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Monday, July 16, 2012

Book Review: The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

The Three Musketeers/ Les Trois Mousquetaires
by Alexandre Dumas
p. 1844 in serial form
Kindle Edition

    Alexandre Dumas' career is a case in point in the explosion in Audience size for Novels (in serial form) during the 1840s and 1850s.   He is well known for taking a "work shop" approach for his Novels, i.e. using helpers who did things like, oh, I don't know... write the books that were published under his name.  In this way he is a very "modern" figure.  Dumas also had a Romantic artist side- he was of mixed race ancestry, and spent a life in flux with episodes of high living, political activity and what today we would call Hemmingway/Byron-esque adventures.

   Alexandre Dumas is an excellent example of an Artist who was working in one field and moved to a related but different field, with a larger Audience.   Alexandre Dumas literally explodes into the nascent field for serialized novels at the end of the 1830s. He wrote a lot of books but clearly The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Christo and The Man In the Iron Mask, which is itself merely the part of a sequel to the original The Three Musketeers, are the three that most often stand in as his representatives on Canonical lists.

  The very popularity of The Three Musketeers virtually ensures problems "in the translation."  The biggest problem is probably the sheer scope of output by Alexandre Dumas and his little elves.   The Three Musketeers, by itself, is extremely long, and the best naughty parts are excised in most English language translations.   I wasn't particularly keep in the edition that I read for free on my Kindle, but I've read enough Sir Walter Scott influenced fiction to recognize the historical/romance/adventure novel genre in fine form.

  The Three Musketeers, written in the 1840s, is set in the 1620s or thereabouts: In the midst of the Wars of Religion that convulsed all of Europe.  Alexandre Dumas was a political guy- he was intimately involved in multiple shifts in power in France during his life time, and he came from a political family- his father was a General who fell out of favor, and The Three Musketeers isn't just a dumb adventure story- even though that is how it is most often received.

   I think, properly treated, The Three Musketeers presages the spy or espionage novel more then it echoes the historical romance model of Sir Walter Scott.

  Right after I read The Three Musketeers I watched the disastrously bad 2011 film of the same name.  It is notable in that it stars Clive Owen, Orlando Bloom and Milla Jovocich as the main villain, the cleverly named Milady.  Which I think is her actual name?  I don't know, I feel that is a joke of some kind, or it could be that they just call her that as a term of respect and he uses it as a literary device.  One success of the 2011 The Three Musketeers film is the costumes of Milady:

Milla Jovovich as Milady in 2011 The Three Musketeers

   Generally speaking, the costumes are excellent and everything else about the 2011 movie is terrible.  Hilariously, they set it up for a sequel at the end, which is fine- Dumas himself wrote sequels to the original book- it's hilarious because WHO WOULD MAKE A SEQUEL TO THIS FLOP OF A FILM.  Nice try, Hollywood.


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