4.6 Petit-Gavroche 8/5/11-10/5/11

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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4.6 Petit-Gavroche 8/5/11-10/5/11

Postby Charlette-Ollie » Sun May 08, 2011 3:54 pm

Volume 4: The Idyll of the Rue Plumet and the Epic of the Rue Saint-Denis, book 6: Petit-Gavroche

Chapters:

1. Méchante espièglerie du vent/Nasty trick of the wind
2. Où le petit Gavroche tire parti de Napoléon le Grand/In which Petit-Gavroche puts Napoléon the Great to good use
3. Les péripéties de l'évasion/The ups and downs of escape

Here we become acquainted with Gavroche's younger brothers. Abandoned by the Thénardiers, they live with Magnon and Mamselle Miss until the two women are arrested and the boys are left with just a note with an address on it. They don't get far, however, when they lose the note to a nasty gust of wind.

Coincidence of coincidences, they come across Gavroche, and he takes them in, though none of them know that Gavroche is their brother (though of course, given that this is Hugo, it's not such a great coincidence at all). They move into Gavroche's home, in an elephant statue on the place de la Bastille. Meanwhile, Thénardier and his underworld mates are escaping from prison. When Thénardier gets stuck on top of a wall, Gavroche is called on to bring him a rope. He recognises his father, but his father doesn't pay any attention to him, and the two continue on their separate ways.

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Re: 4.6 Petit-Gavroche 8/5/11-10/5/11

Postby MmeBahorel » Sun May 08, 2011 8:18 pm

Livre 6

Chapitre 1
1 (to change to a nice fragrance its ill renown): Fréquentée jadis par des femmes galantes, cette rue se serait appelée à l'origine << Pute y musse >> ou << y muse >> : s'y cache ou s'y promène. Étymologie peut-être calomnieuse.
Once frequented by ladies of the night, this street was originally called “Pute y musse” or “y muse”: Whore hides here or walks here. Etymology perhaps slanderous.

2 (Rousseau did better!): Voir en III, 4, 3, note 20.
See in III, 4, 3, note 20. [Courfeyrac's obnoxious pun.]

Chapitre 2
3 (the breath of cholera): Un chapitre du Victor Hugo raconté... (ouv. Cit., p. 497-500) est consacré à cette grande épidémie, la dernière de l'histoire de Paris, qui emporta le Premier ministre Casimir Périer, mais fit beaucoup plus de victimes dans les quartiers et les îlots misérables – voir L. Chevalier, Classes laborieuses et classes dangereuses à Paris pendant la première moité du XIXe siècle, Plon, 1958, rééd. Hachette, Le Livre de Poche, << Pluriel >>, 1978.
A chapter of Victor Hugo Recounted . . . (op. Cit., p. 497-500) is dedicated to this great epidemic, the last in the history of Paris, which carried off Prime Minister Casimir Périer, but made far more victims in the poor neighbourhoods and blocks – see L. Chevalier, Labouring and Dangerous Classes in Paris During the First Half of the Nineteenth Century, Plon, 1958, 2nd edition Hachette, Livre de Poche, << Pluriel >>, 1978. [English edition trans. Frank Jellinek, 1973]

4 (Orme-Saint-Gervais): Un grand orme planté au Moyen Age devant l'église avait donné son nom au carrefour. Mais il n'existait plus depuis la Révolution.
A large elm tree planted in the Middle Ages in front of the church had given its name to the roundabout. But it had not existed since the Revolution.

5 (Hello, Miss Omnibus): << Pour tous. >>
“For all.”

6 (member of the Institute, General in Chief of the Army of Egypt): Cette périphrase désigne Bonaparte.
This periphrase designates Bonaparte.

