1.8 Contre-Coup/Counter-Blow 06/11/10-10/11/10

Abaissé re-reads the novel in its entirety! All welcome, no matter whether you're reading in French or some other translation. Discussion topics for each step along the way.

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1.8 Contre-Coup/Counter-Blow 06/11/10-10/11/10

Postby Frédérique » Sat Nov 06, 2010 3:30 pm

Volume 1: Fantine, book 8: Counter-Blow

Chapters:

1. Dans quel miroir M. Madeleine regarde ses cheveux/In what mirror M. Madeleine regards his hair
2. Fantine heureuse/Fantine happy
3. Javert content/Javert content
4. L'autorité reprend ses droits/Authority reclaims its rights
5. Tombeau convenable/A suitable tomb

You can find the French text of this book here and the Hapgood English translation here.

At the close of Volume 1, two major arcs of the story so far come to an ending: Fantine dies in shock when she realises that (amongst other things) Valjean has not yet accomplished his promise to fetch Cosette; to the latter end the man himself, having successfully saved Champmathieu, abandons his decision to turn himself in and resumes an existence of flight and hiding. And Javert is content. Briefly.


Anyone got anything on whether Javert's contracted 'allons, vite' - 'allonouaite' (Hapgood says 'bequiabouit', which in its own right sounds rather like some provençal stew) - sounds like any particular accent or really just roar-like?

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Re: 1.8 Contre-Coup/Counter-Blow 06/11/10-10/11/10

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Sat Nov 06, 2010 4:41 pm

I have always found Fantine's death here horrifying, but a tad unrealistic. Really now, died of shock? Was her consumption that bad?

However the most moving part for me would have to be Sister Simplice's complicity in letting Valjean escape. Just goes to show what Hugo's views on a certain hierarchy of values could be: compassion over honor/reputation?
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Re: 1.8 Contre-Coup/Counter-Blow 06/11/10-10/11/10

Postby MmeBahorel » Sat Nov 06, 2010 6:35 pm

Quick notes: Only two for this book.

Livre VIII

Chapitre IV
1 (violently pulled the wretches toward him): Voici Javert pieuvre. Motif largement développé dans Les Travailleurs de la mer, mais aussi dans le personnage du wapentake de L'Homme qui rit.
Here is Javert the octopus. Motif largely developed in Toilers of the Sea, but also in the character of the wapentake in The Man Who Laughs.

Chapitre V
2 (the window of the lodge opened, a hand): Cette scène du bras passant par une ouverture répète très étrangement la scène du vol de pain (I, 2, 6).
This scene of arms passing through an opening very strangely repeats the scene of the theft of bread (I, 2, 6).

(also, I want to LOL at the old woman reading the Drapeau Blanc - right wing national daily paper - saying "That'll teach the Bonapartists!" Rosa doesn't comment on it, but the fact that Valjean is a Bonapartist to some degree, or at least not a dick in reference to Bonaparte, even though he spent all of Bonaparte's reign in prison, seems to me mostly just another link between Valjean and Bonaparte rather than a systematic attempt at explaining Valjean's political orientation.)
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Re: 1.8 Contre-Coup/Counter-Blow 06/11/10-10/11/10

Postby Ulkis » Sat Nov 06, 2010 6:58 pm

Javert is content. Briefly


Hee.

I also laugh at, "his name was Beaujean or Bonjean, I knew he was too good to be true!"

The last paragraph of the book is one of my favorite bits of writing in the novel.

I have always found Fantine's death here horrifying, but a tad unrealistic. Really now, died of shock? Was her consumption that bad?


I think it was at this point. I guess it was shock and also Javert basically yelling and browbeating her - I guess you could say she also died of fright, because he says she'll go to prison, or least implies that.

