BOOK 142: THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO: ALEXANDRE DUMAS
TRIVIA: The original work was published in serial form in the Journal des Débats in 1844. Carlos Javier Villafane Mercado described the effect in Europe:
The effect of the serials, which held vast audiences enthralled ... is unlike any experience of reading we are likely to have known ourselves, maybe something like that of a particularly gripping television series. Day after day, at breakfast or at work or on the street, people talked of little else.
George Saintsbury stated: "Monte Cristo is said to have been at its first appearance, and for some time subsequently, the most popular book in Europe. Perhaps no novel within a given number of years had so many readers and penetrated into so many different countries." This popularity has extended into modern times as well. The book was "translated into virtually all modern languages and has never been out of print in most of them. There have been at least twenty-nine motion pictures based on it ... as well as several television series, and many movies [have] worked the name 'Monte Cristo' into their titles." The title Monte Cristo lives on in a "famous gold mine, a line of luxury Cuban cigars, a sandwich, and any number of bars and casinos—it even lurks in the name of the street-corner hustle three-card monte."
A swashbuckler in the tradition of great literary heroes, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas—born Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie—certainly epitomized the “self-made man” characterization that made the titular Count such a winning figure. Born in the French colony of Saint Domingue to an enslaved African mother, Thomas-Alexandre followed his nobleman father back to mainland France, pursuing formal education and military enlistment. Ultimately seizing a position as a general, Thomas-Alexandre still holds the distinction of being the highest-ranking person of color in a Continental European army.
Although Dumas never outright confirmed that his Count of Monte Cristo characters Eugénie Danglars and her music teacher Louise d’Armilly were sexually and romantically involved, his allusions on the topic were enough to stir the ire of some conservative publishers of the era. Contemporaneous English-language translations of the novel deleted scenes showcasing the characters’ intimate relationship—including one featuring the pair lying in bed together—which would only reappear in English-language translations 150 years later.
Due to the cunning duplicity of Dumas’ hero Edmond Dantès, his name has become a popular alias throughout pop culture. Some figures have even adopted the moniker as a nom de plume, notably one renowned screenwriter. Although Dantès is the name attributed to scripts for the films Beethoven, Maid in Manhattan, and Drillbit Taylor, they were each written by teen flick icon John Hughes.