7 (he lodged a child in it): Ce débris d'éléphant providentiel, grandiose et misérable était la maquette en plâtre d'un monument de bronze projeté par Napoléon. Elle subsiste place de la Bastille de 1814 à 1846 ; Hugo en avait emporté un morceau lors de sa démolition en juillet 1846.
Gavroche et ses frères sont dans l'éléphant comme les Grecs dans le ventre du cheval de Troie – voir William Shakespeare : << Il [Eschyle] raccourcit aux proportions naines les Grecs vainqueurs de Troie par trahison, il les montre mis bas par une machine de guerre, il les appelle “ces petits d'un cheval”. >> Et, plus loin : << Dans l'Inde, on donne volontiers les enfants à garder aux éléphants. Ces bontés énormes veillent sur les petits […]. >> (I, 4, 7)

This providential wreck of an elephant, grandiose and wretched, was the plaster mock-up of a bronze monument planned by Napoleon. It remained in the place de la Bastille from 1814 to 1846; Hugo had taken a piece during its demolition in July 1846.
Gavroche and his brothers are in the elephant as the Greeks were in the stomach of the Trojan horse – see William Shakespeare: “He [Aeschylus] shortens to dwarfish proportions the victorious Greeks of Troy by betrayal, he shows them put down by a war machine, he calls them 'these little ones of a horse.'” And, further on: “In India, they voluntarily give elephants children to look after. These enormous kindnesses watch over the little ones . . . .” (I, 4, 7)

8 (the Fumade lighter): Bouteille contenant de l'acide sulfurique dans laquelle on plongeait << l'allumette chimique >>.
Bottle containing sulfuric acid in which one dipped “the chemical match”. [wiki on Matches: because giving Gav a bottle of sulfuric acid is a brilliant idea *facepalm*]

9 (“from serious to sweet”): Souvenir de Boileau : << Passer du grave au doux, du plaisant au sévère. >>
Memory from Boileau: “to pass from serious to sweet, from pleasant to severe.”

10 (that makes the sea): Tout un passage des Mômes développe cette image sous le titre : << Conversation des flots. - Sous l'eau >> (éd. J. Massin, Fragments dramatiques, t. IX, p. 978).
An entire passage from Mômes develops this image under the title “Conversation on waves. - Under the water.” (ed. J. Massin, Dramatic Fragments, vol. IX, p.978.)

11 (repairs in white thread): Chose vue et racontée par Hugo, de façon moins décente, à l'automne 1846 – ouv. Cit., 1830-1846, p. 480-481.
Thing seen and recounted by Hugo, in a less decent manner, in the autumn of 1846 – op. Cit., 1830-1846, p. 480-481.

12 (M. Sanson): Lors de sa visite à la Conciergerie, Hugo s'était fait décrire par un ancien << valet de bourreau >> la maison de M. Sanson en 1846 – Choses vues, ouv. Cit., 1830-1846, p. 418-419.
At the time of his visit to the Conciergerie, Hugo had a former “valet of the executioner” describe M. Sanson's house in 1846 – Things Seen, op. Cit., 1830-1846, p. 418-9.

13 (zinzelière): Moustiquaire.
Mosquito net/screen.

Chapitre 3
14 (gourganes/favas): Fèves.
Beans. [Specifically, fava or broad beans.]
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard

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Re: 4.6 Petit-Gavroche 8/5/11-10/5/11

Postby Mamselle Miss » Mon May 09, 2011 4:17 pm

MmeBahorel wrote:Chapitre 3
14 (gourganes/favas): Fèves.
Beans. [Specifically, fava or broad beans.]


Insert Silence of the Lambs joke here.

Seriously though; it's interesting to me that no one has found Gavroche's little hiding spot (aside from the rats, of course). You would think that someone would have noticed a little kid climbing up inside the thing.
Laughter is not all a bad beginning for a friendship, and it is far the best ending for one.
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Re: 4.6 Petit-Gavroche 8/5/11-10/5/11

Postby Ulkis » Mon May 09, 2011 5:59 pm

Seriously though; it's interesting to me that no one has found Gavroche's little hiding spot (aside from the rats, of course).


It depends on how long he was there though. I think he was there only for a couple of weeks, no?

Speaking of the rats, the descriptions of the rats gnawing at the netting after they turn off the light? Eee. I got the shivers.

