Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Watching Les Misérables: The 1832 rebellion is child's play, or blissful ignorance

Even fans of the cinema and theatre franchise mistakenly assume that Les Misérables is about the French revolution from 1789 to 1799. This is forgivable, given that the real subject matter, the June rebellion of 1832 in Paris, was also an attempt to overthrow a monarchy and its ideals and abuses.

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The latter event was instigated by adherents of Republicanism in Paris, intellectuals which included Victor Hugo, a prominent ideologue. However, the easy confusion between the French Revolution --- the effects of which were more lasting and global --- and the June rebellion of 1832 typifies French social and political landscapes.

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 The French Revolution of 1789 led to the decapitation of absolute monarchy. The execution of King Louis XVI and some members of his royal court was unforeseen worldwide. The left-wing revolts that made this possible had both the support of countryside peasants and Republican aristocrats. The new order, established by the empowered bourgeoisie, did not take more than a quarter of a century to dismantle. Napoleon rose from his experience during the French revolution, expanded the French empire, was exiled and overthrown, and was eventually restored to power. So went on a sporadic chain of ineffectual monarchies until Paris had to revolt against them again in 1832.

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These basic historical tidbits were made known to me by a French exchange student in town to check out my tailoring shop, Roman Magnus Palatine IL, where the subject of conversation naturally fell to the thrill of the new Les Misérables adaptation. As expected of a Frenchman, he was underwhelmed by the Hollywood patina but approving of Tom Hooper. Meanwhile I had an intellectual image to protect and pretended I wasn’t just humming a tune and … oh might as well know my Les Mis.

My atelier, which I baptized Roman Magnus Palatine IL (too many personal references on that one, go figure), is my personal bric-a-brac. I go there to read, be a tailor, and most of all, rattle the stuff that figure in my blog.

1 comment:

  1. Yo Roman v. nice of you to clarify things for the hysteric public