Questions tagged [french-literature]

Questions about works of literature which were originally written in the French language, regardless whether they were written or published in France or elsewhere.

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34
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1answer
12k views

Was there a reason Victor Hugo chose 24601 as the number for Jean Valjean?

24601 has developed into being an iconic part of both the Les Miserables book and musical. Was that number special to him, or was it simply a random number he chose (I doubt it)?
25
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2answers
10k views

Could you actually go around the world in 80 days?

Around the World in 80 Days is a novel be Jules Verne about an Englishman who makes a bet with some fellow club members that he can travel around the world in 80 days. Nowadays with modern flight, ...
24
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1answer
748 views

Which Tintin books were redrawn by Hergé?

The first nine albums were originally published in black and white, with colored editions to appear later: Tintin in the Land of the Soviets (never redrawn in colour ) Tintin in the Congo Tintin in ...
20
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1answer
2k views

Can the Count of Monte Cristo's calculation of poison dosage be explained?

In Chapter Fifty-Two of The Count of Monte Cristo there is a discussion between the titular count and Madame de Villefort about exposing oneself to poisons: “Well,” replied Monte Cristo “suppose, ...
15
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4answers
1k views

Why is the tense wrong in the beginning of The Stranger?

The first lines of Albert Camus' The Stranger go something like this: Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday It's told in the present tense, as in, when Meursault is recounting the event it had ...
15
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1answer
723 views

Why all those tangents in Victor Hugo's Les Misérables?

Anyone who's ever read Victor Hugo's immortal masterpiece Les Misérables knows that it's a long read... mostly because Hugo goes on a bunch of random tangents in the middle—on such topics as the ...
14
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1answer
250 views

Why is Camus asserting that “Marx scientific Messianism” is Bourgeois?

In The Rebel, Camus asserts that Progress, the future of science, the cult of technology and of production, are bourgeois myths, ... Why is Camus defining these themes as "bourgeois myths"?
13
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4answers
2k views

Why did the alexandrine become the “natural” metre for French verse drama, whereas English renaissance drama adopted the iambic pentameter?

We previously had a question asking Were all of Shakespeare's plays fully in iambic pentameter?, but of course, it wasn't just Shakespeare who used iambic pentameter; it became the prevalent metre in ...
13
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4answers
33k views

Why does Meursault kill “the Arab” in The Stranger?

In Albert Camus' book The Stranger, Meursault kills a character known as "the Arab" for no real reason at all. Meursault even acknowledges that he doesn't have to kill "the Arab" It struck me that ...
12
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1answer
1k views

How long was the Little Prince on Earth?

In The Little Prince, the titular little prince lands on Earth. How long was he there? If I recall correctly, the prince left on the 8th day of the pilot being lost in the desert. I don't know if ...
12
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2answers
1k views

Why did the characters in “No Exit” agree to torment each other?

Once the characters in No Exit realized that they were placed there to torment each other, why didn't they refuse to do so? When Joseph says "eh bien, continuons" ("very well, let's get on with it") ...
12
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1answer
152 views

Are the talking animals real or figments of the Little Prince's imagination?

The Little Prince meets some animals that can talk: for example, a fox and a snake. Well, we know[citation needed] that they can't actually talk, but do they really exist or are they just figments of ...
12
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0answers
173 views

When was young Cosette's bedtime?

While the song "Come to Me" was probably not intended as a treatise on astronomical timekeeping or 19th-century French child-rearing, some of Fantine's lines (taken at face value) fit together for a ...
11
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1answer
847 views

In de Maupassant's Two Friends, why does the colonel allow the two men to go into a warzone?

In Two Friends by Guy de Maupassant, the two men wish to go fishing in a warzone and are allowed to do so by the colonel who controls the checkpoint between the safety of Paris and the warzone outside ...
11
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1answer
418 views

Why is Rousseau saying that “[…] Russia was civilized too soon”?

In The Social Contract, Jean-Jacques Rousseau says [...] Russia will never be really civilized, because it was civilized too soon What is he referring to, when saying it was civilized too soon, ...
11
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0answers
124 views

“The Dearest Charms in France” - French story about soldiers, a lottery, and a famous prostitute

Several years ago, I read a memorable short story included as an example (of what, I don't recall) in a book about writing. The story was set in a historical era of France. I believe it was ...
10
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1answer
112 views

How long is the Nijni-Novgorod trade fair?

