4.14 Les grandeurs du désespoir 16/6/11-22/6/11

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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4.14 Les grandeurs du désespoir 16/6/11-22/6/11

Postby Frédérique » Thu Jun 16, 2011 1:48 pm

Volume 4: The Idyll in the Rue Plumet and the Epic in the Rue Saint-Denis, book 14: The grandeurs of despair

Chapters:

1. Le drapeau - premier acte/The flag - first act
2. Le drapeau - deuxième acte/The flag - second act
3. Gavroche aurait mieux fait d'accepter la carabine d'Enjolras/Gavroche would have done better to accept the carbine from Enjolras
4. Le baril de poudre/The barrel of powder
5. Fin des vers de Jean Prouvaire/End of the verses of Jean Prouvaire
6. L'agonie de la mort après l'agonie de la vie/The agony of death after the agony of life
7. Gavroche profond calculateur des distances/Gavroche, profound calculator of distances

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

In the process and aftermath of the first attack, several well-loved characters die more (Éponine) or less (Bahorel) elaborately. Marius arrives at the battle and temporarily saves the day by threatening to blow everything up, receives Cosette's letter, and sends Gavroche out with a response. As of yet, most people on this barricade are neither sure nor determined to die.

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Re: 4.14 Les grandeurs du désespoir 16/6/11-22/6/11

Postby MmeBahorel » Fri Jun 17, 2011 4:31 am

Livre 14

Chapitre 1
1 (poule au shako): Version dérisoire du coq gaulois – voir note 17 en IV, 10, 3. La << banlieue >> désigne la garde nationale recruitée pour l'essentiel en banlieue, qui est alors plus bourgeoise et plus réactionnaire que Paris
Derisory version of the Gallic cock – see note 17 in IV, 10, 3. The “banlieue” designates the National Guard recruited mainly in the suburbs, which at that time were more bourgeois and reactionary than Paris

2 (Forty-three insurgents): Même nombre symbolique qu'en II, 1, 2, voir note 4
Same symbolic number as in II, 1, 2, see note 4. [date of Léopoldine's death]

Chapitre 2
3 (le votant/the voter): C'est-à-dire celui qui a voté la mort du Roi.
That is to say, the one who voted for the death of the King

Chapitre 7
4 [end of chapter/book]: Note du manuscrit : << 14 février [1848]. Ici le pair de France s'est interrompu, et le proscrit a continué : 30 décembre 1860. Guernesey. >>
Note of the manuscript: “14 February [1848]. Here the peer of France broke off and forbid himself to continue: 30 December 1860. Guernesey.”
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard

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Re: 4.14 Les grandeurs du désespoir 16/6/11-22/6/11

Postby MmeBahorel » Wed Jun 22, 2011 3:53 am

Book 14

Chapter 1
And we start out with Enjolras/Combeferre OTP :)

I really want to know the tone in which Enjolras asks if Gav wants his carbine. It's not a real offer – it's the follow up to Gav demanding a musket several times now. But I'm curious how Enjolras jokes: if it's a deadpan to possibly go over Gav's head, or a shared joke between them.

We're down to 43 guys and no one is dead yet!

Prouvaire is unaccounted for in this list, since we know R is passed out upstairs and Marius is angsting in the alley. Is his capture already foreshadowed?

Hugo could not have predicted random PBS filler in the 1990s, but referencing the statue of the Commendatore, so I'm now laughing over “walking talking statue from hell”, complete with cheesy animation. Inappropriate laughter here! (it's at 2:47 if you don't have ten minutes for all the great operas.)

Ok, I know enough about warfare in the muzzle-loading age to be suddenly thrown off by the reloading. I mean, yes, the first row needs to reload, but we're talking a narrow street, so I'm guessing two files fired at once, one over the heads of the other to get that dense of a burst? Obviously, the next in line are prepared to shoot, but the sound of the reloading just strikes me as such a rarity. Nighttime street fighting, rather than a pitched battle, I guess.

Chapter 2

For Père Mabeuf falling apart, Hugo says “il s'était pour ainsi dire anéanti en lui-même”, néant meaning “nothingness”, so the verb anéantir is “to reduce to nothingness”, the reflexive s'anéantir is used in religious terms for “to abase oneself before God, in the knowledge that one is nothing”. I think that may be a useful framework in the translation. FMA say “was crumbling within himself” which doesn't, to me, quite go so far – you still have dust when something crumbles, but what Hugo is saying is really more the dissolution of the soul into the void, into a black hole.

