Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Confession of a Child of the Century


For my final post for Paris in July at Thyme for Tea, I'm reviewing The Confession of a Child of the Century by Alfred de Musset, first published in 1836. I read the Penguin Classics edition, published in 2013, and translated by David Coward.

The Confession of a Child of the Century is the melancholy story of Octave, a young man of twenty years old, when the novel begins. He learns that his mistress has been unfaithful to him, not with one man but three. He is disillusioned and flees Paris and what he considers to be a life of debauchery to experience life in the countryside. 

When Octave meets Brigitte, a beautiful woman who is a widow, a writer, and several years older than Octave, everything changes for him. He becomes obsessed with getting Brigitte to love him and does everything he can think of to get her attention. Then, when he finally does win her heart, is it really what he wants?

A sudden change comes over Brigitte, and Octave imagines that she must be having an affair. The jealousy and despair he experiences almost drive him to madness. But then everything is not as it appears, and Octave learns how little he understands about his relationship with Brigitte.

While this novel has been called an excellent example of Romanticism, that's not why I wanted to read The Confession of a Child of the Century. What interested me about this novel is that it is based on de Musset's affair with George Sand. The novel became celebrated in Paris because of this, and Sand herself even liked the novel.

The novel is written in a style popular in Romantic literature of the nineteenth century. Octave spends a good bit of the book in self reflection, questioning everything from love to death to religion. He spends time pontificating on his relationship with Brigitte, and at times, he loves her to distraction. Other times, he can't stand the thought of being with her one minute longer. While this is helpful in understanding Octave's motivations in the story, it slows the plot somewhat and made reading it a bit of a slog in some parts.  

I would recommend this book for someone who has an interest in French literature.

Have you read The Confession of a Child of the Century or any novels by Alfred de Musset?

1 comment:

  1. I love French classic literature, but didn't know much about this one - the George Sand connection sounds like something I should check out though - thanks.

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