Meta: Writing Grantaire

Meta related to characters, plots, or other elements introduced by Victor Hugo in Les Misérables.
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Hannah
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Re: Meta: Writing Grantaire

Postby Hannah » Tue Aug 17, 2010 4:33 am

OKAY I HAVE A QUESTION real quick for ya'll

So like Victor Hugo goes way way out of his way to compare E/R to a billion billion classical Meaningful Homoerotic Relationships, right? And I know he says that in each one of these, one of the dudes is "lesser" and "requires" the other dude to complete him/to have someone to lean upon/wev. But from my understanding, at least of the couples he alludes to with whom I am familiar, there was a very ... mutual value thing going on? I mean espesh Alexander, who was CONSTANTLY telling everyone who stood still long enough that Hephaestion was the SAME HUMAN AS HE WAS and stuff? Is this a more modern understanding? Was it common in the 19th century to view those relationships as more one-sided? Or is Hugo alluding to what they COULD be, if Grantaire had some value to Enjolras, instead of faffing around doing fuck all? Because before I read Les Mis, I never encountered anything which spun any of those relationships as "one dude who was amazing and great and the other dude who rode his coattails, and the first dude for some reason allows this, because...?"

AM I MISSING SOMETHING :( This has always confused me about that passage.

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Re: Meta: Writing Grantaire

Postby MmeJavert » Tue Aug 17, 2010 4:38 am

I think what he's saying is that one of the pair is somehow more prominent, or more well known than the other. Orestes is more likely to be recognised than Pylades; everyone knows who Achilles is, but Patroclos might be unfamiliar; Alexander is the famous important one, and many people don't know Achilles existed. This is true today, actually; in Hugo's time people might've been more familiar with these classical figures.

Either way, you don't say Patroclus and Achilles, or Pylades and Orestes, or Hephaestion and Alexander. Alexander may have considered Hephaestion his equal, but that doesn't mean the rest of the Greeks did; Achilles was the commander of the Myrmidons and basically was supposed to be the Big Man on the Battlefield during the siege at Troy, and Patroclus was merely a captain under him -- though they were the dearest of friends, possibly even more than friends. Nisus and Euryalus might not be familiar to anyone who hasn't read the Aeneid, and honestly having translated that sucker I can see why they got mentioned -- one of them is younger and more talented than the other, but they were always together.

I think the point Hugo is trying to make is that without Orestes, we wouldn't know Pylades. Without Alexander, we wouldn't know Hephaestion. Without Nisus, we wouldn't know Euryalus. Without Achilles, we wouldn't know Patroclus. Thus, without Enjolras, Grantaire would just be a name in the mists of obscurity.
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Re: Meta: Writing Grantaire

Postby Marianne » Tue Aug 17, 2010 4:39 am

I see it as... they might have respected each other greatly and had a mutual value thing going on, but to the eyes of history, one always comes first. Nobody would give a crap about Pylades or Hephaeston if their names weren't attached to Orestes and Alexander. Likewise Grantaire is only really important to the story in relation to Enjolras, and to make matters worse, his Orestes doesn't even particularly like him.

(Oh, MmeJavert got there first, never mind.)
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Re: Meta: Writing Grantaire

Postby Hannah » Tue Aug 17, 2010 4:42 am

OH OKAY. So you think he means it in the sense of the narrative..? I always got the impression that he meant they literally in reality could only get by by leaning on the "stronger" dude, and while I know that there's you know... one of these dudes is important and one is less important, I never got the impression that much spineless leaning was going on. I see what you mean now. THANKS GUYS.

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Re: Meta: Writing Grantaire

Postby Roses for Ophelia » Tue Aug 17, 2010 4:46 am

The Greeks had such a fine line between friend and lover, and who was chastely in love with each other, and who was having sex. I personally think that if Grantaire had his way he and Enjolras would have a chaste love sort of relationship, but i only say that because they are compared to Orestes and Pylades who, unless you want to take the subtext through the roof, are not having sex because it would diminish their love rather than add to it. But then I sometimes think Grantaire wakes up from some very disturbing dreams about Enjolras, and doesn't know what to make of them.


We, the 21st century fangirls are a bit at a disadvantage here. Like Mme Bahorel said, we have the vocabulary to explain this sort of stuff, so we're trying to put a name on something that wasn't written to really have a name. We're overanalyzing things, trying to name it because we can name every other sort of sexuality, but in Grantaire's time and Hugos there was just heterosexuality and the open secret of homosexuality. Grantaire's sexuality is probably just confusing him, and it confuses us--whoever said that is right. If Grantaire can be summed up in a word (insomuch as anyone can be) it's probably confusion.

