A Word from the Editor
In the Buzz, Eliza Ferguson reviews Benoît Jacquot’s Journal d’une femme de chambre, the latest adaptation of Octave Mirbeau’s 1900 novel. Léa Seydoux is scintillating in the title role and persuasively embittered, but the film sidesteps the full panoply of decadence that Mirbeau depicted. Jacquot is faithful, however, to Mirbeau’s condemnation of bourgeois hypocrisy, anti-Semitism, and right-wing nationalism. Either the novel or the film, Ferguson tells us, would make a fine addition to a course on modern France, giving students an intimate look at gender and late-nineteenth-century social conflicts. The film, available on French DVD, will be released this spring in the United States.
Coincidentally, the remainder of the issue focuses on Victor Hugo. Charles Rearick reviews a new prize-winning novel, Judith Perrignon’s Victor Hugo vient de mourir. In this novelistic “docudrama,” Perrignon recreates the debates and fears surrounding Victor Hugo’s death in May 1885. While the authorities worry that the funeral would occasion a working-class rising, anarchists and socialists fret about the co-optation of “their” Victor Hugo by the State. We are reminded that the Commune had occurred only fourteen years earlier and its legacy was still vivid. Marisa Linton begins her review of Ninety-Three (1874) by stating that the tragic events of the Commune were very much on Victor Hugo’s mind. The novel deals with revolutionary violence through the confrontation of the Revolutionary army and the Vendée’s anti-Republican rebels. Hugo describes the motivations on both sides even-handedly, although conceding that the Revolution was on the side of progress. Still, he wonders whether the hard-boiled revolutionaries of 1793 might not have shown some mercy. Linton concludes that some chapters in particular are worth assigning to students for their forceful recreation of the era.
University at Buffalo, SUNY