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Re: 4.6 Petit-Gavroche 8/5/11-10/5/11

Postby MmeBahorel » Thu May 12, 2011 3:58 am

You have no idea (or, really, you do) how hard it was not to insert "and a nice chianti" in there :)

A few notes of my own here:

Chapter 1
This is possibly my dirty mind, but it's also a direct theme in French literature of the later part of the century - Magnon/Mamselle Miss is canon, isn't it? The raid recalls prostitution raids later in the century (This Slate article cites Jill Harsin as comparing prostitution raids to Nazi roundups of Jews - swift, harsh, thorough), the location of her first house is certainly deliberate and the second is really the same ("It is thought to be this [street] that Guillot, in his poem, designates by the name Pute-y-Muse" - Dictionnaire historique de Paris, vol. 2, p. 281), and the décor just screams courtesan. Getting knocked up twice by a rich Royalist over the age of 80 is the sort of thing that could set off a woman's career - it gets one known in the right circles for the right reasons. And courtesans are often explicitly deemed lesbian. I'm seeing a lot more evidence of the sex trade here than of straight up thieving, particularly as what they are arrested for is never mentioned.

And no, I don't go looking for the slash, but I swear, the usage to which these sorts of relationships and descriptions is put by other authors (Balzac and Zola) makes the passage really stand out here because Hugo doesn't usually go there. I'm not entirely sure he knowingly went there, but I think it is there.

Chapter 2
Is Hugo paying attention, or did the weather turn awful in a few days? Marius is sitting in beautiful sunny weather, now it's freezing as hell. I'm sure spring weather in Paris is just as variable as everywhere, but he's also seeming to term the crap weather of this scene as typical, whereas we just had Marius in lovely spring weather.

For the record, "Windsor soap" is "Windsor-soap" in French. I find this hilarious for some reason. (Windsor soap is a heavily scented, high quality soap marketed to men at this period: there's a good description here. Good local soap would be savon de Marseille, generally lavender scented or unscented, made on an olive oil base. Both of these varieties can still be purchased through natural soap producers.)

The mômes are born in 1825 and 1827 if the estimate of their ages is correct; Magnon's are only a year apart in age, however, as described in III, 2, 6, and it was in 1824 she was pregnant the first time (Gillenormand was 84 at the time, and he was 74 in 1814). The croup epidemic was in 1827 if the math is correct, meaning the youngest of her children had to be born in 1826 or 1827. I'm wondering if the youngest boy was actually born in 1826 and is a bit small for his age, as we're just getting estimates here.

This is the chapter that, even more than IV, 5, 2, takes all the danger out of Gavroche. He is prevented from stealing for his dinner, miraculously finds money anyway, performs two good deeds that leave him the worse but others far better off, and does it all cheerfully. This is not a boy with darkness in his heart. Moreover, the mischief we see him commit is very light, not in the least dangerous, and not really all that insulting or vulgar - it's absolutely sanitised for the bourgeois audience.

Why Hugo uses the Iowa and Botocudo as exemplars of savage cries, I have no idea. Not seeing any crazy massacres by the native tribes against the white incursions that are getting listed on Wiki, anyway.

Notice Hugo has to get in a jab at Louis-Napoleon with his crack about "power in a tea kettle".

I find it interesting that with everything else he's doing here, the coincidences, the sanitised life of gamins, he bothers to justify "But there was totally a kid living in the elephant, I swear!"

Every theatre has a claque. They must be paid off in order not to boo your play off the stage. Generally, to get good word of mouth going, a playwright - or the theatre manager - will provide the claque with free tickets, will tell them where to applaud and which are the best bits to laugh raucously at (if your play is a comedy), and they will be paid for their efforts. If they are not paid enough, or you annoy them in any way, they will boo the actors right off the stage and make it generally very difficult for the play to go on. If you do not pay them at all, they will pay their own way in just to boo your actors off the stage.

Chapter 3
For some reason, I have a bookmark in the page where Babet is insulting Thénardier - was this for the argot usage examples or for the insight into Babet's character or what? I have no idea. Its a recent-ish bookmark, too, so it's definitely for fic purposes in the past three years or so, as I recognise the notepaper. Anyway, it is a telling scene, that here we have three of the four "chiefs" of Patron-Minette, and only one is still halfheartedly arguing in favour of not leaving Thénardier to the guards. And that's Parnasse, and only because he's sleeping with Éponine, not because he really has any faith in Thénardier. Thénardier's an amateur, and they all have serious doubts about him at all. Loyalty to a comrade only takes you so far when you think your comrade is worthless.