And I do think that religious definition is important as what follows has so many aspects of religious devotion. Mabeuf is mouthing something, over and over. The insurgents watch him approach Enjolras with “a religious awe” (or possibly fear – the noun is “crainte”). Enjolras even draws back petrified from this spectral man who is about to sanctify the barricade with blood. Hats off in veneration. “One of those silences that occur only in the presence of wonders.” A murmur “like a hurried priest dispatching a prayer”. When he falls, it is in the form of the cross.

Then in the middle of the heaviness of death, we get Courfeyrac being awesome. “This is only for you, because I know you'd rather have the truth and I refuse to harsh anyone's buzz.” It shows why Courfeyrac is both a trusted lieutenant of Enjolras and a friend to everyone else in the world.

“A murmur of solemn and determined solidarity followed [Enjolras'] words.” Again, it's very like a prayer over the corpse. And then Enjolras kisses him as one gives devotion to a relic, and retrieves the coat as another relic, one to be handled.

Chapter 3
The cabaret is now both a prison (Javert) and a reliquary (Mabeuf) – or a morgue.

Oh, look, we found Prouvaire! Where was he? Who the hell knows. Did Hugo forget to include him in the list earlier or was it a deliberate oversight to foreshadow what will come soon? Prouvaire has to be mentioned here so that we know he's active before he goes missing, but it does sort of make me wonder where he popped out from just now.

And thank god for Gav – it's incredibly inept of the guys to all be making funeral rites over Mabeuf without anyone but a 12 year old paying attention to the WHOLE REGIMENT WHO WANTS TO MURDER THEM. *facepalm*

Marius has damned good aim for seemingly having no damned clue what to do with pistols when Javert gives them to him.

Chapter 4
Ok, I'm not wrong on this, am I? If there's 1200 men against 43, and the enclosure of the barricade is reasonably small, why are we hearing the National Guard reload instead of just continuing to advance with bayonets, as one does in a real battle? What is the tactical purpose of both sides reloading?

Also, Marius, you saved the barricade for now, but it'll be hard to retrieve all that powder, and when the place doesn't blow, the National Guard might come right back. Also, if they'd taken the barricade straight away that night, it is entirely possible that it's early enough they'll arrest you lot; by delaying and pissing off the authorities, you're all guaranteed to die. I'm not sure this is really the best in terms of strategy – why must everyone die now rather than live to fight another day?

There's a serious question here: Enjolras has sentenced himself to death, but is that for Le Cabuc or was that a decision already taken? Combeferre says he and the others will share Enjolras' fate – they all must die here – but we know that won't really happen. When it's said, it's rhetoric – obviously, if the National Guard stripped off their coats and joined the insurgents, no one, or hardly anyone, would die. I do wonder how Enjolras would feel about his summary execution if the insurgents won. In refusing to surrender when the Guard is overwhelming the barricade, Enjolras is probably sealing his death warrant, but it's definitely sealed once Marius comes on the scene to “save the day”.

Chapter 5
Courfeyrac glomp!

Victor, you just proved it wasn't an impregnable redoubt. You like your barricade, I get that, but this is beyond “she has a nice personality” into outright lies. The guess about the regiment of 1200 was obviously wrong if the Guard are waiting for reinforcements.

The issue here is that it is National Guard rather than regular Army. The Guard are conscripted, required to serve, but they're part-timers. Which is the only reason this barricade is at all “impregnable” - the suburban Guard wants them all dead, but they don't like this whole risking getting shot business. This may be why everything looks wrong to me – I'm comparing regular army to bourgeois part-timers.

Combeferre actually manged to arrive at the barricade with a National Guard musket *and* his cane? After some sort of a chase? I don't know if I'm impressed with Combeferre or facepalming over Hugo's continuity.

