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Literature / Colas Breugnon

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Thanks be to St. Martin, business is bad, so there is no use in breaking one's back; and Lord knows I have worked hard enough in my time to take a little rest and comfort here at my table, with a bottle of wine on my right hand, the ink-well on the left, and a new quire of paper before me.

Colas Breugnon is a 1918 novel by Romain Rolland, a nostalgic look at his hometown of Clamecy through the eyes of the eponymous sixteenth-century old carpenter. Written as his diary, it chronicles the local goings-on, from wars through plagues to brigandry, through his optimistic and joyful eyes, the optimism undying even when struck with personal tragedy or unlucky love. A mostly light-hearted book.

It has had an opera adaptation written by Dmitry Kabalevsky back in the thirties.

Contains examples of the following:

  • Bawdy Song: Colas mentions that he knows a lot of these.
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: Military aid for the besieged town comes only after it has ended amicably, in the middle of a celebratory feast.
  • Character Title
  • Cock Fight: Colas's and his friend's rivalry for a girl's affections lead to this (back in their youth).
  • Comet of Doom: One shows up during the siege; no one is sure what it prophecies, if anything.
  • Dedication: To St. Martin of Gaul, patron saint of Clamecy.
  • The Plague: And the protagonist himself almost falls prey to it.
  • The Pollyanna: Colas, unless something really bad happens.
  • The Power Of Potential: This is how Colas explains his love for his granddaughter.
    Glodie slept, and as I sat by her side I could not help the thoughts that rushed over me: — Why is this little creature so unutterably dear that nothing seems worth while without her, and with her the worst that could happen would be bearable? Hers is the only life that matters; in comparison my own seems valueless, and yet here am I active of body and mind, with some talents, and what is even better, plenty of good sense; loving life, and made to enjoy it, in short a good Burgundian workman, and I would freely sacrifice all this for the sake of a little creature I do not even know; who is nothing as yet but a sweet face, a pretty plaything, but who will be something perhaps, — and for this possibility I am willing to give up my own "I am." Ah! it is because in this "perhaps" lies enfolded the fine flower of my existence, the best that is in me, and when I lie below the sod, and worms have destroyed this body, then will arise another self better and happier than the old one, yes, better, because I shall serve as a stepping-stone from which to see more clearly than I did.
  • The Siege: But not really a heroic defense against overwhelming odds. The defenders just relax for a few days, then finally make a treaty with the attackers and sit down for a feast together.
  • Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter: With his daughter slowly dying from The Plague despite the prayers to God, Colas angrily declares that they have other masters they can ask for help, and proceeds to engage in a pagan ritual.
  • The Storyteller: Colas again.