In Jules Verne, Michel Strogoff, part 1 chapter 5, when Michel arrives to Nijni-Novgorod, there's a huge trade fair going on in the city. The text seems to give two contradictory numbers about how ...
9
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1answer
778 views

Identification of a short story about a short irrefutable self-evident proof that God exists that is kept secret

I am trying to find a short story (about 20 - 30 pages long) I read a couple of years ago. Here is what I recall: The central idea is that a [catholic] priest creates (and writes) a very short (about ...
9
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1answer
4k views

What exactly are masques and bergamasques?

In Verlaines's "Claire de Lune" he speaks of: Que vont charmant masques et bergamasques They play musical instruments, so one assumes them to be musical artists, but what exactly are masques and ...
9
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1answer
190 views

Accuracy of a translation: how to forge an opinion?

This question is directly inspired from this one on French Language stack exchange. To summarize it, the OP is wondering about the good translation for "chimiste" in Baudelaire's opening ...
9
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0answers
332 views

Why is the last title in Proust's “Search For Lost Time” not consistently translated as “Time Found Again”?

Marcel Proust wrote a seven-volume French novel called A la Recherche du Temps Perdu. The original French title of the last volume was Le Temps Retrouvé. It seems to me that in these titles Proust ...
8
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2answers
1k views

What does Victor Hugo mean by “the red ant heaps of Toulon”?

In his novel "The Last Day of a Condemned Man", Victor Hugo writes the following sequence in reference to poor people who turn to crime out of hunger: Unfortunate beings, whom, by means of ...
8
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2answers
231 views

Does the magic potion provide invincibility or only superhuman strength?

At least the early albums in the Asterix series don't directly tell if the potion gives invincibility in addition to superhuman strength and speed. My impression has been that only Obelix is immortal ...
8
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1answer
335 views

Why different editions of Rabelais' “Gargantua and Pantagruel” novels contain different texts?

While looking for the original text of Rabelais' novels in French, I found that different editions have significant differences. Let's compare the first sentence in the beginning of the first chapter. ...
8
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1answer
138 views

19th-C French story about loner who dines and doesn't go to England

I'm trying to remember the author and title of a story I once read. It was set in Paris in the nineteenth century, and I assume also written by a nineteenth-century French author. The story is ...
8
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1answer
103 views

What does “And others, whose breasts love the feel of scapulars,” mean in Baudelaire's “Damned Women”?

Baudelaire's poem "Femmes damnées" / "Damned Women" contains the following lines (fifth stanza): Et d'autres, dont la gorge aime les scapulaires, Qui, recélant un fouet sous leurs longs ...
8
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0answers
548 views

In Baudelaire's “Chant d'automne”, why isn't the hidden rhythm better known?

I noticed something remarkable about one of Baudelaire's poems that I can't find any mention of on the web. My question is whether anybody has noticed this before, and whether there's some reason why ...
7
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1answer
1k views

Can the apparent age discrepancies in The Count of Monte Cristo be reconciled?

(Note: all emphases in quoted passages below are mine.) Continuing the theme of confusing mathematics in The Count of Monte Cristo, here is another example that stymies me: When Edmond Dantès is ...
7
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1answer
475 views

Why was “Notre Dame de Paris” changed from “Notre Dame of Paris” to “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” when it was re-published in English?

In the foreword to my copy of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Elizabeth Massie writes this: Victor Hugo's early novel, Notre Dame de Paris, published in 1831 and set in medieval Paris of 1482, was the ...
7
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2answers
2k views

Can I read the second book of “In Search of Lost Time” out of order if I can't find a good translation?

I want to read the In Search of Lost Time series out of order, because there is no good translation of the second book in my language. Is it necessary to read the book series in order? Are they ...
7
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1answer
120 views

What’s up with the coal in “Asterix and the Chieftain’s Shield”?

In Asterix and the Chieftain’s Shield, the inhabitants of Gergovia are obsessed with wine and charcoal, all having shops selling both. The coal is used for a running gag in the book as the Romans ...
7
votes
1answer
293 views

Why does Mersault say “Hello image!” to his girlfriend?

I have read the novel A Happy Death by Albert Camus. In this novel Mersault (the absurd hero) at one point says to his girlfriend, "Hello, image!". I am wondering why he calls his girlfriend "image". ...
7
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0answers
44 views

Authenticity of an anecdote about Flaubert unintentionally attracting a crowd by reading his draft aloud near an open window

One of my teachers of French once told an anecdote about Gustave Flaubert in class. I'm not certain I remember all the details correctly, so what follows is how I remember, or possibly misremember ...
6
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3answers
341 views

What is “the sin which ruined our first parents” in The Count of Monte Cristo?

