads to confusion on the part of the reader of the fic produced. Also because the other important part of R&B is that EVERYONE JOINS WITH ENJOLRAS after totally laughing at/joking with Marius - and so does Marius. He's not still pouting about it when they leave to rally support during DYHTPS - Éponine comes back and that's what pulls him away, not him going to look for her.

So much context from the musical gets ignored. Is this because people are basing fic and novel interps off one viewing and multiple times listening to the score? Do I focus more on the context because that's the sort of obsession I've had with the musical for ten years? (I was detail girl - I drew conclusions based on the way an actor would turn his head to look at the audience.) But also, why would you base character interps on, say, audio of Michael Maguire when you've got Hugo in front of you? A fraction of a performance vs. the original source material. But then, I'm the crazy research obsessed person, so of course I am looking for original source material whenever possible (even when writing crack fic, god help me). I've approached ficcing academically for so long that I can't wholly imagine sitting down with just an adaptation. I cringe over the three-part Stankevich/Turgenev slash I wrote because no research was committed in the perpetration of an excuse to visualise Ray Coulthard making out with Guy Henry. I usually need as much information as possible so I can work out if I can do what I want to do and then how to do it. It's a different way of writing, and I think it can lead to each side going "bwuh?" about the other.

Despard: I don't know how he puts up with Joly and Bossuet. Talk about slackers! Yes, Joly has a cold, but no one seems terribly surprised that they're skiving off the one moment of action. If the mob didn't happen to troop past, they probably would have missed the emeute entirely. (Related, how many exams does Joly have to sit over again? and he sure as hell doesn't have an externat or internat - Hugo would have mentioned it and the boy seems to be a total slacker. It's just wrong that Combeferre is not described as a medical student but is bandaging up the wounded while Joly is examining his tongue in the mirror.) I wouldn't be as nice to Joly as Enjolras is. I wouldn't be as nice to R as Enjolras is. The man really does have the patience of a saint sometimes and gets so little credit for it. (Because Joly/Bossuet/Musichetta is adorable? Or because so few people actually think through the whole Joly thing? Or because slackers are automatically more fun than people who do actual work? I love Courfeyrac to death, and he is a slacker, except I only ever see him as constantly in motion, in a sense, devoting all kinds of energy to everything *except* his supposed reason for being supported in Paris. So in a way, he's not really a slacker at all, just dedicated to mischief as opposed to law. Like Fred and George Weasley - hardworking and dedicated, just not to what they're supposed to be working on. Joly slacks off on the actual riot, though, which is almost inexcusable.)
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard

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Postby Col.Despard » Tue Jul 21, 2009 11:38 am

MmeBahorel wrote:he has renounced (I think this is important) the world in favour of the revolution. It's calling, like to the priesthood, not just a general dorky interest that takes over your life. A preference for Augustine as the model, not "insert pious-from-birth saint here".

Yes! Such an important point. I think that Enjolras has fallen victim to changing ideas on sexuality. Early readers would have made the connection between chastity and purity, and Enjolras's very conscious identification of himself and his colleagues as the "the priests of the Republic." But readers post Freud would have seen his celibacy in a different light - no longer an indication of purity, chastity for readers from about the 1920s onwards (often with a very sketchy grasp of the underlying psychological theories) became an indication of sexual repression. Far from commendable, it becomes a character flaw.

You can see this evolution in the biographical interpretation of certain historical figures - Elizabeth Siddal goes from early accounts where she appears as a pure Pre-Raphaelite muse who chastely does not sleep with Rossetti until marriage, to being seen in the 20s and 30s as a sexually repressed woman whose refusal to give into natural urges is a blight not only on her own life, but as stifling her husband's creativity.

So Enjolras manages to acquire another character flaw - he's frigid! Gasp! Particularly in contrast with the free-wheeling sexuality of some of his friends (I'm looking at YOU, Courfeyrac!). Good thing Hugo emphasises his virility, or we'd have yet more of the wimpy Enjolrases out there, rather than merely frigidly prudish.

I don't think the idea that he never-ever kissed anyone save a corpse is meant to exactly be seen as normal behaviour, but originally it must have read as a poignant indicator of character (and perhaps one born to be the revolutionary priest that he is?). As it stands now, though - again, with readers filled to the brim with pop-psychology - you're almost left picking which strain of psychosis this indicates. "Just lie down on that couch over there, Enjolras, and tell me...did you also torture small animals as a child?"

I think it is easier to identify with the more humanly flawed, like Courfeyrac and Joly (and you know Courfeyrac can do no wrong in my eyes - I'd like to write a bio: Billiards, Bullets and Belles - the Life of a Student Insurgent in Paris, 1827 - 1832...I love your diabolically energetic vision of him). If we're not active slackers, we've met or can easily imagine those who are. I've met radicals of all shades and worked for years in politics, and known quite a few charismatic leaders, but I've never met an Enjolras. On the other hand, I've met Courfeyracs, Bahorels, Feuillys, Combeferres etc (never as cool, naturally).

Interesting, too, that the nasty whip-cracking Enjolras doesn't send his message to Joly...if this is because, as Grantaire suspects, it is because Joly is ill, does that mean Enjolras is giving him an out - at least for the funeral? Not really living up to his image as a hard taskmaster there, is he? I do wonder if, after his barricades-as-place-for-intoxication-not-drunkeness line that Joly and Bossuet decided to avoid breathing in his direction for a couple of hours until they sobered up a bit. Heh - I've always loved that the location for the Barricade of Sobriety was chosen by three-sheets-to-the-wind Bossuet. Reminds me a bit of Michael Collins kicking off his participation in the Easter Rising by pouring the supplies of porter they found at the GPO down the drains, declaring "They said we were drunk in '98 - they won't be able to say that this time." By the end of the Rising, though, when it had all gone to hell, he and a mate found a bottle of brandy and managed to write themselves off.

I also like Enjolras' relationship with Gavroche, too...okay, it's not exactly "C'mere you little tyke while I tousle your hair affectionately", but there is a rather cute rapport that the two seem to have...and even a respect. Also arguing against Dour Enjolras are the touches of wit and humour - sending Joly out to feel the pulse of the medical students, for example. He does seem to place some value on humour, as he plans on including it in his speech, it seems. No guffaws, obviously, but he's not entirely po-faced it seems.
"The principles of freedom, of humanity, and of justice, will finally triumph over falsehood, tyranny and delusion, and every principle inimical to the interests of the human race" - Edward Despard, 1803

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