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Blog entries on '19 December 2006'

Tuesday 19 December 2006

Dumas in March

You may recall that, last June, a newly discovered novel by Alexandre Dumas went on sale in France. Le Chevalier de Sainte-Hermine was found in the Bibliothèque nationale de France by Dumas expert Claude Schopp after being forgotten about for more than a hundred years. Well, it is out in English translation next March, entitled The Last Cavalier, from Pegasus Books who puff it thus:


Rousing, big, spirited, its action sweeping across oceans and continents, the last novel of Alexandre Dumas—lost for 125 years in the archives of the National Library in Paris—completes the oeuvre that Dumas imagined at the outset of his literary career. Now, dynamically, in a tale of family honor and undying vengeance, of high adventure and heroic derring-do, The Last Cavalier fills that gap.

The last cavalier is also Count Hector de Sainte-Hermine, who for three years has been languishing in prison when, in 1804, on the eve of Napoleon’s coronation as emperor of France, he learns what’s to be his due. Stripped of his title and denied the hand of the woman he loves, he is freed by Napoleon on the condition that he serve as a common foot soldier in the imperial army. So it is in profound despair that Hector embarks on a succession of daring escapades. Again and again he wins glory—against brigands, bandits, the British; boa constrictors, sharks, croco-diles. And at the battle of Trafalgar it’s his marksman’s bullet that fells the famed English admiral Lord Nelson.

Yet however far his adventures may take him—from Burma’s jungles to the wilds of Ireland—his destiny lies always in Paris, with his father’s enemy, Napoleon.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Tuesday 19 December 2006

Mitchelmore on Ford

The matchless Stephen Mitchelmore has just written a wonderful piece on Richard Ford's Frank Bascombe Trilogy for our edification: The sea closes up, and so does the land. Do take the time to read it, it is, as you'd expect from Mr Mitchelmore, a brilliant essay.


I must admit that Richard Ford has never really appealed to me, but John Banville's recent admission, in Salon magazine, of his fondness for the writer, coupled with Steve's tremendous article, has made me think I should, perhaps, reconsider. Banville said:


I'm becoming a little embarrassed at my enthusiasm for Richard Ford's novel The Lay of the Land, but it does seem to me the finest piece of fiction out of America in a long time. Its two predecessors in the Frank Bascombe trilogy, The Sportswriter and Independence Day, are marvelous works, but this new volume is remarkably fluid and accommodating in an almost Proustian way -- and it's laugh-out-loud funny, too.

And a taster of what Steve has to say:


The reviews take it for granted that this is a novel like any other, only much better than most. Yet right from the start Bascombe consigns his literary career to the past. He won’t be writing a novel again. This will be something much less than that. It will be enough for his to speak in “a voice that is really mine” as he says. The manuscript of his first novel got lost in the post. Soon after he wrote a collection of stories which weren’t. Indeed they got published and were well-received. The film rights were then sold for a lot of money. Using that foundation, he settled down to write another novel. Half way through his son died, and so did the novel. “I don’t expect to retrieve it unless something I cannot now imagine happens.” That ambiguity of that unimaginable something resonates throughout The Sportswriter. It suggests that the novel must find a connection to life that it now apparently lacks.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Serendipoetry

Memorial Tablet

Squire nagged and bullied till I went to fight,
(Under Lord Derby’s Scheme). I died in hell—
(They called it Passchendaele). My wound was slight,
And I was hobbling back; and then a shell
Burst slick upon the duck-boards: so I fell
Into the bottomless mud, and lost the light.

At sermon-time, while Squire is in his pew,
He gives my gilded name a thoughtful stare:
For, though low down upon the list, I’m there;
‘In proud and glorious memory’... that’s my due.
Two bleeding years I fought in France, for Squire:
I suffered anguish that he’s never guessed.
Once I came home on leave: and then went west...
What greater glory could a man desire?

-- Siegfried Sassoon
Collected Poems (Faber and Faber)

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Word of the Day

The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or two

Pre-order Anu Garg's new book: The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or Two: The Hidden Lives and Strange Origins of Common and Not-So-Common Words (ISBN 9780452288614), published by Penguin more …

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October's Books of the Month

The New Spirit of Capitalism The New Spirit of Capitalism
Luc Boltanski; Eve Chiapello
Horizons Touched: The Music of ECM Horizons Touched: The Music of ECM
Steve Lake, Paul Griffiths

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