418–Chapter 25 — The Count of Monte Cristo

Heather

Mother, knitter, spinner, writer, wife, weaver, host...not necessarily in that order...

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  1. Emi says:

    So the comment you made about how the title of this chapter is variously translated as “the uknown” or “the stranger” and you didn’t know why stuck in my head. I was curious, so I employed my friends Mr Google to find an original French text (and made the somewhat startling discovery that my French is pretty much good enough to read it without difficulty now… living in France for 5 years I guess was good for something after all), my somewhat obsolete friend, Mr Larousse, the French-English paper dictionary, and then had a discussion with my Resident French Man.

    Maybe someone else has already looked this up and written to you, but whatever, just in case they haven’t, here I am, months late because I’m listening months late 🙂

    The French title is “L’inconnu.” This translates directly as “the unknown” and can (and often is) used to indicate people one doesn’t know. French does have a word that translates directly as “the stranger” (“l’étranger”) and while it CAN be used purely to mean a person you don’t know, it has *heavy* implications of “foreigner” – as in, someone not from around these parts (not necessarily foreigner on a country level, but could just be, not from this town or whatever). In fact, the first definition in Larousse is “foreigner,” and only several lines down, after some other usages, does it get translated as simply “stranger.” But also, if it’s being used to just mean “stranger” in the English sense, it also is kind of specific – *I* don’t know him, but *someone else* does. ”

    Dantès has gone back to Marseilles. NOBODY knows who he is, even though he’s being pretty conspicuous – thus, he is “inconnu” to EVERYBODY. Dumas is really emphasizing how much nobody knows him – starting with the title, moving on through all the speculation where nobody has the right answer, engaging Dantès with people who once knew him, placing him in his old neighborhoods where there is no old man who sees a resemblance to that young man they remember from fifteen years back… He’s also not *actually* a foreigner, even though he’s pretending to be (this bit was my idea, and my Resident French Man doesn’t think that this point played a strong part in Dumas’ choosing of the title but does concede that it might have).

    A better translation for the title of this chapter could be “The Mysterious Man.”