That being said, i think we should make a pact that the next person who is drunk should come to this thread and write about Grantaire, and see what comes of it.
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Re: Meta: Writing Grantaire

Postby Marianne » Tue Aug 17, 2010 4:59 am

Roses for Ophelia wrote:That being said, i think we should make a pact that the next person who is drunk should come to this thread and write about Grantaire, and see what comes of it.


I have booze, but if I got drunk and posted it would probably be some not-very-entertaining blather about straightwashing and the need for queer readings of classic literature, and on to my love of the word 'queer' because it encompasses ambiguities and is therefore better-equipped to deal with these sorts of shifting identities than any other word for Things That Are Not 100% Cis Hetero.

...so, uh, there it is, the post I would've made if I were drunk, only without the drunken rambling.
[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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Re: Meta: Writing Grantaire

Postby Col.Despard » Wed Oct 13, 2010 1:14 am

Just returning to Grantaire...I've been thinking about his background as I fiddle with the last two chapters of Etoile. It's interesting that he worked as a rapin for Gros - presumably Antoine-Jean Gros. I wonder at what age they would have started working as a painter's assistant? Although rapin's are referred to later as the equivalent of a painter's "gamin", from the earlier references when Grantaire is rambling about how he avoided actually doing any painting when he was with Gros that it would be the equivalent of "apprentice". Gros was David's spiritual heir and taught at the École des Beaux-Arts...a possible location for Grantaire to be a student? At least that's what I'm going with.

Gros, coming from Classicism and the whole Big Important Men Doing Big Important Things with Big Important Gestures, doesn't strike me as someone that the Romantics would have been overly enamoured with...did Hugo select him because he was a well known artist of the period who took pupils, or did he pick him to have a dig at the idea of such "daubs"?

I'm leaning towards having Grantaire move towards Gericault and Delacroix to the disgust of Gros, but then perhaps - given his Classicist leanings, Grantaire might have actually liked that school? Unless he was just too fashionable *not* to follow the Romantics?
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Re: Meta: Writing Grantaire

Postby Abelarda » Thu Oct 14, 2010 9:01 pm

I'm actually writing a story about Grantaire as one of Gros' students - a crossover with Balzac (and slightly Oscar Wilde), the Polish one in progress you asked about, Despard. And because of that, I'm more than interested in the things that you mention about, even if the fic puts emphasis on the psychological aspects of the situation. :-)

My guess was that Grantaire was a student of Gros ca. the years 1819-1822. If my source was correct, Gros was taking quite a lot of students since 1815. It would mean that if Grantaire started his studies around 1819 or even 1818, he was quite well-situated to afford himself to be his student, as Gros was probably still rather appreciated as an artist. Going further from the downfall of the Napoleonic Empire and with the increasing amount of Romantic elements in painting, Gros started to lose his popularity. Grantaire must knew that. Besides, Gros commited suicide in 1835 - more than ten years after Grantaire's supposed studies, but I think that the years after the Empire's downfall were his progressing downfall as well.

As for the style - I don't think Grantaire would associate himself with Gros' painting style, I don't mean even Gros' classicism, but the portraits that made him famous - above all, Napoleon's - all this flattery, servility and so on. Grantaire, the young Grantaire I have in my mind, is too cynical to accept it.

By the way, we managed to find Gros' grave at Pere Lachaise, which quite surprised us. Here's a photo taken by Elwen:

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Re: Meta: Writing Grantaire

Postby Col.Despard » Thu Oct 14, 2010 9:38 pm

Can't believe I wrote that he was David's spiritual "air"! I do have some odd moments... Ms Malapropism

I am SO chuffed that you're going with using Grantaire's art background, Abelarda! I'm a bit surprised more hasn't been made of it...there's Cary's wonderful painting, of course. I've got a fic or two kicking around in the back of my head that I'll have to eventually write, one of which deals with a family member disposing of his meagre effects after his death, and finding among his half finished canvases a certain painting of a certain figure...and the family member unable to imagine why the cynical Grantaire would be painting an angel.

That timeline would put him into becoming a student about the time that Gros began taking on David's pupils after he went into exile, wouldn't it? It reminds me that I need to put more thought into mine, as having him a student as late as 1827 would mean that he's either younger than I'd envisioned, or he's been a student for an awful long time! (Which is par for the course for Hugo, but...). I'll have to push it back a couple of years at least. What sort of age do you assign him?

