3.5 Excellence du malheur 2/3/11-7/3/11

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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3.5 Excellence du malheur 2/3/11-7/3/11

Postby Charlette-Ollie » Wed Mar 02, 2011 2:45 pm

Volume 3: Marius, book 5: Excellence du malheur/The Excellence of Misfortune

Chapters:

1. Marius indigent/Marius needy
2. Marius pauvre/Marius poor
3. Marius grandi/Marius a Man
4. M. Mabeuf
5. Pauvreté, bonne voisine de misère/Poverty a good neighbour of misery
6. Le remplaçant/The supplanter

After leaving his grandfather, Marius leads a necessarily sparing life. Somehow he manages to pass the bar and learn German and English. This poverty-bound lifestyle, Hugo suggests, is what shapes Marius into the dreaming idealist we know and love (well, I love him :D). We also get to read a whole chapter about M. Mabeuf, and Théodule continues to stick his face in where he's not wanted.

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Re: 3.5 Excellence du malheur 2/3/11-7/3/11

Postby MmeBahorel » Wed Mar 02, 2011 11:55 pm

Book 5

Chapitre 2
1 (Rousseau the Aquatic): L'ensemble de ce livre est nourri des souvenirs de l'année de 1821-1822. Le chapitre La Mansarde du Victor Hugo raconté... (p. 353 et suiv.) fait de l'expérience du jeune Hugo un tableau fort proche : << On dînait pour 16 sous par tête chez Rousseau, rue Saint-Jacques […]. Il restait à Victor Hugo, sur les huit cents francs, trois cent soixante francs, c'était plus qu'il n'en fallait pour les dépenses imprévues et la toilette. >>
The totality of this book is fed by memories of the year 1821-1822. The chapter “The Garret” of Victor Hugo Recounted . . . (p. 353 and following) makes of young Hugo's experience a very close image: “One dined for 16 sous a head at Rousseau's, rue Saint-Jacques. . . . Hugo had left, of the eight hundred francs, three hundred sixty francs, it was more than was necessary for unseen expenses and clothing.”

Chapitre 4
2(rue Mézières): V. Hugo y avait demeuré avec sa mère et Eugène en 1821, dans un rez-de-jardin. C'est là que Sophie mourut en juin 1821. M. Mabeuf tient peut-être du vieux La Rivière, premier maître de Victor et d'Eugène, son goût du latin et des livres, et des Feuillantines sa passion du jardinage. Son nom, que Gavroche jugera << farce >> (IV, 4, 2), tire sans doute son origine de l'unique faute d'orthographe faite par Victor dans sa première dictée où il avait écrit << beuf >> pour << boeuf >>.
V. Hugo had lived here with his mother and Eugène in 1821, in a garden-level apartment. It's there that Sophie died in June 1821. M. Mabeuf derives perhaps from old La Rivière, Victor and Eugène's first schoolmaster, his taste for Latin and for books, and from the Feuillantines his passion for gardening. His name, which Gavroche will judge “farcical” (IV, 4, 2), pulls without doubt its origin from the unique spelling error made by Victor in his first dictation where he had written “beuf” for “boeuf”.

3 (Royol): Cette amitié confirme la présence sous-jacente des Feuillantines dans le personnage de Mabeuf : Royol tenait un cabinet de lecture où les enfants Hugo, lors du second séjour aux Feuillantines (1812-1813), allaient << essayer >> pour leur mère les livres qu'elle louait – voir le Victor Hugo raconté..., p. 135. Sa librairie avait fermé en 1821.
This friendship confirms the underlying presence of the Feuillantines in the character of Mabeuf: Royol had a reading room where the Hugo children, during their second stay at the Feuillantines (1812-1813) would go “to try” for their mother the books that she rented – see Victor Hugo Recounted . . ., p. 135. His bookshop had closed in 1821.

4 (village of Austerlitz): Village annexé à Paris en 1817, situé entre la Salpétrière et l'actuel boulevard de la Gare, derrière le boulevard de l'Hôpital.
Village annexed to Paris in 1817, located between the Salpétrière and the actual boulevard de la Gare, behind the boulevard de l'Hôpital.

