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Lavinia

Lavinia

Manon Lescaut - Jean Sgard, Antoine François Prévost, Leonard Tancock I’m one of those who were never truly tempted by chivalric romance, courtly love, super-knights and endless quests, adventurous musketeers and pretty ladies with complex hairstyles and tight corsets. Though I must admit, every now and then I enjoy watching a film on the matter, if handsome actors are involved, if you know what I mean. Still, I can’t help wondering how come only the good guys, the brave and the strong ones are neat and cute, and all the others are ugly as hell and seem not to have touched water and soap (or whatever they were using) in ages.

Given the premise, I basically had no reason to read Manon Lescaut, yet there I was, picking it up, thinking it was too long a time since it had been among other unread books and imagining I was going to enjoy it.

Prévost, a smart and prolific man, from what I’ve read, wrote the book somewhere towards the middle of the 18th century, but it seems to have caused so much scandal that it had to be burned, so he revised the book and published it again a few decades later and it is seen, even today, one of the most touching, passionate and painful love stories in the French literature. Oh, well.

It’s not that I didn’t like it, but I was constantly annoyed by des Grieux (young wannabe chevalier) and his stupid and childish decisions. So he convinces the very young Manon Lescaut not to go to the monastery, where she is sent against her will because she loves the world too much, and run away with him. Classic. But the stupid kids don’t have a penny on their name so they need to come up with plans to live in the high society, because, isn’t it so? Manon needs to go to the opera and have all sorts of amusements. Crap.

To cut it short: Manon, the pure and kind and so-much-in-love-with-des Grieux, throws herself to the first guy with money (and the second, for that matter), in order to (financially) protect their love. Petite whore? I think so. Des Grieux stupidly comes back to her, time after time, agreeing to be an accomplice in Manon’s schemes, only to have her love.

Questions: Why does des Grieux only starts thinking of working in Louisiana (where Manon is sent and he obediently follows)? How come in Paris none of them has the decency of thinking of something worth doing to earn some money? Yeah, I get it. You’re a chevalier, you don’t work in Paris, you rely on your father’s money. Too bad he leaves you penniless, smart ass. How easy is it to die overnight when you realize you’ve got no escape? You just wish for, and in the morning you’re cold? Come on, Monsieur Prévost!

And for those around here who say Manon Lescaut is an archaic book, look up archaic in the dictionary, please. And you, who say the book is about sex. sex. sex. take a cold shower. Urgently.