I’ve been chugging through this brick for the last couple of months and it’s very interesting but man there sure is a lot of it x____x
Goodreads says I’m 70% through, and I’m gonna have to take its word for it cus this thing is huge. There’s about five million chapters, but they’re all pretty short, so overall you can get through large chunks of it fairly quickly. After I’m done I’m going to go back and reread the abridged version I started with, because I have almost no memory of the details and have no idea what got cut out when they abridged it. In this translation it takes him about 230 pages to break out of prison and get to the treasure pffffffft no wonder it’s almost 1300 pages ?
I’ve been enjoying the book, but lately I’ve been getting that creeping feeling you get when you know that Adulthood Is Ruining Everything. I first found out about Monte Cristo when I was 11 because my mom started reading it to me when I had pneumonia and couldn’t run away from her, which didn’t seem like much of a compensation when I was missing the sixth grade Outdoor Ed trip. For context, here’s what I was probably reading at the time:
- The Baby-Sitters Club
- The Enchanted Forest Chronicles
- Harry Potter
- Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle
- Ramona Quimby
- Wayside School
- Pretty much anything by Marguerite Henry, Roald Dahl, or Yoshiko Uchida
YES I KNOW I’M REALLY DATING MYSELF HERE SHUT UP.
Suffice it to say that Monte Cristo was a bit different from what I was reading by choice, but I liked the book and ended up finishing it on my own, which is a damn sight better than what happened a year later with Gone with the Wind. That was the abridged version, which is now falling to pieces and is currently sitting in my drawer at work because I keep forgetting I was going to run it through the glue binder. It worked for me because it was about getting revenge and punishing your enemies, and I wasn’t quite old enough to realize that the hero is actually super fucking creepy.
Maybe it’s adulthood, maybe it’s because I know the story now and can pay better attention to the details, maybe it’s because the unabridged translation is more precise, maybe it’s a little of all three, but the Count is so unabashedly creepy that I can’t quite like the book the way I used to. When I was in sixth grade, it was beyond reproach. As an adult, I’m finding I don’t particularly care for Monsieur le Comte. I’m currently on page 890. Here are the things the Count has done in that time:
- While in Africa, he buys a mute slave named Ali, who was supposed to be executed by having his body parts hacked off over the course of several days. Ali is not naturally mute. The Count doesn’t offer to buy him until after his (Ali’s) tongue has been cut out, because “[he] had always wanted to have a dumb servant.” Ali is painfully loyal and grateful; the Count, in return, refers to him as “[his] dog” and makes it clear that he is willing to kill him if he stops being useful.
- He lures Franz d’Epinay blindfolded into a cave, introduces himself as Sinbad the Sailor, tells him the creepy story about Ali with “cruel good humor,” gets him high on hashish, and sails off early the next morning without so much as a how-d’you-do. Actually, considering what he does to everybody else, this one seems remarkably kind.
- He follows Albert de Morcerf to Rome, then proceeds to stalk the shit out of him, up to and including taking the hotel rooms right next to Albert’s, showering Albert with extravagant favors, and getting his bandit friends to kidnap Albert so that he can then rescue him. This kind of behavior looks like kindness and generosity to clueless Albert, but nowadays we call it “grooming.” If I didn’t already know Monte Cristo’s actual intentions, I’d think he was a rapist.
- While posing as an abbot, he learns that a Corsican smuggler named Bertuccio tried to murder Gérard de Villefort. After hearing Bertuccio’s confession, he bails him out and sends him to himself (literally, he gives him a letter of recommendation and tells him that the Count of Monte Cristo will hire him as a steward), then buys the house in which Bertuccio attacked de Villefort and forces Bertuccio to retell the story of the murder and its aftermath.
- Shortly after arriving in Paris, he arranges for Héloïse de Villefort’s carriage to crash in front of his house, then stages a dramatic rescue. When Madame de Villefort tells her son to thank Ali for saving their lives, the obnoxious little snot refuses on the grounds that Ali is “too ugly.” Ali does not speak French; the Count considerately translates Edouard’s remark into Arabic for him. (Excuse me, but why was this necessary?) After the rescue, the Count sends Madame de Villefort a recipe for poison, knowing she will use it to bump off most of her family.
- He also owns a woman named Haydée, who was sold into slavery after her father was betrayed by Fernand de Morcerf. Though he treats her well and is about as affectionate with her as he can be with anyone, he still regards her as a slave. He makes her relive the story of her father’s death for the benefit of Fernand’s son (Albert), but specifically instructs her not to mention that Fernand was the one who betrayed her family while simultaneously telling Albert not to mention that his father served hers. After she finishes her story, she looks at the Count “as though to ask if he was satisfied with her obedience.”
I would include his manipulation of the Calvacantis and the Danglars, but I don’t give a fuck about either one of them. To be fair, the Count also uses his vast and apparently inexhaustible wealth to help the people he still cares about, but these acts of benevolence are so few that they don’t really balance out the fact that he’s expanded his revenge to include people who had nothing to do with his arrest. GOOD JOB, MONTE CREEPO.
I seem to have become one of those people who take pictures of their books, so here we go:
Since it was (1) Memorial Day weekend and (2) just generally a lucky day for buying books, I hit up two used bookstores today and I swear I was only looking for Moral Disorder but I somehow came home with nine books and since I seem to be confessing all my sins I might as well mention that I cracked and read Ghost Bride even though I said I wasn’t going to until I’d finished Monte Cristo oh gawd don’t judge me.
(Full disclosure: Moral Disorder actually isn’t my favorite but the main character is a copyeditor and I feel really represented and it’s still by Margaret Atwood and I’m about to build a shrine to her greatness and I will be the High Priestess and yeah okay you can judge me now ?)