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Re: 1.8 Contre-Coup/Counter-Blow 06/11/10-10/11/10

Postby MmeBahorel » Sat Nov 06, 2010 10:19 pm

Considering Hugo had already done the requisite result of a great shock in a Romantic novel - Valjean's hair had turned white JUST WHILE DEBATING IF HE SHOULD ENTER THE COURTROOM *facepalm* ("His hair, already grey when he came to Arras, was now perfectly white") - I'm not sure killing Fantine from "shock" even rises to the same level. From the description, it's a fatal hemorrhage of blood from late-state pulmonary tuberculosis. (Page 304 here - medical text from 1898.) The timing may be melodramatic, but the speed and manner of death look to be accurate, and I wouldn't be surprised if the stress of Fantine's morning contributed - stress would increase her heart rate, which was already elevated due to the disease, and would probably contribute to the bursting of an aneurysm. (also, note in that medical text that the particular sound in the tubercular chest is "râle", which is the word Hugo uses for the sound Fantine makes at her death: Fahnestock/MacAfee translate this as "a gutteral sound", which is probably accurate so far as it goes, but it is interesting that the French is what has carried over into English medical discourse and that, to me, gives the plausibility of a greater accuracy, rather than greater melodrama, to the scene.)

I freely admit, I was thinking that, too, before this re-read, but having had to look up the TB stuff before, and being utterly bowled over by Valjean's magical colour-changing hair (since arriving in Arras? Really? I was giving him the whole damned night before, but apparently he only needs a couple of hours), I'm actually going to side with Victor on this one.
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Re: 1.8 Contre-Coup/Counter-Blow 06/11/10-10/11/10

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Sun Nov 07, 2010 4:16 am

*shudders at the medical details of Fantine's death* Thanks for the info, MmeBahorel. I suppose one could say that hitting her head on the bed also contributed to the already dire state of affairs...

About hair turning white...rumor has it (my research fails me) that it did happen to Marie Antoinette prior to her death, just not that quickly. However yes, this is the world of Hugo, and I imagine that Valjean would have been under as much, or even more, stress than Marie Antoinette in that situation.
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Re: 1.8 Contre-Coup/Counter-Blow 06/11/10-10/11/10

Postby Hannah » Mon Nov 08, 2010 4:41 am

I mean it's actually physically impossible for hair to "turn white"; the hair outside your head is already dead. Even if something - stress or the like - causes someone's hair to turn grey or some such thing (which does happen sometimes), it's a process that starts in the follicle and grows out, like any other thing to do with hair.

/KNOWS TOO MUCH ABOUT HAIR

...That's kind of why I have always liked that scene, though. It's just so... ... durr hurr.

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Re: 1.8 Contre-Coup/Counter-Blow 06/11/10-10/11/10

Postby Charlette-Ollie » Tue Nov 09, 2010 1:53 pm

Oh goodness, I had to go get my Wilbour translation to read some of this part. I feel like it's an entirely different Javert I'm reading, particularly in the way he addresses Fantine after Valjean asks leave to get Cosette.

I suppose that a lot of it has to do with the context of the translation, okay, it's probably all to do with historical context and culture. It's just that what was hussies and 'women of the town' for Wilbour became sluts and tarts with Rose. Can I check that Rose has made an accurate translation of the French, taking into account 21st Century connotations?

Seeing this side of Javert gives me shivers. It's so unprofessional.

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Re: 1.8 Contre-Coup/Counter-Blow 06/11/10-10/11/10

Postby MmeBahorel » Tue Nov 09, 2010 5:30 pm

Voilà l'autre, à présent ! Te tairas-tu, drôlesse ! Gredin de pays où les galériens sont magistrats et où les filles publiques sont soignées comme des comtesses ! Ah mais ! tout ça va changer ; il était temps !

