All I did today was read THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO

And it was excellent. It was like being eleven years old again and being so enthralled in a book that you stay up all night in order to finish reading it. But now I feel a bit exhausted. I’m not really sure what to say about it. It’s a very gripping adventure tale. There are no tedious sections. And it’s a story that has a curious ambivalence at its heart. Edmond Dantes is a sympathetic figure. He’s been gruesomely wronged, and he’s exhibited tremendous willpower in his quest to keep himself sane and escape and wreak his revenge.

But, at the same time, that revenge feels so detached from the rest of the world. When he comes back, the children of his enemies are just sort of hanging out, being themselves, and it seems almost like a crime for someone like Dantes to wreak havoc on them in the way that he intends.

Anyway, I haven’t finished the book, so I’ll see whether or not he actually goes through with his plans (whatever they might be).

An interesting thing, to me, about reading French novels is that their view of their own national character is very different from our view of it. We tend to view the French people as passionate and romantic, but they view themselves as jaded and spent. The romantic love in French novels is frequently striking and beautiful, but also a bit shallow and flighty. I’m thinking the book I just read, Pere Goriot, for instance. It’s full of protestations of love. But the way the characters act is so vain and so diffuse that you’re never really sure what they’re talking about when they talk about love.

Even more interesting, the French seem to see southern Europeans as being more passionate and romantic than themselves. In The Count of Monte Cristo, for instance, several of the main characters are Spaniards or Italians, and a significant amount of the action takes place in Italy. And each time, the southern Europeans are portrayed as simpler, free-spirited, more honest, and more committed to their honor.