5 (no more beautiful legend): Cette légende, toute symbolique, avait été trouvée par Hugo, pendant l'exil, dans un journal.
This legend, completely symbolic, had been found by Hugo, during exile, in a newspaper.

Chapitre 5
6 (General Fririon): Amis, d'après Le Droit et la loi, plutôt de Lahorie que de général Hugo.
Friends, after The Right and the Law, of Lahorie rather than General Hugo.

7 (that his pity went): L'autobiographie accélérée conduit le Marius de 1832 à une attitude morale et à des convictions proches de celles de Hugo en 1862, quoique la description du manuscrit par M. R. Journet et G. Robert ne donne pas ce passage comme ajouté en 1860-1862. Évidente aujourd'hui, l'autobiographe politique de Hugo dans le personnage de Marius semble n'avoir pas été d'emblée bien perçue – voir le fragment publié par H. Guillemin (repris dans l'éd. J. Massin, t. XVI, p. 455) : << J'avais fait, sous le nom de Marius, des quasi-mémoires, expliquant ce que j'ai appelé quelque part [dans Littérature et Philosophie mêlées, << But de cette publication >>] la révolution intérieure d'une conscience honnête. Ceci n'a été compris qu'à moitié. >>
The accelerated autobiograpy drives the Marius of 1832 to a moral attitude and convinctions close to those of the Hugo of 1862, although the description of the manuscript by M.R. Journet and G. Robert does not give this passage as added in 1860-1862. Evident today, Hugo's political autobiography in the character of Marius seem not to have been perceived straight off – see the fragment published by H. Guillemin (reprinted in the edition J. Massin, vol. XVI, p. 455): “I had made, under the name of Marius, quasi-memories, explaning what I called some portion (in Literature and Philosophy Combined, “Goal of this Publication”) the interior revolution of an honest conscience. This comprised only the half of it.”

Chapitre 6
8 (Cannon, what do you want from me!): Parodie de Fontenelle : << Sonate, que me veux-tu ? >>
Parody of Fontenelle: “Sonata, what do you want from me?”

9 (Military Annual [Annuaire militaire]: Hugo adapte ici un souvenir de l'Assemblée législative de 1849-1851 qui sera raconté dans Le Droit et la loi (éd. J. Massin, t. XV, p. 593) : << Un député, ancien libéral rallié aux servitudes, demandait qu'il n'y eût plus qu'un seul journal, Le Moniteur, ce qui faisait dire à son voisin, l'évêque Parisis : Et encore ! >>
Hugo here adapts a memory of the Legislative Assembly of 1849-1851 which will be recounted in The Right and the Law (ed. J. Massin. Vol. XV, p. 593): “A deputy, former liberal rallied to service, asked if there was no more than one sole newspaper, the Monitor, which made him say to his neighbour, Bishop Parisis: And still!”
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Re: 3.5 Excellence du malheur 2/3/11-7/3/11

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Fri Mar 04, 2011 5:12 pm

The chapter on Theodule is priceless. I like the insight this gives to Luc-Esprit's character: inasmuch as he hates being contradicted, he'd rather take Marius' obstinacy over Theodule's obsequiousness at this point.
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Re: 3.5 Excellence du malheur 2/3/11-7/3/11

Postby Ulkis » Fri Mar 04, 2011 6:39 pm

Indeed. To be fair to Theodule though, he isn't a fool, just kind of not nice to be taking advantage of an old man.

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Re: 3.5 Excellence du malheur 2/3/11-7/3/11

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Sat Mar 05, 2011 3:27 am

Another thing I wonder...did Hugo base Thenardier/Jondrette on anyone he actually knew? The incidents with Marius paying the rent are so detailed that it makes me wonder whether Hugo drew upon some real life occurrences for that.
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Re: 3.5 Excellence du malheur 2/3/11-7/3/11

Postby MmeBahorel » Mon Mar 07, 2011 12:35 am

This chapter explains so much of what I don't like about Marius. Partly, this is because I can't help reading this through a Feuilly perspective; partly, this is because I'm coming off my own couple of years struggling to get by on work that pays like crap when I much prefer a total bourgeois lifestyle. Marius is driving me nuts.