That's the only point in this book where he refers to Fantine as anything - "fille publique" is very standard language, even legal language - it comes up in regulations, and it is used by Parent-Duchâtelet in his study of Parisian prostitution. In Fantine's arrest, the narrator describes Javert's thoughts and uses "fille publique" there, as in "fille publique cracher au visage d'un maire". Only when he gets really bitchy with her does he address her as "drôlesse", both in jail, and here. The Académie française dictionary of 1835 defines it as "DRÔLESSE. s. f. Fille ou femme méprisable. C'est une drôlesse. Il est très-familier.".

For me, I'd use "prostitute" for "fille publique" and "whore" for "drôlesse". I think Julie Rose is pushing a context here that doesn't actually fit with Javert on the whole. He thinks in legal terms but lashes out in what might be considered "the language of the street". (Fahnestock/Macafee use my preferred terms on this one, but I looked that up after writing the rest of this post. Wilbour probably had to balance how he could publish references to whores in the UK in 1862 with Hugo's legal accuracy - because the French legalised it and talked about it all the time, Hugo could use both legal and common terms. Rose has the freedom to use whatever language she thinks suits best, and I don't think I agree with her on what language suits best in this instance.)
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Re: 1.8 Contre-Coup/Counter-Blow 06/11/10-10/11/10

Postby MmeBahorel » Tue Nov 09, 2010 5:41 pm

Oh, and yes, Javert may have come into the room all professional-like, but the moment he opens his mouth, he's spewing his subconscious all over the place. He's so careful most of the time, and then he goes all shouty. I actually kind of like, from a character standpoint, his "Gredin de pays!" comment. This hell of a country where galley convicts become magistrates and prostitutes are nursed like countesses! It's like he's hated being stationed in this hellhole the whole damned time and now he can both rid the place of half what drives him nuts and get himself the hell out of there, too. It's very self-satisfied "ah, but! All that's gonna change - it's time!"

I take back everything I said about Tom Zemon being too batshit in his portrayal of Javert in Signature Theatre's production - I'm seeing batshit right here. There are a lot of exclamation points - he's definitely pissed off and lashing out, and full of himself at the same time. Javert is mostly not like this, but wow, set him off and he goes off.
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Re: 1.8 Contre-Coup/Counter-Blow 06/11/10-10/11/10

Postby Ulkis » Tue Nov 09, 2010 9:10 pm

I take back everything I said about Tom Zemon being too batshit in his portrayal of Javert in Signature Theatre's production - I'm seeing batshit right here. There are a lot of exclamation points - he's definitely pissed off and lashing out, and full of himself at the same time. Javert is mostly not like this, but wow, set him off and he goes off.


I guess I can understand why he goes so batshit here - turns out he's right about the mayor, then he messes up by thinking an entirely different guy was Jean Valjean, and he probably does think that Valjean was laughing at him behind his back the whole time. The last factor is probably what especially set him off.

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Re: 1.8 Contre-Coup/Counter-Blow 06/11/10-10/11/10

Postby MmeBahorel » Tue Nov 09, 2010 11:22 pm

Fantine being there, too, isn't making the situation any better for Javert's bruised ego, probably, and now Valjean's just hanging out with that whore he rescued from Javert, totes making plans for the future in a complete parody of society. Because prostitutes shouldn't be treated this nicely in the first place, and the galley convict mayor is going to go retrieve the bastard child that (so far as Javert knows) is the product of Fantine's trade (not that he'd be in favour of the real situation, probably, but there's nothing illegal in having unpaid sex and getting knocked up so it's not really his bailiwick), and they're going to play happy families in utter defiance of what "family" ought to mean.