Prouvaire's death is a surprise, at least to Combeferre. The expectation was certainly that they would keep him under arrest and he'd end up at trial after the fact. This execution may be the point at which everyone realises that what has held in the past does not hold now, that they are, in fact, going to be killed here if no outside assistance materialises. Had this happened before? There were casualties in the riots in November 1827, but not actual executions. What happened in the July Revolution? It's doubtful the October riots in the same year actually led to serious casualties; the December riots were violent, with lots of arrests, but summary executions seem unlikely. June 1831 riots saw deaths (16 June: Marius was ogling Cosette, by his own admission, and it is entirely possible that associates of his friends were dying the same day). The clearance of barricades by execution of insurgents rather than arrest was done in 1848, and that's probably where Hugo gets his plot point from, but I'm really curious as to the meaning of Prouvaire's execution for the insurgents beyond the personal aspect. I suspect this is new and utterly terrifying, a move to brutality beyond anything conceived when piling up paving stones. But I haven't dug through the newspapers to really attempt to check it out.

Chapter 6
Victor, I don't think it's that the assailants dread becoming lost in the crooked streets – it's that they don't have a chopper to get an aerial view of just what is blocked off. If they knew these guys only had this little bit, and they knew someone else hadn't cut off the back way, they'd come in the back. But without aerial support, and in the dark, they can only do a little poking around what might or might not be the fringes. This is a tech issue, not some fear of not knowing the city or being unable to read a map.

Marius keeps talking to Éponine in the formal and for once she doesn't even try to correct him.

Why do literary death scenes go on and on and on? Really, if blood gushes out with each breath, shouldn't she be dead by now?

Éponine has been deeply creepy – luring him to his death, crowing about it as she's dying – but I kind of feel sorry for her. She's been raised by wolves, so she knows plots better than she knows how to properly interact with people. And here she's dying, and Marius doesn't even bother to address her in the familiar. She's out of it enough that she's probably focused more on what she's trying to say than in listening to how he's trying to respond. But it's also always been so important that he address her as “tu” that it must hurt so much that he isn't doing it. It must hurt so much that she doesn't even ask him to; she just lets what happens happen. The request for a kiss on the forehead is somewhat less intimate – she's asking for something that requires no reciprocation, that as we saw with Enjolras and Mabeuf has a reverential distance to it. In the end, she's letting him maintain the distance even when she asks for something sort of close to what she has craved for months.

The song about Lafayette: Lafayette, after the disaster of his selection of Louis-Philippe in 1830, had returned to the extreme left opposition in the Chamber of Deputies. It's a little jarring to hear his name in this sort of praise, but he had essentially admitted that he screwed up and was very vocal against the king he had made.

Chapter 7
*gag* Of course it's not infidelity! You've termed kisses before in this book as reverential acts, not as precursors to sex! Why would we think Marius is thinking “precursor to sex” when giving creepy dead girl a peck on the forehead? Only you, Victor, because you think of all male/female relations as precursors to sex.

I want to know what happened to the boy who was all into cross-dressing.

Éponine's actions are deeply creepy, and Hugo acknowledges it. It's sad because it's creepy, not despite it being creepy.

However, Marius is also being creepy, and Hugo isn't really acknowledging that. “Remember the promise I made you? I'm keeping it. When you read this, I'll be dead and haunting you.” Who the fuck wants to receive a letter like that? This is not romantic. Not that Hugo has termed it such, but Marius seems to think it's a brilliant idea and I wish someone could disabuse him of that notion.

Also, Marius, a twelve year old is smarter than you are. Really, anyone could have predicted that Gav was going to do this errand exactly as he's about to do.
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard

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Re: 4.14 Les grandeurs du désespoir 16/6/11-22/6/11

Postby Ulkis » Wed Jun 22, 2011 6:51 pm

Éponine has been deeply creepy – luring him to his death, crowing about it as she's dying – but I kind of feel sorry for her.


I feel sorry for her for the reasons you list, plus not to mention, she did lure him to his death, but plus, it was his own emo-ness that led him to the barricade.

This is not romantic. Not that Hugo has termed it such, but Marius seems to think it's a brilliant idea and I wish someone could disabuse him of that notion.


I like to think Gillenormand managed to do this somehow post wedding. (Now I have a picture in my head of Cosette reading the letter and looking behind her all freaked out, heh.)

Also, Marius, a twelve year old is smarter than you are. Really, anyone could have predicted that Gav was going to do this errand exactly as he's about to do.


To be fair to Marius Gavroche seems to be smarter than everyone.

I want to know what happened to the boy who was all into cross-dressing.


Tried to trade for a more elaborate outfit? When I read that I was like, if he wants to dress in women's clothes he probably was hoping for something a bit more frilly. I like to think Éponine fleeced him.


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