Chapter 1: Hugo claims that poverty is "Crucible into which destiny casts a man whenever she desires a scoundrel or a demi-god". We'll see the scoundrel later, I assume, in Montparnasse (who is also young, hot, with good hair, and very poor), which would make Marius the demi-god? Yes, Victor, you're basing Marius on much of your youth, but demigod? Oh, florid nineteenth century prose, you are not actually why I dislike Marius, but you make it so hard to like him. "Distress is the nurse of self-respect"? Maybe for you, Victor - for me, it was the destroyer. Also, Marius learning to swallow bitterness, among other things? Marius made his choice - he has no right to bitterness. It wasn't fate that made Marius poor, it was his own choice.

I also get lost in the timeline here, as Hugo has made it incredibly vague. If Marius was 17 in 1828 (and that much we do know), and he left probably during the summer (since he was still in class and the swimming school was open, also facts we know), then he was probably in his first year at the law school, as he couldn't matriculate earlier than the age of 16. The lowest degree would take two years, but let's pretend some of his fees were already paid for by M. Gillenormand for the following session. It would cost Marius 60 francs to sit his 2nd year exam and another 50 francs for the diploma. If he has go go the third year, then on top of that 60 francs for the 2nd year exam, he has two 3rd years exams at 90 francs each, plus an acte public at 120 francs, plus 80 francs for the diploma. Where on earth is he managing to come up with this money?

Moreover, at what point did Marius go into mourning for his father? At the time of his father's death, he merely put a black band around his hat (again, this is canonical). The traditional mourning period at this point would be 6 months. It would be, then, during this six month period of official mourning that he meets M. Mabeuf and undergoes his "conversion", but he certainly isn't dressing in full mourning while still under M. Gillenormand's roof. And then the whole "but the coat Courfeyrac gave him was green" thing. So at some point, long after the official mourning period, Marius goes seriously emo.

Chapter 2 - Again, it's the money that is driving me crazy. Feuilly is making around 750 francs a year if he engages in Holy Monday every week; he'll make more with a six-day work week. Marius is managing to scrape together 700 a year, having to live on less than two francs a day - a level a hard working grisette struggles to get by on. But we'll buy that, since Marius is poor, doing better than Marius still makes a person poor.

Chapter 3 is where I can't take it anymore. "He was happy . . . in suffering" because it was for his father. Smack that boy upside the head. Does he really think a father who had been through everything the Colonel had would approve of his son giving up on the possibility of advancement in life? Not bothering to attack any obstacles? Marius rejects a job that would pay 1500 francs a year for real work and include a room, if not board, a job offered because the potential employer respects the contract work he has done and wants to help him. There's a possibility there for advancement, if he isn't going to use his law license. And Marius rejects it not because he has other ambitions, but because he has no ambitions at all! Hugo tells us he works just enough to not quite keep himself decently, that he prefers to dream than to work. And he literally means "dream". It's one thing if his dreams lead to writing or art, but they don't. There's no creation, there's no labour of the soul in mere daydreaming, there's just absolute laziness. Cosette, you could do so much better.

Chapter 4 - Hugo likes his chaste old couples, doesn't he? Cauteretz is in the Haute-Pyrénées.

Chapter 5 - Hugo tries to undo some of the damage of Chapter 3, I think. Marius actually leaves the house and talks to people in a social setting! He is said to be "piling up schemes and aspirations". Of course, this latter is Hugo, not Marius. Hugo had aspirations; note that he doesn't flesh out just what aspirations Marius has that he isn't acting on. I suspect that this is because he has none, but Hugo needs to assert again that Marius is him, therefore of course Marius has ideas for the future. The Colonel's friends, besides Fririon, also include Pajol, which is fascinating under the circumstances (the man took part in 1830 and suppressed 1831 and 1832), and Bellavesne (wiki in French), who must be a zombie (he died in 1826 - or maybe he's a vampire, and he turned Marius? *g*). Much of this socialising probably took place in the winter of 1829-30 - it was an unusually cold winter, so Marius could go out more frequently as the ground was likely frozen more frequently. Here is also where we have Hugo conveniently eliding 1830 - but what does "satisfied and soothed him" mean? While one can easily assume he sat it out entirely, he's in contact with people who didn't.