Agreed that the subject matter would set Grantaire sniggering...I'm wondering if that's one reason why Hugo chose Gros (or if it was simply that he was a well known instructor). I feel rather sorry for this artist...accomplished and talented, but producing commercial work (as most artists of the period would have to do, at least from time to time), and finding himself on the wrong side of the artistic movement of the time and becoming rather unfashionable.

Awesome that you found his gravesite!
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Re: Meta: Writing Grantaire

Postby Abelarda » Fri Oct 15, 2010 5:00 pm

Col.Despard wrote:That timeline would put him into becoming a student about the time that Gros began taking on David's pupils after he went into exile, wouldn't it?

A few years later. :-) As far as I recall, David left Paris in 1815. My Grantaire is about sixteen when he starts to study under Gros (ca. 1819) and about nineteen when he gets expelled (in the summer of 1822). I am almost sure that I tried to search for the information about 19th century painters and their students in various sources while establishing those dates, although I'm not really sure where I found something that helped me with my calculations. Probably somewhere in the Internet, but sadly, I don't exactly remember where and I'm not able to provide the link at the moment, as The Picture of Lucien Chardon is one of my older ideas for a fic: I did the research for it more than half a year ago and now I'm only developing my old sketch. Although I suppose that my Grantaire can be slightly older than yours, as he was born in 1803, or perhaps he simply didn't last that long as a student; I'm sure there's nothing wrong with Grantaire still studying under Gros if he's about twenty-three or twenty-four years old.

I'm also interested in the idea of the fic that you mentioned about. Could you please tell me some more about it? Because now you have me wondering if your Grantaire's sketches (other that Enjolras' portrait, of course) are more like portraits of plain looking, not so beautiful people, or perhaps he simply doesn't paint portraits of any kind and prefers landscapes, for example? But anyway, I'm getting the feeling that our Grantaires are altogether different; mine is still more of a Classicist than a Romanticist, even though he obviously despises Gros. As much as he doesn't want to paint important figures, his field of interest are probably mythological scenes, which makes him quite an aesthete. I suppose there's a whole bunch of beautiful people's portraits in my Grantaire's place... or at least, there could be if he would ever want to paint them. Grantaire's attitude towards beauty seems very ambivalent to me (which probably makes me one of the very few Grantaire fans who actually want to see him ugly; it makes an interesting contrast). But then, my starting point was to engage in polemics with Oscar Wilde. And there are as many Grantaires as the writers. :-)
Tell me, I've still a lot to learn,
Understand, these fires never stop,
Believe me, when this joke is tired of laughing,
I will hear the promise of my Orpheus sing...
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Re: Meta: Writing Grantaire

Postby Col.Despard » Mon Oct 18, 2010 7:10 am

It's more that his works are incomplete in the story, Abelarda - I agree he'd probably enjoy classical work (but couldn't resist adding a humorous or subversive tweak to his subjects)...I have him as drawn to Romanticism, but I think he'd waver and not really dedicate himself to either, caught on the cusp of the movements. His teacher is a classicist, his friends and contemporaries are caught up in the artistic zeitgest.

The portrait is found in his rooms, and is complete - radiantly beautiful, an angel fearsome, transcendant and divine. It stands out among all the half finished paintings in the style of Gros, the rough sketches of his drinking buddies (I'm seeing a bit of Patrick Bronte here and how he illustrated his letters...also a touch of Hogarth!), empty canvases, canvases painted over...and admist all this waste of talent, these projects unfinished and half-thought out, but with flashes of brilliance and insight, is this one complete, beautiful, brilliant work.

Of course, the relative knows nothing of Enjolras, and can't imagine why a thorough-going cynic completed a work on that subject, finally assuming it has to have been a commission of the style that the skeptical Delacroix undertook (although as a side note, and in an area I haven't looked into, I understand that Delacroix's skepticism in relation to the church has been re-evaluated...I can't comment on the quality of that scholarship, however).

