Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Benjamin Constant, Adolphe, first version published in 1816.

The eponymous protagonist falls in love with Ellenore, a woman who is the secure mistress of Comte de P.--; he woos her, and she leaves the Count. The two characters are then unhappy until Ellenore’s death.

That’s actually how short Constant’s supposedly semi-autobiographical novel seems. There’s little action. Nearly every word is Adolphe reflecting on what is happening, rather than him describing the plot. There are moments of great beauty, but I found it hard at times to connect with the musings because they were often so detached from the plot. Adolphe speaks, time and again, of his weakness, and his inability to break things off with Ellenore, but most of those words felt forced to me, and lacked much in the way of passion. I do think a better than passing understanding of how society worked in the time period might well help me the better to connect, but this novel seems more ripe for a good Merchant Ivory film adaptation than for me to reread it, slight though it was.

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