The biggest gap with Marius, that I wish had been fleshed out better, is how on earth he stays friends with Courfeyrac AND Enjolras. Which proves a lot against fanon!Enjolras, doesn't it? If I can't take Marius for being an idiot, there shouldn't be any way that Hugo can say "They had remained good friends" when talking about not Courfeyrac but the group led by Enjolras. And Enjolras a few months later refers to him being kind of flaky, so they are obviously still in contact even though Marius never went to another meeting after his Napoleon outburst. It's one thing to say, in Chapter 1 of all places, that Marius had done some "good turns" for Courfeyrac - I can't quite imagine what those are at the period of Marius' lowest fortunes (as he lends Courfeyrac money later on once his finances stabilise), but I can try to come up with something that doesn't involve girls or money. But in Chapter 3 to say not only that "They had remained good friends" but also "they remained ready to help each other in all possible ways" - what? That sounds more individual than collective, that it's Marius and Enjolras not Marius and Les Amis, but it comes completely out of nowhere when judged against fanon, when judged against the marble lover of liberty, and when judged against my personal issues with Marius.

So, come 1830, if he is still on speaking terms with Enjolras, would not Enjolras use any able body in support of revolution? Which would make it kind of hard for Marius to completely sit it out, even if he avoids the barricades and shooting. He has two major acquaintances and one friend who are all involved the overthrow of Charles X. And that overthrow "satisfied" Marius; he was at least mildly in favour of it. This is so much more complicated than I had remembered! Particularly the relationship with Enjolras.

Chapter 6 - I still like Théodule. None of this sticking his nose where it doesn't really belong is his idea; he's just going along with Mlle Gillenormand's ideas in the hopes they might be profitable. He's not a fool, but he is kind of a tool. But I still like him. In part because by the end of the chapter, I sort of feel sorry for the two Gillenormand men, getting pulled around by Mlle Gillenormand because she doesn't actually understand her father. Théodule's only doing what he was told, and he gets called an idiot for it - Mlle Gillenormand's the fool, really. I also still love M. Gillenormand, ranting about Romantic fashion - "these kids today don't know how to dress and they all need to get a damned haircut" *g*. I think Tiercelin and Potier are actors (though the Tiercelin Wikipedia covers wasn't born yet, and Potier retired in 1827). Descamisados refers to the most radical left in Spain from 1820-1823, in a direct adaptation of the French "sans-culottes" (though the spanish is "without shirts"). Even his political references are about ten years behind the times.
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Re: 3.5 Excellence du malheur 2/3/11-7/3/11

Postby Col.Despard » Mon Mar 07, 2011 2:20 am

MmeBahorel wrote:
The biggest gap with Marius, that I wish had been fleshed out better, is how on earth he stays friends with Courfeyrac AND Enjolras. Which proves a lot against fanon!Enjolras, doesn't it? If I can't take Marius for being an idiot, there shouldn't be any way that Hugo can say "They had remained good friends" when talking about not Courfeyrac but the group led by Enjolras. And Enjolras a few months later refers to him being kind of flaky, so they are obviously still in contact even though Marius never went to another meeting after his Napoleon outburst.

Absolutely! Enjolras doesn't mentally catalogue him as that "Bastard Bonapartist" after the disrupting scene in the Cafe - he's just that rather dreamy guy that Enjolas had earmarked for participation in the Cause. Again: decided lack of pissy Enjolras. I always sort of wonder how Combeferre thinks of him, although storming the barricades with his gunslinging and powder brandishing seems to place him firmly in all the lieutenants' good books, if he wasn't before.

Heh - I had one of those little "good deeds" down as a translation of Polidori's text in order to facilitate vampire hunting :)

I cling rather to the idea that Marius must be more tolerable in person during this period than he comes across in the text, given that Courfeyrac - while an absolute doll - must have limits of patience that will be tested still further later on when his Emo friend decides to come and crash at his place indefinitely, while mooning around, not working, and borrowing money. Granted, Courfeyrac is a really decent bloke, but he just seems astoundingly cool with all this. Not that Marius ever seems to have the slightest appreciation for Courfeyrac's stellar qualities...he doesn't confide in him, tries to avoid him after a bit of good-natured Courfeyracian advice is doled out, and sounds so pissy about it when he later moans to Cosette about how much money he owes his friend. Okay, he does loan money to Courfeyrac ONCE, but as far as I can see, if we read the text this is a pretty one-way friendship.
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Re: 3.5 Excellence du malheur 2/3/11-7/3/11

Postby Ulkis » Mon Mar 07, 2011 4:39 am

There's no creation, there's no labour of the soul in mere daydreaming, there's just absolute laziness. Cosette, you could do so much better.


