Let me break down each tale, by telling you which ones I loved and which I did not.
I loved The Tell-Tale Heart. This is a story of how your own conscience can betray you and give you up. I also really enjoyed The Murders In The Rue Morgue. It was an interesting whodunnit with an unexpected outcome.
I did not like The Cask of Amontillado. It was just confusing and I don't get it at all.
I also did not like The Masque of the Red Death. I tell you this, the story made me never want to go to a ball and engage in revelry. Thankfully, I don't see any balls in my future. The rest of the stories were decent. And all-in-all I am glad I read some Poe. Another great classic writer that I can add to my read list!
Soldiers loyally following their Leader act on the advice of a small coal mining town’s traitor to take it over for the benefit of their ongoing war. The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck is wartime novella about a how occupying soldiers learn that peaceful townspeople do not like being told what to do.
Taken by surprise, a small coastal town is overrun by an invading army with little resistance. The town is important because it is a port that serves a large coal mine. Colonel Lanser, the head of the invading battalion, along with his staff establishes their HQ in the house of Orden, the democratically elected and popular Mayor. As the reality of occupation sinks in and the weather turns bleak, with the snows beginning earlier than usual, the townspeople are getting angry and confused. Lanser, a veteran of many wars, tries to operate under a veil of civility and law, but knows that amongst those whose freedom has been taken away by force there are no peaceful people. A miner quits and when kills an officer who orders him back to work in the mine. After a summary trial, the man is executed by a firing squad, but the incident catalyzes the people of the town to begin resisting. Transportation and communication lines are taken out, mine machinery breaks down often, and whenever soldiers get comfortable, they are killed including a young lieutenant infatuated with the widow of the miner who stabs him to death before escaping to the hills. The cold weather and the constant fear destroy the occupying force’s morale, many of whom wish the war to end so that they can return home. Members of the resistance escape to England and ask the English for explosives so that the townspeople can intensify their efforts. English planes parachute-drop small packages containing dynamite sticks and chocolates all around the town. In a state of panic, Lanser takes the Mayor and his friend Dr. Winter, the town doctor and historian, hostage and lets it be known that any guerilla action will lead to their execution. Mayor Orden knows his people will not stop active resistance and accept his imminent death. Knowing that the townspeople will use the dynamite any moment, Orden and Winter discuss Socrates in front of a stunned Lanser until the first explosion. Orden calmly walks out the door before Lanser can verbally order his execution.
Published in the spring of 1942, Steinbeck wrote this obvious propogandist novella to inspire the Allied war effort and through clandestine publishing in occupied Europe to inspire resistance fighters against their German occupiers as well as collaborators. While the town and country are unnamed, it was not hard to tell it was Norway given the clues Steinbeck sprinkled throughout the text.
The Moon Is Down is also a wonder example of John Steinbeck’s writing that is a quick read for anyone deciding if they want to read his more famous works to learn his style. While written for more political than literary purposes that does not diminish the impact of the narrative nor does Steinbeck not put in his best work.
(French text and images below.)
Well, that's a wrap. Somewhat against my own expectations, I finished this book in just under a week. As I suspected, we don't actually learn that much more in the final 150 pages, even though the action continued to move at a sprightly pace. There were a few more things I could have done without
(including but not limited to the "dark and stormy night" goings-on which the author, it turns out, had only been saving for the book's final chase(s), as well as a veritable "coup de théâtre" during the final conclave which might easily have backfired in real life),
and the author's choice to present the solution in a Golden Age mystery-style "final conclave" didn't really work for me, not least because -- but for the revelations that actually only follow the "final conclave" -- much of what Nicolas says there had at the very least been on the cards since the book's halfway mark or (in part) longer. But to the last, the book's biggest draw for me was the historical detail -- Parot clearly knows what he's writing about, and he is very good at building it into the story's setting and atmosphere. (Unlike in other, similar cases, I didn't even mind the footnotes; by and large, they actually worked better for me than a lengthy "historical note" at the end of the book would have done.) As I said to Tannat in a comment on yesterday's status update, the book feels like Parot is taking the reader on a tour of 18th century Paris (and 18th century Paris society), while at the same time telling a detective story. Overall, that made for a very enjoyable experience.