I love the fact that you're bringing a Dorian Gray vibe into your Lucien portrait - that is awesome on mutiple levels - but I'm a bit nervous my projected story might be encroaching a bit on your idea. Mine is completely sketchy at this stage and I haven't done a thing about it, so I'll hold off on it for now - I have too many plot bunnies as it is, and I really want to read your story :)
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Re: Meta: Writing Grantaire

Postby Abelarda » Tue Oct 26, 2010 10:33 am

Do write your fic, Despard, please! I can't wait to see more of your Grantaire; the more visions of him as a painter, the better. And actually, I don't think that our stories are going to be very similar, as I'm concentrating more on Grantaire's darker side. Well, perhaps not completely. But from what you're talking about, I'm getting the feeling that we see him from different angles, and yours seems very interesting. Besides, it's not that I own the concept of Grantaire as a painter, I'm shamelessly prowling on Hugo myslef. ;-) So, I really hope my fic won't keep you from writing yours.

I'm not sure if I won't dissappoint you, as The Picture of Lucien Chardon is not entirely based on Wilde; it's more like playing with some fragments of Wilde, Balzac (and not only Illusions perdues) and random bits of Greek mythology. Although yes, Wilde is my main inspiration - in the same way as Illusions perdues were the main inspiration for Wilde to write The Picture of Dorian Gray. I could probably say more or go into details, but I'm afraid to spoil the fic for you; I hope we'll continue the discussion about different conceptions of Grantaire and his art after Elwen translates the whole of it.

Anyway, The Picture of Lucien Chardon is almost finished, I have only one chapter to go. I'm going to miss it, and writing a sequel would be impossible; it would ruin the whole story. A prequel, on the other hand... :-) I guess I have to think about it.
Tell me, I've still a lot to learn,
Understand, these fires never stop,
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Re: Meta: Writing Grantaire

Postby moderntrickster » Sat Dec 29, 2012 9:30 am

I'm selfishly bumping this thread because I want more R meta. But I do have relevant things to say (perhaps? relevance is subjective).

At the risk of this turning into an essay on Why Grantaire Drinks, I'm going to be really concise and probably a bit vague - and apparently this is the only thing I'm going to be concise about tonight - in saying that the reason it's so hard to pin down is because there are as many reasons for excessive intoxication as there are intoxicated people. I've been through NA myself and the stories I've heard have run the gamut. While people tend to be of the opinion that any sort of substance abuse is a form of coping or escapism, it's not that simple and it's really difficult to explain to someone who hasn't also been through it themselves. Unfortunately it's just one of those things a lot of people aren't going to understand unless they've been there.

But onto the actual meta! To me, Grantaire reads as a very classic nihilist. Obviously I don't mean this in the popular sense that people associate with nihilism - nothing is true, nothing is real, nothing matters, therefore do whatever you want. I think it would be easy to shove R in that box and call it done. Unfortunately, that's not how nihilism works. The framework of nihilism had begun to be developed by someone Hugo most certainly would have been aware of - Immanuel Kant - and was expounded upon by Arthur Schopenhauer and, someone our very own Enjolras would have read, Georg Hegel.

Kant's view of nihilism was that if the assumed consequence of an action was reasonable (meaning it didn't contradict the reason for acting in the first place), then it was moral. So in basic terms: if you kill someone because they broke into your house and tried to murder your entire family, then the murder of the criminal is, itself, a moral act because it prevents a greater immoral act and isn't inherently contradictory. Moral nihilists will go on to say that because the morality of murder (or anything else you want to plug in there) is subjective, then morality doesn't exist at all. Kant also criticized the belief in God because you can't prove a theory with another theory. Belief simply ranked lower to him than logic, and he put reason over religion.

This doesn't have anything to do with anything other than giving some background on What Nihilism Is - which is: while nothing has any inherent value, the individual applies value to a thing by determining how it affects us personally. So one could certainly say with conviction that Grantaire doesn't believe in anything, because what we perceive as having value differs from what he perceives has having value. He might very well find more meaning, more truth, at the bottom of a bottle than he does in revolution. At least at first.

Schopenhauer elaborated on this and also laid the groundwork for men like Nietzsche (who was only slightly past being a contemporary of Hugo's), diverging from Kant and Hegel in that he argued "Man can indeed do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wants", which essentially means that human desire is meaningless in the big scheme of things. We would undoubtedly call this cynicism if we didn't agree with the philosophy. Schopenhauer believed that trying to force human will on the universe was the cause of pain and suffering, and the only way to "cure" (in quotes because it's merely a temporary remedy) this suffering was by observing the world rather than taking part in it. The most effective way of doing this was through art.

It's not just any art that will do either; only the art of true genius can take someone away from the pains of being an active participant in experience and give him the escape necessary for a reprieve. The genius that is necessary to create this kind of art is "a person whose exceptional predominance of intellect over Will made them relatively aloof from earthly cares and concerns." They're so fixated on their art that everything else falls away.

