french novelists

Beauty and the Beast. George Henry, R.A., R.S.A., R.S.W. (Scottish, 1858-1943). Oil on canvas. Paisley Museum and Art Galleries.

Henry uses the translated title of La Belle et la Bête, a traditional fairy tale written by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, published in 1740, and the abridged and rewritten version by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, published in 1756.

Beauty and the Beast 2017 is a remake done RIGHT

ive felt the overwhelming need to rave about beauty and the beast since i saw it a few days ago. **SPOILERS**

lets begin from the start


  • it would’ve been hard to go wrong with cast members like Emma Watson, Josh Gad, etc. i had extremely high hopes and was not disappointed
  • Dan Stevens (beast) deserves some appluase for being able to wear that amazingly ridiculous makeup in the opening scene (i fucking loved it)
  • the question of how the hell this village that is within a days ride of the enchanted castle is completely oblivious to its existence is explained
  • they give Gaston a reason to be so creepily obsessed with Belle. i mean that doesn’t justify his behavior at all, but still. he’s just come back from a war and is clearly still exhibiting behavior (violence, dominance, desire) that are products of being at war.  
  • LEFOU !!!!!, i knew i would love Josh Gad in this role. “but she’s so well-read and you’re so….athletically inclined” 
  • they didn’t alter the core story/plotpoints from the original but instead, added some amazing content that really fills many of the holes from the original and more. 
  • Emma Watson’s portrayal of Belle is just phenomenal, she keeps the essence of the character while fleshing out some things that Belle sort of had (defiance, courage, wit) that were only hinted at in the original. 
  • We get a pretty plausible reason for the absence of Belle’s mother, and it explains why Maurice is a little bit odd. 
  • BEAST HAS A REASON FOR IMPRISONING MAURICE. its a stupid one. but at least its something. it always bothered me in the original that Beast locked Maurice up for no apparent reason other than the fact Maurice trespassed (to escape horrible weather mind you) and sat in his favorite chair???? at least here its because Maurice steals a rose (i said it wasn’t a very good reason). i also believe this concept is from the ORIGINAL story written by the french novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve (don’t quote me on that though)
  • MAURICE HAS AN ACCURATE REACTION (RUNNING OUT TERRIFIED) TO FINDING OUT OBJECTS IN THE CASTLE CAN MOVE AND TALK 
  • Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellan don’t need explanation for being amazing. (someone better invent immortality before Sir Ian McKellan meets his fate)
  • Belle is badass, she TRICKS her father so that she can take his place because she fucking loves him so goddamn much
  • Belle also has an accurate reaction to objects being able to move and talk. throwing a stool at them.
  • the question of HOW the fUCK Belle got Beast up onto Philippe after the wolf attack on her own is finally solved (thank god that even bothered me as a child)
  • we are told why the servants care for Beast so much even though he’s kinda dickwad AND we are told why he’s such a dickwad, not just cause he that’s who he is but because his father fucked him up
  • Belle knows about the spell. not how to break it, but she knows that it exists and she knows that a human is behind all the anthropormorphic objects and Beast which makes it A LOT less weird that she falls in love with Beast. In the original, she knows the castle is enchanted but she has no idea about the spell so it’s kinda weird she falls in love with (what she thinks) is just a freak of nature. 
  • BEAST HAS A PERSONALITY AND ITS BEAUTIFUL AND SNARKY AND I LOVE IT HE TRIES TO BEFRIEND PHILIPPE ITS ADORABLE
  • for some reason, it feels as if Belle in Beast know each other for a lot longer in the remake than the original which is nice. 
  • i will now take the time to rave about the music. it’s beautiful. the original songs are gorgeous and everything they added to them (altered words and such) make them better. i havent stopped listening to the soundtrack
  • all newly composed songs are so good and fantastic additions
  • EVERMORE (song sung by Beast when Belle is freed from him) HAD ME SOBBING, HIS VOICE PENETRATED MY SOUL
  • Maurice and Belle are badass as fuck, i swear, partners in crime getting themselves out of the carriage so that Belle can go warn Beast. i died when Maurice just casually handed the asylum guy the picked lock. 
  • BELLE RIDES WITH PURPOSE YAS
  • of course i have to note i was all for the gay lefou storyline

i feel as though i have probably missed some things but that about sums up my thoughts. I could go on about the technical side of it and commend the amazing CGI but that’s a whole other story that would just make this post longer than it already is. 

i was so hesitant about remakes when Disney started doing them, but if the rest of them can be to this caliber - sign me up. 

