{Book Review} Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand

Cyrano De Bergerac

Cyrano de Bergerac occupies a unique place in the modern theater. Deliberately disavowing realism and contemporary relevance, Rostand’s masterpiece represents a turning back in time and spirit to an earlier age of high adventure and soaring idealism. Its magnificent hero, Cyrano – noble of soul and grotesque in appearance, gallant Gascon soldier, brilliant wit, and timid lover, alternately comic, heroic, and tragic – represents one of the most challenging of all acting roles in its complexity and mercurial changes of mood. From its original production to the present day, Cyrano de Bergerac has enjoyed a charmed existence on the stage, its unflagging pace of action and eloquence of language enchanting critics and public alike. Here, in a superlative translation, is the ultimate triumph of the great French critic Lemaître, “prolongs, unites, and blends… three centuries of comic fantasy and moral grace.”*

*from my book blurb

I have noticed that my latest reviews are brought about by intense feelings that had to be expressed. This applies to this book VERY MUCH. You know those stories where the guy falls in love with a girl, but the girl likes someone else, and so the guy helps that someone else just for the girl’s happiness? This is like a classic version of that. It is so heartbreaking and at the same time so beautiful that I just can’t help but stop as I drink the words in. This is the kind of plot that transcends time and could be universally understood by just about anyone, but there is something about the language in which it is executed that manages to make you stop and read it all over again.

I love Cyrano de Bergerac for many reasons. He is funny. He is witty. He is intelligent. He is headstrong and courageous. His sensitivity on the topic of his thrice-larger-than-normal nose is sadly amusing. He is in love with Roxane, but because he knows that she is in love with Christian, one of his fellow Cadets, he has taken it upon himself to help Christian in wooing her. It’s a really depressing situation, but Cyrano’s love for Roxane is such that he would be willing to see her happiness at the expense of his own. The events that transpire in this sort of arrangement are such downers indeed for Cyrano, and even though I was screaming to him in my mind to just admit that all those letters Christian wrote for Roxane were really products of his amazing talent, I couldn’t help but see the beauty of it. I doubt that this story would have been half as tragically beautiful as it is with him being the agonizing lover in the shadows.

I also have to give props to Edmond Rostand for his flawless writing. I have the sort of modernized translation of the play by Lowell Bair, but even then, the words that frolic together in the verses pay homage to a timeless romance that is totally unforgettable for me and to several generations of readers and theatre-goers who had the privilege of learning Cyrano’s story. The type of love that Rostand managed to portray through Cyrano is so pure and sincere, the type that makes anyone radiant to the point that even a nose that is not pleasant to look at cannot outshine it.

Please read this play. Its beauty just pierces the heart in a way that contemporary romance doesn’t (at least for me). If ever I do fulfill that part of my bucket list that says “learn the mother tongue of Victor Hugo, Madame de Pompadour, and the Phantom of the Opera,” I am going to find a copy of this in the original French, and I will read it.

And because I am such a sucker for magnificent prose, I am going to share a few of my favorite quotes:

There, now you have an inkling of what you might have said to me if you were witty and a man of letters. Unfortunately you’re totally witless and a man of very few letters: only the four that spell the word “fool.” But even if you had the intelligence to invent remarks like those I have given you as examples, you would not have been able to entertain me with them. You would have spoken no moe than half the first syllable of the first word, because such jesting is a privilege that I grant only to myself.

She’s a mortal danger without meaning to be one; she’s exquisite without giving it a thought; she’s a trap set by nature, a rose in which love lies in ambush! Anyone who has seen her smile has known perfection. She creates grace without movement, and makes all divinity fit into her slightest gesture. And neither Venus in her shell, nor Diana striding in the great, blossoming forest, can compare to her when she goes through the streets of Paris in her sedan chair!

After all, what is a kiss? A vow made closer range, a more precise promise, a confession that contains its own proof, a seal places on a pact that has already been signed; it’s a secret told to the mouth rather than to the ear, a fleeting moment filles with the hush of eternity, a communion that has the fragrance of a flower, a way of living by the beat of another heart, and tasting another soul on one’s lips!

My personal favorite is Cyrano’s last monologue. It is too long to be typed here, and I don’t want to spoil it, but the effect it had on me was such that after reading the last words, I had to put down the book for a bit and think about life… really. It is THAT good. So please. For my sake, for the sake of theatre, for the sake of romance, read this.

PS

No, I haven’t watched Cyrano de Bergerac (1990)nor have I watched the famous Roxanne (1987) with Steve Martin in it, but now that I have read this, they are my topmost priority for film choices at the next available opportunity. I have, however, watched Penelope (2006) with James McAvoy and Christina Ricci. Very cute, without the tragedy of Cyrano’s tale but with the ugly nose in the form of a pig snout, and not as good as the emotions I got from reading this.

PPS

Incidentally, this is the last book that completes my personal reading challenge for this year! 125 books! This personal achievement is made  so much sweeter by that fact that this book is quickly becoming one of my favorites. ❤

In a nutshell…

Rating: 5/5

240 pages
Author: Edmond Rostand
Original Language: French
Published: 1897
Genre: Romance, Drama, Classic, Play

Advertisements

About thecodenameblue
Alexa is a perpetually hungry person who loves a lot of things: books, music, food, movies, and a lot of other things she's not very good at, like drawing and sports. Hoper of far-flung hopes and dreamer of improbable dreams. Apparently too lazy to write 'About Me' descriptions.

7 Responses to {Book Review} Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand

  1. 125 books? *groans

    Did you know that JZ buys every second-hand copy of Cyrano de Bergerac that she encounters? She just couldn’t stand seeing them unread (yes, she rereads it daw). 😀

  2. This quotation, which comes in Act IV just after Roxane arrives at Arras and surprises the cadets, heightens the sense of tension in the play. Roxane’s changing sentiments have derailed Christian and Cyrano’s plan. Just before Christian is about to go off to battle, Roxane tells him that he loves him for his “soul alone” and no longer for his “outer appearance.” This seemingly positive romantic development troubles and depresses Christian since he essentially borrowed his “soul” from Cyrano—without his outer appearance, he has nothing to offer Roxane. Roxane rejects the romantic hero’s mixture of inner and outer beauty in favor of the poetry and inner beauty that she initially attributes to Christian. Christian, however, understands that he had nothing to do with the poetry, and that Roxane really loves Cyrano without even knowing it. The moment is ironic since what Roxane believes to be her statement of true, lasting love for Christian is based upon a character trait that Christian does not possess.

    • True! Which is why I also admire Christian, because even though he is in love with Roxane, he also readily admits to himself that Cyrano deserves a fair chance, and says so to him.

      I wonder how this would have looked onstage. I bet it would have been wonderful!

  3. Sara Lang says:

    Cyrano and Roxane begin to talk alone. Cyrano anxiously asks Roxane to state why she has come to talk to him. She shrugs off his insistence, and they reminisce about the childhood summers they spent together. She tends to his wounded hand, and Cyrano tells her he injured it in a fight the night before in which he defeated a hundred men. Roxane confesses to Cyrano that she is in love with someone, a man who does not know she loves him. Cyrano thinks she means him, but when she describes the man as “handsome,” he knows that she means someone else. She tells him that she is in love with Christian, the new member of Cyrano’s company of guards. She says that she is afraid for Christian because Cyrano’s company is composed of hot-blooded Gascons who pick fights with anyone foreign. Christian is not a Gascon. Roxane asks Cyrano to protect him, and Cyrano agrees. She also asks Cyrano to have Christian write to her. Professing friendly love and admiration for Cyrano, she leaves.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: