Morir no es lo que más duele – Inés Plana

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El cómo se llega a un libro puede ser, a veces, un proceso extraño. Yo llegué a “Morir no es lo que más duele”, de Inés Plana, tras la pista de varios “por qué”:

  • me gustó el título desde que vi los tweets de promoción de la editorial Espasa
  • me gustó mucho la cubierta (aunque la faja externa viajó en seguida a la basura, porque no las soporto)
  • me sentía “en culpa”, en cuanto mujer que durante sus sueños más locos y extravagantes se ve a si misma cobrando algún céntimo de derechos de autor (no digo ya dedicándome exclusivamente a la tecla porque ya no se trataría de sueño, sino de alucinación) por no haber comprado un libro de ficción en castellano escrito por una mujer desde “El tiempo entre costuras” hace… demasiados años.

Así pues, incluí el título en uno de mis pedidos de libros en castellano y esperó paciente su turno en casa. No había leído reseñas, lo hago exclusivamente una vez termino los libros, pues quiero llegar lo más “virgen” posible a la lectura. En una novela como esta, saber poco o nada sobre su trama, paga. Y mucho. Por el mismo motivo, intentar escribir una reseña sobre este libro sin dejarme llevar por la emoción va a ser difícil. Porque de eso se trata, de emoción, de goce en la lectura, de dejarse llevar a otro mundo, convivir con unos personajes creados por una autora y disfrutar de una transfusión de sensaciones. Cuando un libro es tan bueno como éste, tan bien escrito, pensado, lo primero que siento es agradecimiento. No es posible computar en los menos de 20 euros que cuesta esta edición el regalo que significa el que su autora haya dedicado su intelecto, talento y esfuerzo durante años para que yo me pudiese sentir tan rematadamente bien durante algunas horas.

Los protagonistas de este thriller son imperfectamente humanos, empezando por Sara, siguiendo por el teniente de la guardia civil Julián Tresser, descrito de una manera como solo puede hacerlo una mujer para que a nosotras nos resulte irresistible. Es más, ahora caigo en que Tresser tiene los silencios de Mr. Darcy, personaje de mi olimpo particular de protagonistas masculinos en los que últimamente están llegando personajes españoles… Sí, para mí el cielo sería algo así como una velada eterna en Netherfield Hall con Mr. Darcy, Edmond Dantés y Andrei Bolkonsky en la que ahora Aníbal Rosanegra y Julián Tresser intentan colarse por una ventana.

“Morir no es lo que más duele” es un thriller perfectamente construido, que va más allá de la clásica novela negra. Una historia sobre cómo resulta imposible esconder el pasado como si fuese suciedad debajo de una alfombra: el mal existe, es absoluto, negro y podrido como el alma del villano. El protagonista masculino, Julián Tresser, es orgullosamente poco políticamente correcto, homófobo y si en el 2007 Twitter no acabase de nacer, Julián Tresser tuiteando habría acabado intercambiando puyas con barbijaputa. Aunque dudo mucho que Julián habría tuiteado nunca. Pero son las debilidades de Julián las que lo hacen irresistible, como la fuerza en la fragilidad de Sara Azcárraga.

Pues he llegado al final del post y, ahora que caigo, esto no es una reseña. Mucho mejor. Leed el libro, y basta.

Maximilian Morrel

XIXth century cavalry soldiers. source http://damesalamode.tumblr.com/

I praised re-reading in a previous post, and my third read of The Count of Montecristo has been, in that sense, a success. Spending several days with one of the members of my personal Capitol Triad of male characters in literature (Edmond Dantés, Mr. Darcy and Prince Bolkonsky) is, as the famous ad says “priceless”. Moreover, each time I re-read one of these master pieces of literature I make a new discovery. This time it has a name and surname: Maximilian Morrel.

I remembered Maximilian only as the dull-spineless-lover of the cheesy Valentine Villefort; I have to say on my defense that I have not been the only one and that I was in the good company of tv writers, film directors and even scholars. For instance Keith Wren in the introduction of the Wordsworth Classics edition writes “about the star cross’d lovers, Maximilian and Valentine, the least said the better”.

John W. Waterhouse – Thisbe – Wikipedia Dumas dedicates a chapter to Maximilian and Valentine called: Pyramus and Thisbe. Is this chapter the cause of Maximilian destiny as character?

But Maximilian Morrel is more than that… Of course, after a first reading, when you’re able to see beyond the shadow of his overwhelming father-figure Edmond Dantés. Nevertheless, re-reading the novel, I have realized that in other circumstances (f.i. if created by another writer) this character would deserve an epic of his own. Dumas, anyway, has always been honest with us regarding Maximilian: he’s a first prize; if we don’t see it, is all our fault. The first time he is mentioned, he is described “a strong-minded, upright young man”.

In his regiment Maximilian Morrel was noted for his rigid observance, not only of the obligations imposed on a soldier, but also on the duties of a man; and he thus gained the name of ‘the stoic’. We need hardly say that many of those who gave him this epithet repeated it because they had heard it, and did not even know what it meant.

After this introduction we see Maximilian willing to share with his father the weight of the shame that the eventual failure of the family merchant company will bring upon them, declaring himself ready also to commit suicide with the second pistol that his father concealed in his drawer for that occasion. The family is saved by Sinbad the Sailor/Lord Wilmore (one of the many alias of Edmond Dantés), and ten years later we meet again Maximilian in Paris, guest of the breakfast offered by Albert Morcef. His entrance can undoubtedly be defined as triumphant.