I like to think she whipped him in to shape.

I roll my eyes also at the notion that he became enriched through poverty, because as you say mmebahorel his poverty is of his own choosing and subconsciously he must know that he has a safety net if worse should come to worse. But I tend to go easy on him because he's young and I guess I can see why Marius wouldn't think he's a hypocrite - plus later on when he sees Éponine and the Thenardiers, it's a kind of wake-up call - that he's confronted with real poverty. But in general, he does need the kind of smackdown that the homeless women in Rent gives Mark.

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Re: 3.5 Excellence du malheur 2/3/11-7/3/11

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Mon Mar 07, 2011 7:09 am

Oh Hugo and his Romantic notions...at least when applied to Marius. It's astounding how on one end, Hugo can romanticize poverty to the point of trivializing it, but in a few chapters, he presents the full horrors of the realities of deprivation.

Yes, the fact of Marius remaining friends with the Amis del'ABC (or some members of them) puzzled me. I was thinking "to what extent would he really be ready to assist them?" Like if say, Courfeyrac asked him to pass messages or hide ammunition, would Marius do it? Or would he not, owing to his um...laziness?
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Re: 3.5 Excellence du malheur 2/3/11-7/3/11

Postby Ulkis » Mon Mar 07, 2011 8:17 pm

Like if say, Courfeyrac asked him to pass messages or hide ammunition, would Marius do it? Or would he not, owing to his um...laziness?


He'd probably pass messages. (and they would trick him into hiding ammunition: "Marius, here is some cake we're saving for Combeferre's birthday. DON'T OPEN IT, IT'S A SURPRISE." :) )

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Re: 3.5 Excellence du malheur 2/3/11-7/3/11

Postby Col.Despard » Mon Mar 07, 2011 8:32 pm

Hah! That is such a fic prompt - Marius unwittingly helping the cause because he hasn't got a clue what his friends are doing! Translating/de-coding messages in German and English without understanding the significance of their contents, being a bit of a mule for the messages...I can see Courfeyrac persuading him to take a book to his bookseller friend, not realising that it contains information on meeting times/locations. Maybe Courfeyrac isn't just being a super-cool friend...maybe he befriends Marius because he's so clueless he'd make the perfect tool, a cover for their subversive activities! I'm seeing Dark!Courfeyrac in Machiavellian manipulations of innocent Marius...he had a motivation for steering him into translations...
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Re: 3.5 Excellence du malheur 2/3/11-7/3/11

Postby MmeBahorel » Tue Mar 08, 2011 3:42 am

He could probably pass messages, assuming you didn't mind if they ended up arriving several hours later because he felt a need to stare at a vegetable garden for a while.

I am definitely glad that this time around, I'm not only reading all the footnotes but also wiki-ing everything I don't automatically recognise: I've spent fifteen years not knowing Marius hangs out with Napoleonic zombies!
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Re: 3.5 Excellence du malheur 2/3/11-7/3/11

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Sun Dec 01, 2013 10:02 pm

December 2, 2013

Marius Indigent

http://www.online-literature.com/victor_hugo/les_miserables/182/

In which Marius learns to make do without
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Re: 3.5 Excellence du malheur 2/3/11-7/3/11

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Mon Dec 02, 2013 9:53 pm

December 3, 2013

Marius Poor

http://www.online-literature.com/victor_hugo/les_miserables/183/

A humble but noble life.
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Re: 3.5 Excellence du malheur 2/3/11-7/3/11

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Wed Dec 04, 2013 12:25 am

December 4, 2013

Marius Grown Up

http://www.online-literature.com/victor_hugo/les_miserables/184/

A sketch of a reserved but inwardly progressive young man
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