Friday, 13 June 2008

Book of the Week - The Phantom of the Opera

There's nothing like a good ghost story! Actually, this isn't a ghost story, because Erik isn't a ghost, but all the same. Anyway, I don't know what else Leroux wrote, but this is a very finely written story - full of detail, which, while not absolutely pertinent to the plot, enriches the story, and is necessary in making the tale as good as it is, I think.


Notwithstanding the horrors of a situation which seemed definitely to abandon them to their deaths, M de Chagny and his companion were saved by the sublime devotion of Christine Daae. I had the rest of the story from the lips of the daroga himself.

When I went to see him, he was still living in his little flat in the Rue de Rivoli, opposite the Tuileries. He was very ill and it took all my ardour as an historian pledged to tell the truth to persuade him to live the incredible tragedy over again for my benefit. His faithful old servant Darius showed me in. The daroga received me at a window overlooking the garden of the Tuileries. He still had his magnificent eyes, but his poor face looked very worn. He had shaved the whole of his head, which was usually covered with an astrakhan cap; he was dressed in a long, very plain coat and amused himself by unconsciously twisting his thumbs inside the sleeves; but his mind was quite clear and he told me his story with perfect lucidity, as follows.

It seems that, when he opened his eyes, the daroga found himself lying on a bed. M de Chagny was asleep on a sofa, beside the wardrobe. An angel and a devil were watching over them...

After the deceptions and illusions of the torture-chamber, the precision of the middle-class details in that quiet little room seemed invented for the express purpose of once more puzzling the mind of the mortal rash enough to stray into that abode of living nightmare. The wooden bedstead, the beeswaxed mahogany chairs, the chest of drawers, the brasses, the little square anti-macassars carefully laced on the backs of the chairs, the clock on the mantelpiece and the harmless-looking ebony caskets at either end... lastly, the what-not filled with shells, with red pin-cushions, with mother-of-pearl boats and an enormous ostrich-egg... the whole discreetly lighted by a shaded lamp standing on a small round table: this collection of ugly, peaceable, reasonable furniture,
at the bottom of the Opera cellars, bewildered the imagination more than all the late fantastic happenings.

17 comments:

Stephany said...
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Radagast said...

Why does that pique your interest?

Matt

Stephany said...
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Stephany said...
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Radagast said...

Ah! A metaphor! I suppose one would have to ask why things would be any different, below the Opera House, just because the most significant inhabitant is a hideously deformed playwrite (or whatever Erik was)? Superficially, then, it's another world, but in reality, the cellars are just an extension of the world above. Not surprising, really, seeing as the inhabitants once inhabited "our" world.

Erik, of course, like Roy Batty, simply wanted "more [of] life," but he was too different to ever be accepted (although, unlike Roy Batty, who intimidated with his perfection, Erik intimidated with his deformity). And you're right, I think, why would anybody even pretend to befriend him, when they could never give him what he wanted?

Matt

Stephany said...
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justana said...

Rue de Rivoli...

à Paris
rue de Rivoli
un jeune homme
appelle le taxi...

I've learned this silly stuff when I was a teenager.
When I lived in Paris I lived au Marais and I used to cross everyday this street.
Unfortunately I just spend one week in London.
Love your city!
Yours truly,
Ana

Radagast said...

Stephany: I suppose, if one is told that any given person is a monster, one is very likely to spend one's time perceiving everything that that person does as being linked, in some way, to some monstrous activity, or other (notwithstanding the fact that nobody can possibly be monstrous, all of the time). It would take a very strong-willed person to rise above that, and go looking for evidence of beauty, instead.

Justana: Oddly enough, I've never been to Paris (other than joining a connecting flight). London's OK if you've got bags of money, and plenty of time to spend it!

Matt

justana said...

Yes Matt!
In this fucking world in which in live in it seems there's nothing to do or enjoy no matter which town you are without the damn money.
But visiting British Museum, Tate Gallery, National Gallery or even browsing around the city can be a good thing especially by the time we have a student card.
I'm sorry saying nothing but nonsense.
I'm quite stupid and I'm really sorry for that!
I'll try better in another lifetime!
Perhaps I'll know the right thing to say.
Statistically proven that in this fucking lifetime I've failed.
I'm deeply sorry.

Radagast said...

Justana: LOL! I wouldn't place too much faith in statistics, if I were you! Our enquiries into the activities of the Worshipful Company ought to tell you that.

Anyway, if you can find me one person who says something deeply profound, every time they open their mouth, then that person is either Christ reincarnate, or never fucking speaks, at all!

Matt

Stephany said...
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Radagast said...

Stephany: No (having just scanned the opening chapters - it's ages since I read this), he was some kind of composer - a musical genius - he tutored Christine, pretending to be a musical angel, or something, sent by her dead father.

Matt

Stephany said...
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Stephany said...
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Radagast said...

Hmmm. I don't know about the various movie accounts, but according to the Daroga, in the book, he was a fur-trader, amongst other things, and the son of a master mason. I've just had a quick flick through the final chapter, and it isn't clear how he died, from that, it just says that his body was found near a little well.

Matt

Anonymous said...

I am the same person found at the bottom of the well.Not fit for society or the human eye.

Radagast said...

Anonymous: Good for you. It's worth remembering, though, that humanity isn't so special that it can afford to be that picky.

Matt

PS Try not to post anonymously - it tends to undermine the credibility of what you write.