Jean Christophe, Part IV – Revolt, by Romain Rolland

One of the good things about reading these multi-volume novels so slowly, is that you’ve no idea any longer what happened in any of the previous parts. I think at some point Christophe (or possibly Christoph, since we’re in Germany) fell in love with a woman, and had a platonic friendship with another boy. Anyway, by now he’s grown up and become a (classical) composer; and has started having his pieces put on by local orchestras, and even at times being respected for them.

The trouble is though that Christoph has ideas about what constitutes good music, and this includes nothing in the contemporary world, and nothing that anybody else seems to like (where have we heard this before?); and this leads to Christoph showing only contempt to the entire population of whatever German town on the French border it is he’s living in. Naturally this only manages to alienate him from everybody; and so they stop playing his music and his career grinds to a halt. All this is fairly amusing; and I can’t help feeling it’s intending as some sort of warning. (Why doesn’t Christoph just play the game a bit more? Give a few good reviews to works he’s maybe not really so enthusiastic about? Why does he just have to keep being stubborn and saying what he thinks about everything?).

Eventually he decides the only solution is to leave Germany for the promised land of Paris. Unfortunately, this means leaving his mother, whom he loves, and he can’t bring himself to do this. Luckily, however, Rolland manages to contrive a deus ex machina ending in which he starts an affray with a solider, and has to escape Germany under fear of arrest. – Will the people of Paris prove any more pleased with his criticism? We’ll see in the next episode.


Missing Volumes and Roman Fleuves

Having not read a single book in 2009 much over 400 pages, I thought this year I’d concentrate my attention on reading some longer works (I have plenty of them, propping up the bottom of my book-piles, waiting for that endlessly distant era when I have some time). I’d also, I thought, read a roman fleuve a year.

Buying most of my books second-hand, I often seem to end up with incomplete sets of roman fleuves (and other volume based works), and am left tracking down the missing volumes. Of course, when you come across these volumes, there are themselves parts of complete sets, and one feels churlish splitting them up – so one buys the second set too and ends up with two copies of a few volumes.

Perhaps I find the collection more enjoyable than the reading. I have, say, complete editions of von Doderer’s The Demons; Andrea Giovene’s Sansavero; The Arabian Nights (twice); Henry Williamson’s The Flax of Dreams; and probably many others – but I’ve barely read any of them. They just seem too daunting.

The term roman fleuve (so I now read on Wiki) was coined by Romain Rolland – and fittingly it’s his Jean Christophe I’ll be endeavouring to read this year. I bought the first three volumes in an edition some time last year (I remember the day well: I also had a wisdom tooth ripped out, and was stopped and questioned over my terrorist activities); but then in another shop I discovered another set (different publisher), but only volumes 1, 2 and 4 (there are 4 volumes, though technically 10 volumes within 4 volumes). It would have cost about £9, which seem a lot to me with volume 3 missing. – But I went back last week, and they reduced them to £3. So I bought them:

John Christophe vols 1, 2 and 4

I imagined, by the time I got to volume 3, I might well have managed to track down a copy (though obviously you don’t see a lot of Romain Rolland around these days). – But luckily we have that marvellous invention the internet; and as it happened, it only took me a few minutes to track down a copy of volume 3, same edition, on Amazon, for not too large a price (I did check carefully that the particular seller wasn’t selling any other volumes, and that this was an orphan I could reunite). So now, as you see, I have my complete set.

John Christophe vols 1,2,3 and 4