I also find it interesting to note that all the gang members address each other in the familiar.

Gav seems to pause or to think twice about helping out when he sees it's his father. Is this accuracy rearing its head for a moment over the bourgeois-friendly version of the kid? It's as if the actual consideration of an economy based on favours, which in this case won't be repaid and thus really aren't worth the trouble, gives way to a bourgeois-acceptable "He is your father, no matter how much of a bastard he is" and "When asked by your elders to do a job, you do it". I think the pause shows there is some bitterness there, despite how Hugo has tried to describe Gavroche's family feelings in the past. It's interesting because I'm re-reading Bleak House right now, and Jo, the street boy, lacks Gav's spunk but has the bitter depression that feels more appropriate to me. Jo has no family at all that he can remember, and his loyalties are to those who have made it worth his while, the people who have given him money or food. Gav, in helping the gang in general, is probably doing them a favour because they will repay him in some form. But helping his father, from whom he gets nothing and expects nothing, gives an impression even to him of family loyalty, and he seems to balk for a moment. Does he go through with it because Hugo needs him to for plot purposes, or because Hugo needs him to not repel the reader?

And linked to that is the final lines of the chapter, which oddly come from Babet to Thénardier. The man who has "misplaced his wife and children as one would a handkerchief" has more concern for Thénardier's family than Thénardier does. And it makes one wonder if he really has forgotten his own wife and children or if there's something more there. This disconnect is where most of my characterisation of Babet comes from.
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard

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Re: 4.6 Petit-Gavroche 8/5/11-10/5/11

Postby Ulkis » Thu May 12, 2011 4:50 pm

If they are not paid enough, or you annoy them in any way, they will boo the actors right off the stage and make it generally very difficult for the play to go on.


That's crazy. I'm guessing they had other jobs, because wouldn't they be afraid if they didn't hold up their end of the deal they would never be hired by the theater again to boo or what have you?

Does he go through with it because Hugo needs him to for plot purposes, or because Hugo needs him to not repel the reader?


I would guess for plot purposes, but I don't know much about the mentality of the audience that would have first read this, but I would think that even they would think it's okay to not help your thieving father escape from prison. It's one thing to not turn him over to the police in the first place, but another to help him escape when he's been rightfully imprisoned.

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Re: 4.6 Petit-Gavroche 8/5/11-10/5/11

Postby MmeBahorel » Sun May 15, 2011 5:34 pm

For more on the claques:

Opera in Paris, p. 126: A couple pages on the way the claque at the Opera flourished under the July Monarchy.

The Theatre Industry in Nineteenth Century France: an entire chapter, beginning on page 101, about the claques of the various theatres, how they functioned, how they were remunerated, from the Revolution to the fin-de-siècle.

Music Drama at the Odeon, 1824-1828, p. 129: about four pages about the claque at the Odeon - the first page or so condenses the chapter previously references, but the rest is strictly about the Odeon.
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard

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Re: 4.6 Petit-Gavroche 8/5/11-10/5/11

Postby Ulkis » Sun May 15, 2011 5:59 pm

Thank you!

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Re: 4.6 Petit-Gavroche 8/5/11-10/5/11

Postby TheOfficeIsClosed » Wed Jun 04, 2014 1:00 am

I'm reading this bit in French right now, and even though I'm sure I had a number of things to comment on, the main thought that is stuck in my head right now is, in Montparnasse's conversation with Gavroche, what the heck happened to the 'understand all argots/speak none' thing that's mentioned in the next chapter? I'm sure there was more than one occasion where he uses one of the words which are later explained in the many argot-to-French translation footnotes in the next chapter...

Also the fact that Gavroche seems to use a mixture of different argots from different areas, but then he probably interacts with different people and picks up words from them, and quite possibly(maybe?) also moves around from one place to another now and then depending on where he finds suitable places to stay, where it's easy to get food, and that sort of thing...
My theatre never closes and the curtain's never down!


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