Eh bien, voilà tout fini! Plus ou moins contre mes propres expectations, j'ai fini ce livre dans un peu moins d'une semaine. Comme j'avais supposé, on n'apprend plus grand'chose dans les 150 pages finales, bien que l'action continue d'avancer à un pas assez gaillard. Il y avait encore quelques élements de plus auquels j'aurais bien voulu renoncer
(tels que les évenements "nuit sinistre et orageuse" qu'il émerge que l'auteur avait seulement conservé aux chasses finales, autant qu'un véritable coup de théâtre durant le "conclave final" qui aurait bien pu finir manière retour du bâton dans la vie réelle),
et le choix de l'auteur de présenter la grande solution façon "conclave final" d'un roman policier de l'Âge Doré ne m'a pas exactement enchanté, non des moindres parce que -- à part des révélations qui, en fait, suivent au "conclave final" -- beaucoup des faits y mentionnés par Nicolas avaient été au moins possibles depuis la moitié du livre (ou même plus longtemps). Mais jusqu'au moment dernier l'attraction la plus grande du livre, pour moi, était le détail historique -- c'est clair que Parot sait de quoi il parle, et il réussit bien à l'intégrer dans la mise en scène et l'atmosphère du récit. (Au contraire d'autres cas pareils, même les notes individuelles de l'auteur ne m'ont pas dérangé; tout-en-un, je les ai préféré à une longue note historique à la fin du livre.) Comme j'ai dit à Tannat dans un commentaire à mon status update de hier, ce livre me parait comme si Parot avait invité le lecteur à un tour du Paris du 18e siècle (et de la société parisienne du 18e siècle), tout en nous racontant une histoire policière. En somme, cela a fait une expérience bien plaisante.
Etienne Jeaurat: Le carnaval des rues de Paris (oil on cloth, 1757, Paris, Musée Carnavalet)
The Carnaval de Paris lasted, in the 17th and 18th centuries, from the day after Epiphany (Twelfth Night) until Ash Wednesday / the beginning of Lent.
Ebony and ivory Janseist crucifix: Christ is shown hanging with His hands above His head, so as to make His body form an arrow (rather than the "T" form of the traditional crucifix with His arms outstretched at a right angle to His body). The arrow pointing down to the congregation in the Janseist cruxifix signified that Christ died only for the elect; whereas the traditional crucifix featuring outstretched arms indicates that Christ died for the whole world.
François Boucher: The Crocodile Hunt and The Leopard Hunt (both 1736), Charles Parrosel: The Hunt of the Wild Boar (1738), and Charles André van Loo: The Bear Hunt (1739), some of Louis XV's "chasses exotiques", then at Versailles -- all now at the Musée de Picardie in Amiens. (Right-click on an image to see a larger version.)
An 18th century map of the faubourg Saint-Marcel (or Saint-Marceau) -- in the 17th and 18th centuries, an extremely poor and downtrodden working class area -- and its location on a map of the modern city (it was outside the city walls in the 18th century). Rousseau wrote in his Confessions:
"En entrant [à Paris] par le faubourg Saint-Marceau je ne vis que de petites rues sales et puantes, de vilaines maisons noires, l’air de malpropreté, de la pauvreté, des mendiants, des charretiers, des ravaudeuses, des crieuses de tisane et de vieux chapeaux. Tout cela me frappa d’abord à un tel point que tout ce que j’ai vu depuis à Paris de magnificence réelle n’a pu détruire cette première impression, et qu’il m’en est resté toujours un secret dégoût pour l’habitation de cette capitale."
Guérande (Nicolas's home town) and its location on a satelite map.
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