So here’s a thing

No one seems to ever talk about my favorite part of the Beauty and the Beast story, so in light of the disney remake coming out and everything, I’d like to take this moment to tell you guys something awesome. Bear with me for a moment.

First of all, as far as I can tell, Beauty and the Beast is the only mainstream Western fairy tale that was written ABOUT a woman, FOR women, BY women. 

If you list whatever fairy tales you can think of off the top of your head, about half of them–Rapunzel, Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood–were probably traditional oral folk tales, typically told by women to other women or children while they were all spinning and doing other work. 

However, these tales were then collected, rewritten, anthologized, and popularized by men like the Grimm brothers and Charles Perrault. 

The other half–The Snow Queen, The Little Mermaid–were made up in the style of these folk tales by modern (male) authors, most notably Hans Christian Anderson.

But not Beauty and the Beast

Setting aside its roots in the Greek myth of Eros and Psyche and its familial resemblance to East of the Sun and West of the Moon, Beauty and the Beast as we know it (prince cursed to be a beast, a rose, magic castle, a merchant’s daughter) was written by the French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve as a novella length story published in her book La Jeune Américaine et les Contes Marins in 1740. A considerably shortened version written by another woman, Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, appeared in a French girls’ magazine sixteen years later, and that’s essentially the version we all know today. In both versions, Beauty is undoubtedly the main character. 

But let’s talk about the de Villeneuve version for a moment, because it’s pretty interesting. 

(First of all, I really recommend finding a translation and reading it yourself, because it’s a riot: the story you know only takes up about half of the novel; there’s this whole subplot where every night Beauty has these dreams of a beautiful prince, and they talk a lot, and it’s kind of implied that they might be getting up to some dream-world hanky panky, but it’s the 1700s so no one’s saying it outright. And she’s falling in love with him, and he with her. Except he’s constantly telling her “You know, I know you like me and everything, but have you considered the Beast’s offer of marriage?” And Beauty, understandably, is like, wtf. And then after the prince turns back into a prince, his snooty mother turns up out of nowhere and tries to break them up? Idk, it’s weird. Anyway….)

So in the original version, Beauty is at the castle living with the Beast. And every night he asks her to be his bride, making it explicitly clear that her answer is totally allowed to be “no.” And every night, she says no, and he doesn’t push her further. 

The interesting bit is although most translations put the Beast’s question as “will you marry me?,” the original version is closer to “will you sleep with me?” And it’s made clear once the curse is broken that only a willing–and not coerced–“yes” on Beauty’s part would break the curse. 

tl;dr: That’s right, ladies and gentlemen and otherwise inclined. Beauty and the Beast is a 1700s-era feminist parable about the magical power of women’s consent. 

*mic drop*

Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin (1 July 1804 – 8 June 1876), best known by her pseudonym George Sand. 

French novelist and memoirist. She is equally well known for her much publicized romantic affairs with a number of artists, including Polish composer and pianist Frédéric Chopin and the writer Alfred de Musset.

Sand wrote: “My name is not Marie-Aurore de Saxe, Marquise of Dudevant, as several of my biographers have asserted, but Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin, and my husband, M. François Dudevant, claims no title: the highest rank he ever reached was that of infantry second lieutenant.”  (Wikipedia)

From our stacks: Frontispiece from Consuelo. by George Sand. Reprinted from the London Edition of 1876, unaltered and unabridged. New York: A. L. Burt, 1891.

Liane de Pougy (1869-1950), Folies Bergere vedette, dancer and courtesan rival to La Belle Otero. Lover of cocaine and heroin, she trained as an actress with Sarah Bernhardt and was lesbian lovers with writer Natalie Barney, who wrote “Idylle Sapphique” about her. She married Prince Georges Ghika in 1920, and, after the death of her son in WWI, became a nun, Sister Anne-Mary, devoted to the care of children with birth defects, as well as a writer.

Image via Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Our buddy (and noted Proust enthusiast) Colin Dwyer has some news that’ll really bake your madeleines:

Author of the monumental multivolume novel In Search of Lost Time. High modernist of the first order and reclusive titan of French letters. And, if one Canadian scholar is correct, quite the dapper attendee of a wedding in 1904.

In the more than a century since Marcel Proust was first published, the name of the great French novelist has come to be associated with many things, but film footage is not one of them. Despite a handful of photographs depicting Proust, no one living claimed to have seen the man actually move — until earlier this month.

