Just about six months before my departure for Spain, I first met the Chevalier des Grieux
–Abbe Prevost - Manon Lescaut - c.1731, 1996.

Read online – Gutenberg

This is a book I would never have picked up if not for the fact that it is on the reading list of an online course I’ve just started. It is the story of the Chevalier Des Grieux, the second son of a wealthy, upper-class French family in the early 18th century. By purest chance he happens to meet the beautiful Manon Lescaut. She comes from a lower class and is on her way to join a convent. Des Grieux himself is destined for the priesthood, but the moment he spots Manon that idea goes out the window.

Unfortunately for him Manon isn’t exactly the most steadfast of lovers. Her fear of poverty is more than enough to send her seeking richer partners. Or so Des Grieux tells us. He, of course, never gives up but follows after her again and again attempting to win her to him forever.

I really disliked Des Grieux. He was such an idiot, and he never ever seemed to learn from his previous errors and missteps. It was the same story over and over again. As for Manon herself, well, the story was told from Des Grieux’s point of view so we never got to see what she thought or felt about anything. Or indeed her reasoning for her actions. All we have to go on is what the Chavalier tells us, and he is an admitted thief, pimp, and cheat. He might not describe himself in those words, not recognise that description as fitting him, but that is what he is.

In the context of the course I am doing it’ll be interesting to see the interpretation we are given for this. The course is entitled The Fiction of Relationship and there is plenty of fiction in the relationship between Des Grieux and Manon Lescaut. A perfect example in many ways.

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7 Responses

  1. Ekaterina says:

    Oh, you are also in the course! Nice to find a fellow student :)

    I enrolled only 2 days ago and I haven't started the reading yet. Did you like the introduction lecture? I'm not a fan of the professor, but I hope he'll have something interesting to tell about the books.

    I've never heard about Manon Lescaut before, but the other works on the list are really great, so I hope I'll like this one, too. You write that the protagonist and POV is not quite likable, but I usually find it interesting to read books from the point of view of the characters who are not angels and know it. We'll see :)
    Ekaterina´s last blog post ..Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

    • Fence says:

      I quite enjoyed his lecturers. I haven't read the ones on Manon Lescaut yet though, so we'll see.

      I'm not quite sure if the Chavalier will admit to not being an angel :)

  2. Kelly says:

    Which online course are you taking, Fence? That might be kind of fun, a good way to keep the old brainules sharp.

    I'd never heard of this book before now, and the author sounds only vaguely familiar. I used to read a lot of similar books way back when, though not at all now. I'm with Ekaterina when she says she likes unlikable protagonists sometimes (Heathcliff = YUM) but I have to say that I'm not fond of idiotic main characters, unless they provide an original perspective. Otherwise it's just frustrating reading the story from their point of view. I prefer intelligent rogues.

    Did you see that Joss Whedon has filmed a version of Much Ado About Nothing starring Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker and Nathan Fillion? It's on limited release here in the States, but it seems to be doing well so maybe it will spread to more theaters. Amy and Nathan especially are getting rave reviews. Apparently, Joss filmed it in two weeks at his house! That alone intrigues me, plus, seeing Wesley and Fred again. sigh. I just watched A Hole in the World. sniff.
    Kelly´s last blog post ..She saw something big out of the window

  3. Harlequin says:

    Kellykins!! A few months ago, Fence surprised me with tickets to a special preview of Much Ado at the Dublin International Film Festival! She is the best! AND JOSS WAS THERE!!!!!! The film is lovely, really great. I think you'd really enjoy it. And Fred and Wes finally get their happy ending. *wipes away a tear*

  4. Ekaterina says:

    Well, I started the book yesterday, so I'm still in the beginning, but right now Des Grieux is just a naive young man, it's Manon who's a slut :) But a rather resourceful slut :)
    Ekaterina´s last blog post ..Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

  5. Kelly says:

    Wow, H, that's awesome, and to see Joss there, too! Did he give a little intro before it started? I saw a preview and it looks great, and better yet, really funny. I should have known that you and Fence would have already heard about the movie. You two are the ones who introduced me to the Buffyverse all those years ago and I will bless you forever for it. :)
    Kelly´s last blog post ..She saw something big out of the window

  6. Harlequin says:

    He was getting an award so he was there for ages. He signed autographs and posed for photos outside the cinema but we didn't do that because it was super-freezing and also I find that sort of stuff TERRIBLY embarrassing, like I might dribble on him or something. :-) There was a little Q&A after the film and it was mostly horribly mortifying but he was sweet and funny and pure JOSS and I'm so so so glad I got to go. But even apart from the Joss, the film is great and OMG, Alexis should be SUCH a big star because he is hilarious and sweet and tender and snarky and sexy and just plain wonderful. Also, our Captain is in it and it will surprise you not at all to learn that he pretty much brought the house down a dozen times. :-)

    Also, <3 to you Kelly, you darling! xxx