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French Literature – La Dame aux Camélias Posted by on Sep 24, 2019 in Literature

France has supplied the world with some of its greatest writers. I often return to my favorites to keep up my skills. Some – like Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris (which incidentally helped to save the magnificent cathedral the last time it was in need) or Alexandre Dumas‘s Les Trois Mousquetaires – are quite long and take real commitment. Others – like Alexandre Dumas fils’s La Dame aux Camélias – are quick, compelling reads that you can enjoy in less time.

La Dame aux Camélias / The Lady of the Camellias

Written in the middle of the 19th century, La Dame aux Camélias tells the tragic story of Marguerite Gautier, a French courtisane (courtesan, prostitute) and her lover, Armand Duval. As Alexandre Dumas, fils (the son of the prolific author of Les Trois Mousquetaires) tells us in the intro to the novel, the story is based on real events (ones that history tells us transpired between him and his own lover, Marie Duplessis).

I share a few lines of that intro here … You can click to reveal the English translations.

Mon avis est qu’on ne peut créer des personnages que lorsque l’on a beaucoup étudié les hommes, comme on ne peut parler une langue qu’à la condition de l’avoir sérieusement apprise.


For me, one can only really create characters when they have really studied people, in the same way that one can only speak a language if they have really learned it.

N’ayant pas encore l’age* ou l’on invente, je me contente de raconter.


Not having yet reached the age of invention, I’ll stick with relating.

J’engage donc le lecteur à être convaincu de la réalité de cette histoire, dont tous les personnages, à l’exception de l’héroïne**, vivent encore.


I call therefore on the reader to accept the truth of this story, one in which all of the characters, with the exception of the heroine, are still living.

If you’d like to read the story for yourself, you can find on-line and téléchargeable (downloadable) versions from Project Gutenberg here.

By the way, if you’d like to tackle Notre-Dame or Les Trois Mousquetaires, you can find them on Project Gutenberg as well. Both are amazing and well worth the effort to read in the original French.
Notre-Dame de Paris
Les Trois Mousquetaires

* Dumas, fils was only 23 years old when he wrote the novel.
** Alerte spoiler! (Spoiler alert!)

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About the Author: Tim Hildreth

Lise: Maybe not always. Paris has ways of making people forget. / Jerry: Paris? No, not this city. It's too real and too beautiful. It never lets you forget anything. It reaches in and opens you wide, and you stay that way. / An American in Paris