Title: The Count of Monte Cristo
Author: Alexandre Dumas
Translator: Robin Buss
Genre: Classic
Pages: 1,276
Rating: 3.5 of 5

This classic tale of revenge served cold was entertaining enough, but was ultimately a bit disappointing. In my limited experience with Dumas (The Three Musketeers & The Count of Monte Cristo), I’ve come to the conclusion that if you’re going to really enjoy his stories you need to just cheer for his heroes without thinking too much about the morality of the actions that you’re supposed to be applauding. There’s some token introspection from Dantes about whether he is truly right in seeing himself as God’s instrument of justice, but it tends more toward self-justification than interesting moral consideration.

Personally, I found Dantes/Monte Cristo to be so coldly calculating and unsympathetic toward anyone he did not personally know and love that he was almost completely unappealing. I don’t necessarily mind antiheroes, but something about the way Dumas tries to get us to adore and cheer for his deeply flawed heroes as if they were remarkably admirable human beings grates on me. Your mileage may vary (Obviously, I’m in the minority on this since Dumas has enduring popularity).

I’m not sure how this translation compares to others, but I can say that it flowed nicely without feeling stilted. According to the forward, the translator restored parts that were removed or toned down in older Victorian translations. I appreciate this, because even though the plot was overlong and meandering, I want to read an author’s work as close as possible to how they intended it. The footnotes provided helpful historical information for those (like me) not well acquainted with French history. Overall: I’d say that this was an excellent edition of a classic that is more about enjoying the plot than wrestling with the morality of vengeance.

One last thing: I’m using this for my Classic in Translation category at the 2018 Back to the Classics Challenge.

7 thoughts on “A Dish Best Served Cold

  1. The first two times I read this I didn’t pay attention to who the translator was. Now that I know just how important that job actually is, I’ll be making a special note of it. I just don’t know WHEN I’ll get around to it. Maybe once I’m all done with Dickens?

    Your view on the coldness of Monte Cristo is not something I’ve thought about before. I also can’t say I’ve seen others express it that way, so I wonder if it is an age thing (you being such a venerable old thing now, wink) or more personality/temperament based?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know about age alone (at the ripe old age of 37), but life experience probably plays into my distaste for his having compassion only on those he really likes or deems worthy. Over the last eight years in pastoral ministry I’ve had to fight almost constantly against a prevailing lack of compassion for and unwillingness to help people who “brought it on themselves.” Aren’t we glad that isn’t how God views us (Romans 5:6-11)?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It sounds like that experience alone would do it.
        I know that I definitely “naturally” fall on the “Let them die for they did something stupid” side of the fence but thankfully God keeps gently bringing that attitude to my attention so maybe by the time I’m dying I’ll be a much more sympathizing guy 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been meaning to read this for some time but will have to wait-too much to read this year. Your review has definitely raised my curiosity.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this book, but I’m also bothered by the obviously flawed morality. I accidentally got in a fight with someone on twitter about this, actually, because she felt everyone got what they deserved and that he was justified in his actions. *shakes head*

    Liked by 1 person

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