And he (Château-Renaud) stepped on one side to give place to a young man of refined and dignified bearing, with large and open brow, piercing eyes, and black moustache […] A rich uniform, half-French, half-Oriental, set off his graceful and stalwart figure, and his broad chest was decorated with the order of the Legion of Honour

Maximilian is introduced in the circle of Parisian high-society young men as he has saved in Africa one of his members, M. de Château-Renaud: “I already felt the cold steel on my neck” (he says) “when this gentleman whom you see here charged them, shot the one who held me by the hair, and cleft the skull of the other with his sabre”. And why did he save him? The main reason because “it was the 5th of September, the anniversary of the day in which my father was miraculously preserved; therefore, as far as it lays in my power, I endeavour to celebrate it by some…” heroic-action, as Château-Renaud puts it.

Alessio Boni as Armand d'Hubert in a stage adaptation of Conrad's "The duellists". Picture by Federico Riva. Click for details
Alessio Boni as Armand d’Hubert in a stage adaptation of Conrad’s “The duellists”. Picture by Federico Riva. Click for details. Perfect example of how a handsome man with a XIXth cent. uniform and a sabre in his hand looks like

Morrel is a war-hero, a Poe-like romantic figure in the cemetery or Père-La-Chaise during the burial of his beloved Valentine “with his coat buttoned up to his throat, his face livid, and convulsively crushing his hat between his fingers, leaned against a tree, situated in an elevation commanding the mauseoleum, so that none of the funeral details could escape his observation”. He is a strong-willed man, with a deep sense of honour. In a sense, Maximilian is what Dantés would have been without a Danglars, Fernand or Villefort. When he learns that Valentine has been poisoned, he, as Dantés, considers himself the hand of providence.

 You M. de Villefort, send for the priest, I will be the avenger

All the above framed in a beautiful, elegant but also strong body (Morrel was seen carrying, with superhuman strength, the armchair containing Noirtier upstairs) and a bright mind. He (but also Villefort, at the very end), is the only character in the whole novel to face Montecristo.

You, who pretend to understand everything, even the hidden sources of knowledge – and who enact the part of a guardian angel upon earth, and could not even find an antidote to a poison administered to a young girl! Ah, sir, indeed you would inspire me with pity, were you not hateful in my eyes

Therefore, considering all the above, why, when referring to Maximilian Morrel “the least said the better”? Why to reduce him in the several adaptations of the novel to screen or radio-drama, to a pathetic crybaby or an improbable Romeo? Maybe because Morrel is too perfect, too good to be true to make him real and we react rejecting him. A perfect human reaction, that’s what I feel towards the Jamie adored by legions of women in “Outlander” (I’m completely unable to connect with someone so utterly perfect). Whereas Dantés-Montecristo has some defects (the first of them all the tendency of considering himself God and believe it) that render him, nevertheless, human, the only thing we can blame Maximilian is living, when he’s not serving in the army, with the “royals of cheesiness”, his sister and brother-in-law.

Christopher Thompson as Maximilian Morrel in tv series "The Count of Montecristo"
Christopher Thompson as Maximilian Morrel in tv series “The Count of Montecristo”

Anyway, as far as screen adaptations of “The Count of Montecristo” are concerned, the neglect of Maximilian Morrel’s character is “peccata minuta” compared to the fake happy-ending Dantés-Mércèdes. That would deserve another post.

The count of Monte Cristo

Wsclassics

Last December I bought several Wordworth Classics books. After a couple of months’ break I’m continuing their reading. I must admit that I have abandoned “The Idiot” by Dostoievsky around page two hundred and something; honestly speaking, I can’t read it for the time being, it bores me to death. Furthermore, I had Edmond Dantés waiting for me, calling me like a siren, and I couldn’t wait longer to read Dumas’ masterpiece for the third time, the first in English. One of my favourite passages is Edmond’s visit to the barber shop in Livorno, and the description of his transformation under his scissors. The comparison between the memories he had of his own face when he was imprisioned, at nineteen and what he sees now reflected in the small mirror in the shop, a man of thirty-three, is a master piece of literature. It’s impossible for me not to renew my endless devotion for Edmond after reading this.

This was now all changed. The oval face was lengthened, his smiling mouth had assumed the firm and marked lines which betoken resolution; his eyebrows were arched beneath a brow furrowed with thought; his eyes were full of melancholy, and from their depths occasionally sparkled gloomy fires of misanthropy and hatred; his complexion, so long kept from the sun, had now that pale colour which produces, when the features are encircled with black hair, the aristocratic beauty of the man of the north; the profound learning he had acquired had besides diffused over his features a refined intellectual expression; and he had also acquired, being naturally of a goodly stature, that vigour which a frame possesses which has so long concentrated all its force within himself.

To the elegance of a nervous and slight form had succeeded the solidity of a rounded and muscular figure. As to his voice, prayers, sobs, and imprecations had changed it so that at times it was of a singular penetrating sweetness, and at other rough and almost hoarse.

[…]

Edmond smiled when he beheld himself: it was impossible that his best friend — if indeed, he had any friend left — could recognise him; he could not recognise himself.

satsera-in-tv-su-rete-4-montecristo-con-james-caviezel-3
Undoubtedly 2002 film version of the novel by Kevin Reynolds had many “buts”. Not Jim Caveziel’s Edmond Dantés, who definitely has been the best looking Monte Cristo on screen so far.