Hey, NYC-area Les Mis fans! We’re having another meetup this Saturday, March 8, at 7 pm, at Panchitos, 105 Macdougall St. between 3rd Ave and Bleeker St.
All are welcome! Hope to see you there!
Signal boost! I’m usually at these things and hope to make it again this weekend.
For anyone who cares, I’ve reformatted my blog. Now featuring more accessible tags and an ‘about me’ page.
Awesome news: I just had a paper proposal accepted for an upcoming conference, this time for a panel specifically on Les Mis and religion! Operation “Beyond Christianity: Hugo, Heterodoxy, and the French Social Gospel” is a go!
So I’ve seen this come up several times in the Grantaire tag and it seems to throw people off—what is the correct pronunciation of that pesky “Don Juan”?
Logic would lead one to believe that it’s pronounced Don Huan—it’s a Spanish name, right, and Js in Spanish make the H sound, so, duh, Don Huan. Why does almost every Grantaire seem to have trouble with this very simple concept?
BUT there is more to the story.
Because Grantaire isn’t just referring to some guy named Juan. He’s referring to the Don Juan, a legendary fictional womanizer, whom many authors have written about. But the specific reference Grantaire is using is Lord Byron’s poem Don Juan, which is a satire—instead of being a master seducer, Don Juan is depicted as someone easily seduced by women. You can see how this ties into the context where Grantaire delivers the line—Grantaire is making fun of Marius for being so lovestruck by a woman whose name he doesn’t even know.
In Canto the first you can see:
Till, after cloying the gazettes with cant,
The age discovers he is not the true one;
Of such as these I should not care to vaunt,
I’ll therefore take our ancient friend Don Juan—
So in this case, even though it would make most Spanish speakers wince, the pronunciation of a hard J and splitting “Juan” into two syllables is actually correct.
Hope this clears up some confusion! ^^
FWIW, the Byron reference works great for English speakers/productions, but the original French lyrics have a reference to Molière’s Don Juan (from Combeferre, no less):
Eh l’ami, t’en fais une tête
C’est quand même pas ta Juliette
Qui t’a mis le coeur au trémolo
Avec Shakespeare, on craint le pire
Joue-nous du Molière, on préfère
Dom Juan plutôt que Roméo.
French, naturally, cares not one mite for Spanish phonetics, so pronounces it with two syllables, approximately like the ‘jew-AHN’ that we hear from Grantaire in modern English performances.
Come to think of it, I’m sure this is more-or-less where Byron gets his crazy pronunciation: an Englishman writing about a Spanish guy as filtered through a tradition of French writers.
In any event, I’d be wary of making too much about which version of DJ the current libretto references, since it’s a pretty free-floating allusion - but it is a fun game to imagine how the DJ in Grantaire’s mind affects the tenor of the line.
(Hey, anyone wanna check if Molière is still explicitly referenced in the current French lyrics?)
I’d really love to find out some of the names of the actual students who lead the June Rebellion of 1832. Probably a lost case, don’t know if they ever were registered, but it’s been on my mind a lot lately. It would’ve been so cool to like find the equivalent to Enjolras or something like that. I don’t know, just a silly thought, but if anyone knew where to look of if there’s even a possibility that this was registered then that would’ve been so great.
Most of the leaders in the actual June 1832 revolt were working-class. The most well-known, and probably Hugo’s most direct model for Enjolras’ conduct at the barricade, was named Charles Jeanne, and since he survived he was able to give extensive testimony at his trial and also in a series of letters he sent from prison. I’d point you to sources but AFAIK most of them are in French—I was going to make a project out of translating them to English but kind of got sidetracked. Off the top of my head, the ones that might be translated:
- Louis Blanc’s “History of Ten Years” has a detailed account of the whole insurrection
- Ditto Heinrich Heine’s “French Affairs,” from when he was a foreign correspondent for the Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung
- Also Alexandre Dumas’ memoirs
- A transcript of the whole trial was published by radical groups who wanted to drum up sympathy for the defendants, under a title that translates roughly to Trial of the Twenty-Two Accused from the Cloister of Saint-Mery, and it might be translated somewhere
- In general, look for info on Charles Jeanne and the other combatants from the barricades near the church of Saint-Merry (also spelled Saint-Mery or Saint-Merri)
- If you’re interested in the secret societies that might’ve been involved in planning the event, check out the Société des Amis du Peuple/Society of the Friends of the People
- and check out my “charles jeanne” and “june rebellion” tags and similar tags on any blogs that appear there—I know the full English text of the Heinrich Heine thing is linked there, and possibly also Louis Blanc, and a bunch of miscellaneous info
also check out some books on the period as well, barricades by jill harsin is pretty great, and pointed me in the direction of the société du les droits de l’homme et du citizen, or the ‘society of the rights of man and the citizen,’ which comes off to me to be even more immediately attachable to les amis, in that they’re more radical than the amis du peuple and were definitely the militant offshoot of adp.
Barricades is great but needs to be taken with ten zillion grains of salt for this exact reason: Harsin devotes maybe half a chapter to the Amis du Peuple and the 1830-32 period, mostly to establish that June 1832 marked a turning point after which the republicans went increasingly militant and underground, and then spends the rest of the book talking about the SDHC and other yet-more-radical groups that all fall on the other side of that 1832 turning point from the Amis. Harsin talks a lot about the consolidation into more and more rigidly-organized cells. Hugo, in “A Few Pages of History,” specifically draws attention to the disorganization of 1830-32, the sense that anything was possible, the tenuous and almost-undocumented links and alliances between groups with different ideologies but common aims, its status as a historical period whose chief interest lies in the fact that we know there was a giant ferment of secret societies, but have very sketchy and incomplete details of what those societies were, who belonged to them, their activities and relative importance, etc. (Just try looking for info on the Société Gauloise, which Charles Jeanne belonged to and was apparently a huge mover behind the scenes, but we know absolutely fuckall about it besides rumors and allegations from people with obvious ulterior motives.) The Amis appear to have connections with a bunch of these shadowy dealings (“I swore to go through fire, not water,” Prouvaire visiting a Masonic lodge, bottles of vitriol supplied by a future attempted assassin of Louis-Philippe), but none of it was cemented yet and what we see of their political opinions is nowhere near as militant as the SDHC and its successors.
Then again, the grain of salt itself needs to be taken with a grain of salt, because Hugo uses June 1832 as a foundation for a sort of mythic layering of All The Revolutions on top of each other—1830, 1832, 1834, 1848, 1851. And his hints at an embryonic SDHC are a clear tie to the more radical republicans of the later 1830s, just as Feuilly’s internationalism is explicitly tied to 1848. Hugo’s Amis are not rigidly bound to the Amis du Peuple any more than they are to the SDHC—but there’s a reason he explicitly patterned them after the one and not the other, and it probably has to do with that post-1832 sea change.
(For more on the Amis de l’ABC and the Rue de la Chanvrerie as a sort of pan-historical canon divergence AU of history, existing in the same fictional universe as the historical people and events they’re patterned on but confined within a liminal space all their own that allows a wide variety of influences—in other words, allowing Hugo to embellish and take liberties with history without actually fucking with the facts of the events at Saint-Merry—see this meta.)
(And for barricade warfare itself I cannot recommend Mark Traugott’s The Insurgent Barricade highly enough. Especially if you want statistics. There’s an appendix almost as long as the book itself full of facts and figures on every documented instance of barricades going up in pre-20th-century Europe that the author can lay his hands on.)