Jean-Pierre Sirois-Trahan, professor at Laval University in Quebec City, Canada, says he has found the notoriously solitary writer in footage of the 1904 wedding of Élaine Greffulhe.

See the video here!

– Petra

Marguerite Yourcenar (1903-1987) was a renowned French novelist, winner of multiple literary prizes in her own country and abroad. She was also the first woman elected to the Académie française, which occurred in 1980.

She spent a good part of her life in the United States, where she fled at the outbreak of World War II. She is known for novels such as Alexis or Memoirs of Hadrian, and won the Grand Prix de l'Académie française for her entire work in 1977, as well as the Erasmus Prize for contributions to European literature in 1983.

Gustave Flaubert (12 December 1821 – 8 May 1880) 

French novelist. Highly influential, he has been considered the leading exponent of literary realism in his country. He is known especially for his debut novel Madame Bovary (1857), his Correspondence, and his scrupulous devotion to his style and aesthetics. (Wikipedia)

From our stacks: Title page from November By Gustave Flaubert. New York: Roman Press, 1932. Illustrations Hortense Ansorge.

Gustave Flaubert’s travel diary among rare books at historic sale 

“The handwritten manuscript is page after page of scratched out notes, smudges, comments and ink blots that reveal just how arduous the French novelist Gustave Flaubert found the writing process.

Celebrated for his first and most famous published work, Madame Bovary, which took five years to write, Flaubert was meticulous about the style and elegance of his work.

The 277-page Flaubert travel diary […] was written in 1848 when Flaubert and his friend Maxime Du Camp went walking in Brittany and decided to write a joint work: Flaubert the odd-number chapters, Du Camp the even. They were never published in his lifetime.” [source]

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Grégoire Sport Coupé prototype, 1956, by Chapon. In addition to the cabriolet, Chapron also built a closed coupé version. The French novelist Françoise Sagan had use of the prototype because her father was an executive at Aluminium Français who were partners with Jean-Albert Grégoire in the project. In the photograph, her father is on the left, Grégoire on the right 

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Marceline Desbordes-Valmore (20 June 1786 – 23 July 1859)

French poet and novelist. She published Élégies et Romances, her first poetic work, in 1819. Her melancholy, elegiacal poems are admired for their grace and profound emotion.

Marceline appeared as an actress and singer in Douai, Rouen, the Opéra-Comique in Paris, and the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels, where she notably played Rosine in Beaumarchais’s Le Barbier de Séville. She retired from the stage in 1823. She later became friends with the novelist Honoré de Balzac, and he once wrote that she was an inspiration for the title character of La Cousine Bette.

The publication of her innovative volume of elegies in 1819 marks her as one of the founders of French romantic poetry. Her poetry is also known for taking on dark and depressing themes, which reflects her troubled life. She is the only female writer included in the famous Les Poètes maudits anthology published by Paul Verlaine in 1884. A volume of her poetry was among the books in Friedrich Nietzsche’s library. (Wikipedia)

From our stacks: Spine detail, front matter illustration, poem ‘Les Éclairs.’, and title page from Poésies Inédites de Madame Desbordes-Valmore. Publiées par M. Gustave Revilliod. Genève. Imprimierie de Jules Fick, 1860.

It is much more difficult to judge oneself than to judge others. If you succeed in judging yourself rightly, then you are indeed a man of true wisdom.
—  Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1900-1944) French Novelist.

François Coppée (26 January 1842 – 23 May 1908)

French poet and novelist. Coppée was famed as le poète des humbles (the poet of the humble). (Wikipedia)

From our stacks: Title page from Oeuvres de François Coppée. Théatre 1869-1872. Vol. I. Paris: Librairie Alphonse Lemerre, n.d.

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Joyeux anniversaire Victor Hugo! (26 February 1802 – 22 May 1885)

French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romantic movement. He is considered one of the greatest and best-known French writers. Outside France, his best-known works are the novels Les Misérables, 1862, and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (French: Notre-Dame de Paris), 1831. In France, Hugo is known primarily for his poetry collections, such as Les Contemplations (The Contemplations) and La Légende des siècles (The Legend of the Ages). He produced more than 4,000 drawings and also campaigned for social causes such as the abolition of capital punishment. He is buried in the Panthéon in Paris. His legacy has been honoured in many ways, including his portrait being placed on French currency. (Wikipedia)

From our stacks: Various illustrations from Victor Hugo. Selected Poems from the Edition Definitive. Volume I. New York: George H. Richmond & Co., 1897.