The opening of Chapter 12 of The Count of Monte Cristo describes a meeting between Villefort and his father Noirtier, on which a servant apparently attempted to eavesdrop. The passage (translation ...
6
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1answer
79 views

Are the Asterix comics about a drug culture?

The potions used in Asterix comic books resemble the methamphetamine usage of World War II. Has the drug culture within the comics ever been discussed?
6
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1answer
173 views

Is this sentence in The Count of Monte Cristo supposed to refer to Fernand or to Albert?

In Chapter Seventy-Eight of The Count of Monte Cristo Albert shows Monte Cristo the following article from the newspaper: A correspondent at Yanina informs us of a fact of which until now we had ...
6
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1answer
54 views

What is meant by «le Saint-Siège de la rue Sébastien-Bottin et la chapelle Sixtine de la rue Jacob»?

A recent issue of the French magazine Marianne (3-9 January 2020) contained an article entitled Matzneff : de l'écrivain tendance au vieux dégueulasse by Guy Konopnicki. The article contains the ...
6
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1answer
388 views

In “Candide”, are Prussian officers recruiting for the Bulgarian army?

I am reading Candide as part of my A Level. In the story Candide is chased from his home and finds "Two men dressed in blue". We later learn that they are trying to recruit him in the Bulgarian army. ...
6
votes
2answers
866 views

Did Camus ever say “Always go too far, because that's where you'll find the truth”?

This statement has been attributed to Albert Camus in various places on the internet. For example, this one: However, his Wikiquote page doesn't contain this quote. So did he actually say it? If he ...
6
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1answer
117 views

Allusion by Albert Camus to another author

In Camus's essay The Sea Close By there's a sentence: This life rebellious to forgetfulness, rebellious to memory, of which Stevenson speaks. (page 5 of Penguin Classics 2013). Can anyone tell ...
6
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1answer
112 views

How much do the characters in Waiting for Godot actually know?

Waiting for Godot obviously never actually explicitly says who Godot is or exactly why the characters are waiting for him. How much do the characters know themselves? For example, do they even know ...
6
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1answer
135 views

Stendhal reference in Michael Herr's “Dispatches”

In Michael Herr's book about the Vietnam War, Dispatches, he describes Operation Pegasus—the relief of the besieged USMC garrison at Khe Sahn in 1968—in the following way: Pegasus was almost ...
6
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0answers
171 views

Are the homoerotic hints in “La Reine Margot” intentional?

La Reine Margot by Alexandre Dumas can be read as the story of two guys, and their two girlfriends: the alpha couple is Marguerite de Valois (Margot), who's having a passionate affair with the ...
6
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0answers
150 views

Book about a kid that encounters a foreign girl during holidays and invents a new language

I am searching for a book I read around 10 years ago (in French). The story was about a family going on vacation (I remember a sort of camping, near the sea). The protagonist was a young boy (8-12 ...
5
votes
1answer
281 views

Guy-Charles Cros quoted by Osamu Dazai: “comme un crapaud contourne une pierre”

In No Longer Human Osamu Dazai attributes the quote below to Guy-Charles Cros: …et puis on recommence encore le lendemain avec seulement la même règle que la veille et qui est d'éviter les grandes ...
5
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2answers
265 views

What does it mean to “unmoor criticism”?

The introduction by Pol Neveux to the complete short stories of Guy de Maupassant (the edition that's on Project Gutenberg - I couldn't pin down its exact details) says the following about the article ...
5
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1answer
216 views

Which short stories are falsely attributed to Guy de Maupassant, and why?

Thanks to @GarethRees's sleuthing and editing, I just learned that several French short stories found in the Project Gutenberg version of the "Entire Original Maupassant Short Stories" are in fact not ...
5
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2answers
128 views

Is Marie's comment based on the existence of a two-tier justice system in French Algeria?

In Camus' novel L'étranger / The Stranger, Meursault gets arrested for shooting "an Arab". During his pre-trial detention, his girlfriend Marie pays him a visit in prison and tries to give him some ...
5
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2answers
146 views

What is “Protean Ubiquity” in Proust's “Swann's Way”?

I have started reading Proust's Swann's way. On page 66 the narrator, after providing a very vivid description of aunt Leonie's house and its atmosphere, describes her state. She has gradually left ...
5
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1answer
195 views

In Les Miserables, why can Javert be the judge of Fantine and why does Monsieur Madeleine have the power to stop him?

In Les Miserables, one of the Protagonists, Fantine, attacks a citizen on the open street after he insulted her and put snow in the back of her dress. She is then arrested by Javert, the local police ...