And after all, you can't have one over on Javert if you don't tell the world what Javert got wrong, so telling the world what Javert got wrong means you're having one over on him. Because of course you treat Javert with contempt, because he is the law, and you are the law-breaker. (You can read in some self-esteem issues there, that Javert is certain people laugh at him behind his back, but you don't have to because the contempt doesn't have to be personal but representational. Javert as any-cop rather than Javert as Javert.)
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Re: 1.8 Contre-Coup/Counter-Blow 06/11/10-10/11/10

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Wed Nov 10, 2010 4:24 pm

It seems as if overgeneralization is one of Javert's weaknesses. Ironically his familiarity with expectations and stereotypes helps him (like in anticipating Patron-Minette's actions), but it does throw him for a loop when he meets exceptions to the rule. You can see the beginnings of his eventual cognitive dissonance there.
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Re: 1.8 Contre-Coup/Counter-Blow 06/11/10-10/11/10

Postby Col.Despard » Thu Nov 11, 2010 8:28 am

Javert being very human, if to be human is to be inherently flawed (okay, I'm speaking in trite cliches this evening - I'm a bit knackered! So Captain Obvious is setting forth yet again). Javert is an instrument of the law, but humans are, by their very nature, flawed...therefore how can the system be perfect? The law, as personified by Javert, was as indifferent as most society was to Fantine's plight, and even a man who is a passionate upholder of justice failed to deal justly with her when she was provoked.

But Javert here on a less symbolic and more realistic plane reminds me very much of my late uncle, whom I adored. He was a real old school cop - and very much of his era. He did believe in justice and the law, and would have thought of himself as a very moral individual, but - as Aurelia says - he painted with a very broad brush. I remember having a very long, convoluted historical discussion with him about Ned Kelly and the circumstances under which he took to crime. After pointing out all the social circumstances regarding the incident at Stringybark Creek, and why Ned and his gang had good reason to believe that they would not be dealt with in a just and equitable fashion, my uncle agreed with me entirely...but said he was *still* a crook, still a bad egg, and police were quite right to deal with him harshly and not give him any benefit of the doubt. He was speaking from many, many years of experience of dealing with how criminals function. It is trite to say it, but law enforcement officers have to deal with the symptoms of poverty and the other factors that drive criminal behaviour (and not always poverty, of course) - they have little leaway to assess as a reformer would, or a case analyst who can go into mitigating factors. They have to operate on hard-won experience, and is it any wonder that their sensibilities become hardened?

In a sense, I think this is experience working against him. How many stories has Javert heard? There are few innocent inmates in gaol, so the theory goes, if one listens to the inmates. Most criminals would have a grievance - "yes, I stole...but I was driven to it for X reason!" It's one of the lines in the play that works because it sums it up so succinctly - Javert would have been very, very familiar with all those protestations of exenuating circumstances, dependents, etc.

So yes - agreeing with you here, MmeBahorel, that while Javert's triumph and ferocity in this scene are alarmingly at odds with what I think we would like to think of as a rigid but fair character, they are understandable given his extraordinary frustration at this situation and how he feels he has been played. From his perspective, it would be rather out of the ordinary than otherwise to assume that the Mayor - who you know to be a criminal and persistent offender - is anything other than a man living behind an elaborate facade. You occasionally run across the fanonical ideal that Javert is simply an avatar of the law and is coolly dispassionate and detached, but of course the text reveals him to be quite otherwise - striving hard for justness, he still takes a personal relish in the chase and the fulfillment of his job.
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Re: 1.8 Contre-Coup/Counter-Blow 06/11/10-10/11/10

Postby Wolf_Of_Mankind » Tue Nov 16, 2010 3:29 am

MmeBahorel wrote:Livre VIII

Chapitre IV
1 (violently pulled the wretches toward him): Voici Javert pieuvre. Motif largement développé dans Les Travailleurs de la mer, mais aussi dans le personnage du wapentake de L'Homme qui rit.
Here is Javert the octopus. Motif largely developed in Toilers of the Sea, but also in the character of the wapentake in The Man Who Laughs.


OHMYGOSHTHAT IS SO COOL. :mrgreen: :mrgreen: *explodes from awesome*

That's what I get from being behind, but WOW. So cool. Awesome detail there. And I love Toilers. Not all that insightful, but I feel I must comment.
"Have courage for the great sorrows in life and patience for the small ones, and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake."
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