I don't know about you, but to me this sounds exactly like Grantaire's relationship with Enjolras. Enjolras is his genius and through watching Enjolras he experiences that escape from the reality of the world around him. When he sees Enjolras' conviction, he sees the artist he's been yearning for and gives him value on that principle. Therefore, Enjolras is valuable because Grantaire values him. There doesn't need to be a greater reason than that. It also explains why he has such an inordinate knowledge of Classics and perhaps even why he chose to pursue art himself. One of Schopenhauer's sterotypical geniuses was van Gogh, who had a similar issue with absinthe (even though he was, again, much after Hugo's time - I'm just drawing comparisons here). Taking this one step further, Schopenhauer developed a pseudo-religion based on this theory, in which these geniuses were seen as priests - and where have we heard the Enjolras-as-clergy reference before?

Schopenhauer also supported homosexuality and "Greek thought" as openly as anyone during the era could without bringing down a lot of criticism on himself and saw it as a perfectly reasonable means of birth control (or "preventing a greater evil" in his words). He wrote a lot about psychology and sex as well, paving the way for Freud's own theories. One of my favorite quotes of his is "The ultimate aim of all love affairs... is more important than all other aims in man's life; and therefore it is quite worthy of the profound seriousness with which everyone pursues it."

Going off topic a little, but Hegel was technically a late Romantic, someone influenced enough by Rousseau that I have no doubt Enjolras was well read on him. One of Hegel's beliefs was that history was made by the "spirit the age", the collective of all men moving together towards a common goal rather than one great man doing one impeccably timed great thing. I sort of see this reflected in Enjolras who, despite being the de facto leader of Les Amis, is perfectly aware that it's the whole that needs to work in unison to make something happen. I sometimes see him as a fatalist (which is a very Romantic ideal) who not only realizes he's going to fail on a personal level, but is willing to put himself on the line and become a footnote in history in order to rally other men to the cause - as opposed to someone like Napoleon who very much wanted to be a figurehead for a movement. He seems to me willing to let his voice get lost in the crowd as long as the crowd is still making noise.

So if you're operating on the theory that Enjolras is Rousseau, you can easily say that Grantaire is Schopenhauer. I think that Schopenhauer's views on aesthetics are Romantic enough in themselves (and I would argue that nihilism and fatalism are as well), that Grantaire and Enjolras compliment rather than contest each other... even if Enjolras may, in his single-mindedness, fail to see any philosophy other than his own as valid.

And *cough* if anyone wants me to move this to its own thread just let me know. :/
Suffering seems to be the inevitable fate of the creative sensitive types. Poverty, disease, death, unrequited love affairs, and disappointments of every sort fan the flame of the artistic spirit. - Henry Miller

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Re: Meta: Writing Grantaire

Postby WhoIam » Tue Jul 30, 2013 3:47 am

I feel like in fanfiction, especially modern AUs (of which there are many), Grantaire is very lazily characterized. He is often written as entirely screwed up, his life is hell, he drinks constantly, and he's written often as doing nothing but drinking and snarking.

I'd like to see someone write Grantaire properly, where he is more than the wine he drinks. He'd make a great tour guide, knowing all the best places to find the best chicken, chowder, coffee, billiard table, rolls, girls, and wine in Paris. He gambles. He flirts apparently outrageously. He does have self-esteem, contrary to fanon; Hugo even says that his self-esteem was not damaged when Irma Boissy told him off. He doesn't believe in anything but Enjolras, but Enjolras is enough for him. He isn't depressed, he is just skeptical of the revolution. He is a cynic, but he is more than that; he's a fun guy to be around, otherwise the others wouldn't be around him. He's often characterized as melancholic, depressed and unhappy, but I would consider him more phlegmatic. He's a faithful and loyal friend, he isn't interested in working or change, and he often thinks about the world without taking an active role in it.

In conclusion, a lot of the fanfiction I see has him as a melancholic, drunk artist with an awful family life, but I feel that he can be written as someone far beyond that.

Was any of that even coherent?
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Re: Meta: Writing Grantaire

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Tue Jul 30, 2013 1:41 pm

It is coherent, AJ.

That's why I decided to run with the side of Grantaire that is something of a scholar, the guy who knows his Greek and his French revolution. He's sort of the fount of obscura as well as necessary references, and is eager to share with those who take an interest in it.
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