Paul Adam & Les Misérables
or: Headcanons That Are Older Than Your Grandmother
I must warn you that every single attempt to type this out so far has resulted in hysterical giggling fits. I apologize in advance for the capslocking. It’s 3 in the morning here, ok, and I’m practically liveblogging this stuff as I read.
But let’s start from the beginning.
Paul Adam was a rather uninteresting French novelist from late 19th/early 20th century. His style oscillated from naturalism to symbolism, with lots of historical fiction in the middle. Not an extremely successful author, nor a particularly influential one (most of his works haven’t been re-edited since the 1910s haha).
Le temps et la vie is a tetralogy of books following the life of young Omer Héricourt, bonapartist, born in 1806. The plot is boring, the prose wordy, the historical research almost accurate but not very subtle.
What’s interesting is that the author decided to insert here and there some characters straight out from Balzac’s La Comédie Humaine, taken often from points in their life different from their original timelines.
And then, in the last installment of the series, Au soleil de Juillet, July 1830 happens. So what? you would say. Well…
“The few Swissmens in factions in the Louvre’s rooms hurried away from the pit, toward the colonnade, by the Seine’s side, pointing their rifles at Enjolras, Grantaire and Bahorel’s students, who were coming up the barricades, climbing them, and firing their guns.”
tl;dr Les Misérables/Comédie Humaine crossover fanfic is a thing that existed in 1903 pass it on
So here am I, still unrecovered from this explosion of fannish bliss, to bring you a translation of the juiciest bits. I had to stop several times to remind myself to breathe because it’s that insane.
Original text is here. Thank God digitalization is A Thing, and so is CTRL+F. A warning: my translation is sloppy and terrible (not a native English speaker, sorry!!!) but 60% of the fault goes to the original text; I swear this guy’s writing style is a mess.
Also I must do thing properly and cite the article that allowed me to uncover this treasure:
Patrick Berthier « Balzac au miroir de Paul Adam », L’Année balzacienne 1/2004 (n° 5), p. 39-57.
Scholarly duty accomplished, let’s move on.
I’m pretty clueless about the plot, but I managed to understand that the main character, Omer, moves to Paris to study law and gets involved in a freemasonry society thing. They do lots of stupid stuff such as shouting republican things at every single bourgeois in the street and openly provoking guards. (like, ok) Then they fight in the insurrection (that part’s very confusing) and I think Omer is kind of pro-Louis-Philippe but then he goes off and uncovers THE DAN BROWN EVIL FREEMASON CONSPIRACY and subsequently attempts to murder someone… IDEK. I don’t think I care enough to read everything; the book is kind of huge and, you know, just plain bad.
In this scene, Omer is dining with his fellow freemasons (and a whole pack of grisettes), when they are joined by some familiar faces…
As usual, they were joined in the middle of their meal by Grantaire and Bahorel, the poor student members of the Loge de l’Ardente-Amitié. The host soon got them to confess their appetite. The waiter brought two plates. Bahorel stretched over the tablecloth his long arms in scratched sleeves, and his big dirty hands. Grantaire ran his fingers through his dusty mop of hair; he stared at the grisettes, whom Bahorel entertained with the extravagance of his stories, such as the tale of his travel to India, where the Queen of England had sent him to attach the garter of the Order to Zulma, the Bengal she-tiger by day, woman by night. Moreover, he never failed to match his words with actions as he attempted to reenact the operation on Cydalise’s legs. Grantaire talked on as a grim philosopher. His grudge against the silliness of God, clumsy creator of the universe, was never appeased. He blamed him for depriving of breasts the young Adélaïde, who blushed, then cried and finally brayed out.
The members of the lodge also include…
[…] beautiful archangel-faced Enjolras who kept under his influence the whole youth of the Quartier Latin, and swaggered melancholically, austere, his eyes consumed by contempt, his hand cold to hold. Cydalise, for all her love for him, was unable to seduce him. However, she mockingly played at wooing him, she kneeled at his feet, devoutly kissed the tails of his brown coat with metal buttons, served him, sometimes attempted a lascivious caress she immediately retreated, simulating a frightened expression.
Enjolras shrugged. With a smile he allowed her to sit beside him, but as he quickly started discoursing on the philosophies of Maine de Brian and Destutt de Tarcy, as Dieudonné Cavrois replied by citing Gay-Lusscac’s and Thénard’s experiments, as Omer Héricourt joined in the debated by noting the variations of the Law from the Twelve Tables to the Code Napoléon, Cydalise, rather than yawning in an uncivilized manner, organized some small games.
These games include things such as guess-who’s-kissing-you, in which Grantaire finds a way do it without his itchy stubble giving him away and Bahorel makes weird faces while covered with jam. He also earns the girls’ admiration by lifting four stools with one arm??? Very impressive, Bahorel, very impressive.
At some point they get inside a bookshop and there’s Victor Hugo’s Les Orientales – published in 1829 therefore historically accurate. Good job!
Bahorel and Grantaire are pipe smokers AND ARE TOTAL BFFs, making funny rooster sounds together during the July insurrection.
Also Grantaire befriends a dwarf on the barricades. (???)
Courfeyrac and Combeferre are actually the ones who first introduce Omer to the group (and other parisian forms of… entertainment); I think they probably had a part in the previous book too, but I couldn’t get my hands on a coplete version of that one. THEY ARE DESCRIBED AS DANDIES THOUGH
DANDY COMBEFERRE I DON’T KNOW IF I’M OKAY WITH THAT
YOU BETTER NOT GO OOC, M. ADAM
Anyway, Courfeyrac and Combeferre both wear fashionable clothes, Courf’s got a “London smoke” (fumée de Londres) jacket and Combeferre a “burnt bread” (pain brûlé) frac (these are 100% actual 19th century fashion colors btw) AND THEY ARE CONTINUALLY REFERRED TO AS THE COLOR OF THEIR CLOTHES like, “the fumée-de-Londres frock flattened itself along with a disraught Courfeyrac against the glass” I DON’T THINK I CAN ANYMORE
Meanwhile, the people of Paris continue to die of sexy:
Tightly fit into his jacket, the slender Enjolras, from the top of a stone post, spoke between Combeferre and Courfeyrac’s bayonettes. (please, this is not kinky threesome porn don’t try to find any phallic metaphor in there) Seduced by his curls, the music and his terrible words, the women were clawing at the air while insulting Polignac.
*claws at the air and insults Polignac*
Also Enjolras is basically dressed the same as the 2012 movie (I mean, the cut of his jacket, no mention of color) EXCEPT TIGHTER and with a red cap.
But well, yeah everyone goes to attack the Louvre, barricades are built, people die and then there’s this hilariously historically innacurate moment where a lots of events are slapped together with Grantaire walking on very official-looking tables and knocking over inkpots and leaving inky footprints everywere.
Louis-Philppe arrives, monarchy doesn’t fall, everyone cries.
FRANCE IS STILL NOT FREE
that’s all folks
time to read some good fanfic I guess
Oh, this is one of those legendary early fanfic things that totally deserves to be resurrected! That you for bringing it back, with more translations…I thought of it every time someone got all up in arms about the idea of a Les Mis fandom in the lead up to the movie’s release (yes, it happened – people were indignant that Les Mis had a burgeoning fandom) – people were writing fanfic long before the musical, and were having little “we love Hugo” fan gatherings, and even naming their cats after Les Mis characters like Eponine, Enjolras and Gavroche (looking right at you, Gautier).
The fact that he had Grantaire admiring Enjolras’ hair is just…
There is nothing new under the sun.