Thursday, December 4, 2014

A quote from Paul Feval

In a letter written in 1861 to the Baron de Chapuys-Montlaville, Paul Feval defended popular fiction by saying.
"That insignificant literature sometimes has higher aspiration, but it never declares them, and that is the secret of its power."
The above quote was made available for English speaking readers in Alain Landier's introduction to Black Coat Press's Shadowmen 2: Heroes and Villians of French Comics, edited by Jean-Marc and Randy Lofficier.  Which I read early last year (2013).

I've often thought of that quote of Paul Feval recently when reading Heather Hogan's Pretty Little Liars recaps, or listening to the BrosWatchPLLToo podcast.

It's a show that some people find easy to write off.  But is none the less very awesome.

Since I discovered Paul Feval, and other 19th century Feuilletonists like Ponson and Sue and Dumas, but mostly Feval in 2012, I've seen his fingerprints, his/their indirect influence on all modern Popular Fiction, from the Pulps to Comics, to CW television shows, and of course numerous Hollywood and made for TV movies, and in Anime and Manga too.

But I feel nothing today is more Fevalian then Pretty Little Liars.  That show is pure Rocambolesque.  It takes itself incredibly seriously and not seriously at all at the same time, it's wonderful.  A perfect Melodrama.

Alison is like a teenage Marguerite Sadalous, and Mona is like a female John Devil.

I may or may not be the only Tales of The Shadowmen contributor who's familiar with the show.

I also feel like commenting on how Brian Stableford said in his afterward for The Blackcoats: Heart of Steel that the book is "Unintentionally proto-feminist".  It's a very good and informative afterward and I recommend it.  The only thing I might partly disagree with is the "unintentionally" part, though not entirely.

Feval was a devout Catholic and Royalist, which made him a Conservative in the context of 19th century French politics.  And as such clearly saw traditional gender roles as important.  But at the same time this wasn't the only novel where he (and other 19th century french catholic royalists like Ponson) had surprisingly strong and active female characters.

Feval and Ponson supported the Nobility on traditionalist grounds.  But they also seemed to feel that the Nobles brought their downfall on themselves.  They would not be like a modern Fox News pundits going "How dare you accuse the rich of being greedy and selfish".

And as I read about Echalot and Similor in the Blackcoats saga, I feel compelled to conclude that Feval would be surprisingly supportive of LGBT people.  I don't think he'd object to the internet Slash-Shipping his characters.

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