Alphonse Daudet (1840-1897), ne a Nimes (Gard), est un ecrivain et auteur dramatique francais. Daudet se consacra a l ecriture, non seulement comme chroniqueur au journal Le Figaro mais aussi comme romancier. Puis, apres avoir fait un voyage en Provence, Alphonse commenca a ecrire les premiers textes qui feront partie des Lettres de mon Moulin (1869). Il connut son premierAlphonse Daudet (1840-1897), ne a Nimes (Gard), est un ecrivain et auteur dramatique francais. Daudet se consacra a l ecriture, non seulement comme chroniqueur au journal Le Figaro mais aussi comme romancier. Puis, apres avoir fait un voyage en Provence, Alphonse commenca a ecrire les premiers textes qui feront partie des Lettres de mon Moulin (1869). Il connut son premier succes en 1862-1865, avec la Derniere Idole, piece montee a l Odeon et ecrite en collaboration avec Ernest Manuel - pseudonyme d Ernest Lepine. Puis, il obtint, par le directeur du journal L Evenement, l autorisation de les publier comme feuilleton pendant tout l ete de l annee 1866, sous le titre de Chroniques Provencales. Le premier vrai roman d Alphonse Daudet fut Le Petit Chose ecrit en 1868. C est en 1874 qu Alphonse decida d ecrire des romans de moeurs comme: Fromont Jeune et Risler Aine mais aussi Jack (1876) et Le Nabab (1877). Pendant ces travaux de romancier et de dramaturge, il n oublia pas pour autant son travail de conteur: il ecrivit en 1872 Tartarin de Tarascon, qui fut son personnage mythique....
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Alphonse Daudet's One of the Forty (a.k.a. The Immortal) is a brilliant satire on the Académie Francaise and its forty members. It is a strangely Balzacian novel, to the extent that I almost feel as if the Good Dr. Bianchon or that rapscallion Vautrin were hanging about the sidelines. It is the tale of a family of Académie members, beginning with the aged Réhu, most famous with recalling past events with a cynical, "That's another of the things that I have seen." His son, Leonard Astier-Réhu, who has gotten into the august organization by his wife's skirts, is a historian with a huge collection of manuscripts written by such figures as Galileo, Richelieu, and others -- upon which he bases his august (but largely unread) historical works. He has purchased all his manuscripts from a little hunchback named Albin Fage. (Doesn't that already make you suspicious?) His son Paul, an architect, desperately wants to marry a title. Thrown over by one widow, the Princesse Colette de Rosen, he winds up with another widow twenty-five years his senior, the Duchess Maria Antonia Padovani, a Corsican. The Astier-Réhu clan is surrounded by a coterie of wannabe academicians, most notably the Vicomte de Freydet, whose letters to his family provide an interesting viewpoint on the Académie and its strange ways.Eventually, the word gets out that the immortal Leonard Astier-Réhu has been duped by the forger Fage. He insists on taking Fage to court, but it is he whose reputation suffers the more (even though Fage is convicted):The general result of reading the production was utter amazement that the Permanent Secretary of the Académie Française and the official representatives of science and literature could have been taken in for two or three years by an ignorant dwarf with a brain crammed full of the refuse of libraries and the ill-digested parings of books. This constituted the extraordinary joke of the whole business, and was the explanation of the crowded court. People came to see the Académie pilloried in the person of Astier-Réhu, who sat among the witnesses, the mark of every eye.After the trial, the historian realizes that, although he was Permanent Secretary of the 40 immortals of the Académie, it was all a bad business:The Académie is a snare and a delusion. Go your way and do your work. Sacrifice nothing to the Académie, for it has nothing to offer you, neither gift, nor glory, nor the best thing of all, self-contentment. It is neither a retreat nor a refuge; it is a hollow idol, a religion that offers no consolations. The great troubles of life come upon you there as elsewhere; under that dome men have killed themselves, men have gone mad there! Those who in their agony have turned to the Académie, and weary of loving, or weary of cursing, have stretched forth their arms to her, have clasped but a shadow.I have read several of Daudet's books and think that it is time to begin republishing them with more recent translations. So far, this is the best of the lot -- at least among the works I have read.
Being my first Daudet work, I was hesitant to read this novel at first. It was a good decision that I did, however, because it turned out to be a great read. The Immortal is the story of a family that does what it must to survive in a society that thrives on hypocrisy, deceit, and empty promises. Daudet wrote with an engaging, but sharp, wit. Through his sense of irony and dark humor, he weaves a story of a plotting wife, an obsessed husband, and a scheming son who have no real affection for one another save for what each can do and give the others to be among the best in the world of letters and fashionable society. The undoing of this family shows Daudet to have a keen knowledge of the society of his time. The story is sad and tragic, completely ironic. It will make any reader pause and think about what really matters in life.
Free download available at Project Gutenberg.