The Three Musketeers by Andre Dumas Review

"Dartagnan-musketeers" by Maurice Leloir (1851-1940) wood engraving by Jules Huyot

“Dartagnan-musketeers” by Maurice Leloir (1851-1940) wood engraving by Jules Huyot

My main reading goal this summer was to finish The Three Musketeers by Andre Dumas. It has sat on my “to be read” list for years, while I balked at its enormous length. But now I was finally ready to read it, all 600 pages of it. Since it was written in 1844, I was expecting the book to get off to a pretty slow start, and to generally have large passages of description with some swashbuckling action in between. That assumption was wrong. From start to finish, this book was jam packed with swashbuckling action, romance, and political intrigue.

The book follows the adventures of d’Artagnan, a young country boy from Gascony, who sets off to become one of the king’s Musketeers. While on his way he makes plenty of enemies, and befriends the titular Three Musketeers: Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. That is where his real adventure begins, and the fate of France might just hang in the balance.

Although it took me several months to read, I quite enjoyed this book. The pacing was good, and the characters were interesting and likeable. The only character that I was a little disappointed in was Constance. I felt that she had a lot more potential, and was largely ignored during the last third of the book. Luckily, in most adaptations of the novel, she gets a larger role. I loved d’Artagnan and the Musketeers. They were the perfect mix of swashbuckling and ragtag, making them underdogs who were certain to always win in a spectacular fashion.

The best way to describe how the plot of this novel works is to think about it like a TV show. It was originally published as a newspaper serial, which would be printed each week from March through July, so the original format was very similar to a modern television show. This allowed for several plots to carry the reader through the story without too much down time.

I highly recommend this book to everyone. Whether you like action and sword fighting, romance, or classic literature, this book has a lot to offer. It isn’t a difficult read, and like a TV show, can be read in between other books, making it the perfect fit for those just beginning to read literature, as well as the experienced classicist.

After finishing the book, I watched the 2011 movie adaptation, which, while entertaining, was loosely, at best, based on the book. Have you read the book or seen any good adaptations? Are there any books that you want to read, but are daunted by the length? I’ve caught the bug, so I can’t wait to dive into my next long read.

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Berlin Street Art

While I was in Berlin, my group also took a street art and graffiti tour with Alternative Berlin.P1070401

I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but I ended up finding it fascinating. Our tour guide was excellent, and she taught us about the history behind graffiti tags. Graffiti tags usually involve a person or group painting something on a building or wall that represents their name. It started in the United States with Cornbread. He had gotten into some trouble and ended up in juvenile detention. There he complained so much about the dry dinner rolls, saying he missed his grandmother’s cornbread, that his nickname eventually became Cornbread. Then, one day he began painting it all over the walls. No one could figure out if it was really him, or someone trying to frame him. He gained some notoriety and moved on to bigger stunts, including tagging an elephant in the Philadelphia Zoo. Now people all over the world use tagging their name as a way to gain respect and attention.

Our guide also pointed out various street art that we passed. The art ranged from sticker graffiti, to yarn bombing, to full-scale paste up art.

This post box has little yarn chicken feet.

This post box has little yarn chicken feet.

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El Bocho (Spanish for little donkey) is one of Berlin’s most famous street artists. One of his very popular characters is Little Lucy. Originally, she was in a bland Soviet-era cartoon where she went on adventures with her cat. All that has now been flipped on its head by El Bocho, who depicts Little Lucy’s new adventures of trying to kill her cat in many creative ways.

Little Lucy makes cat soup.

Little Lucy makes cat soup.

"Off with her head!"

“Off with her head!”

Another character of El Bocho’s does not have an official name, but is called the Citizen or simply the Girl. She is in love with jthe city of Berlin. Originally the pasted up paintings are very colorful, but as time passes the color washes off and she turns grey and fades away. The symbolism is very powerful.

A newer Girl

A newer Girl

A Girl who has been posted for awhile.

A Girl who has been posted for awhile.

If you want to learn more about El Bocho you can visit his website or get more info here.

There was also a visiting street artist who had left some pictures behind. They were all approximately life-sized paste ups of people partying and dancing taken from public Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook profiles and surrounded by caution tape printed with “IT’S TIME TO DANCE”. I thought they were fun, even if they had an undercurrent of caution. It was also very interesting that a street artist would so directly take on social media as a topic, since that is how most works of street art get shared. P1070401 - Version 3 P1070405You can see an album of some more of the works in Berlin here.

When we finished our tour, we got to go back to a workshop and make some spray paint graffiti art ourselves.

My Totoro art!

My Totoro art!

Without this tour I might have missed out on the rich culture of street art available in Berlin, and subsequently, some of what makes the city shine, plus it was a great time.

 

A Bit of Berlin

I may have gone to Berlin a little while ago, but I thought you might still be interested in hearing about it.

Most of the sights I saw in Berlin were concentrated in the area between Potsdamer Platz and Alexanderplatz. Just walking down the street to the hostel, we passed Humboldt University, Bebelplatz, the Holocaust Memorial, the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, Museuminsel, and the Berliner Dom (a cathedral).

Inside the Holocaust Memorial

Inside the Holocaust Memorial

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The Reichstag government building

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The famous Brandenburg Gate

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The beautiful Berliner Dom

 We ate lunch by the huge Fernsehturm (Television Tower) in Alexanderplatz, where there were lots of shops selling clothes and touristy knickknacks. If you walk past the massive amount of construction being done, you can see the Rathaus (the old courthouse) and head over to the Nikolikirche (St. Nicholas’ Church). The area over there is much quieter than the surrounding areas, and you can get great views of the river Spree. I also liked the cool statue in the square of St. George and the Dragon.

St. George and the Dragon

St. George and the Dragon

The food stands in Berlin were surprisingly excellent. Pretty much everywhere we went there were little stands selling Currywurst or Doner. Guys even stood on street corners wearing Bratwurst grills on their backs. Even better, all of these “snacks” were cheap and filling. I became quite attached to Doner during my time there. Every stand had a different recipe for this Turkish, bread, meat, and vegetable pocket, but they were all delicious.

Nom nom. Doner.

Nom nom. Doner.

One day while in Berlin we got tickets to Museuminsel. You can buy one ticket that is good all day at all the museums on the island, plus several others in Berlin. We visited the Old National Gallery and the New Museum. The National Gallery was full of beautiful paintings, featuring a huge selection of works by Adolf Menzel and even some French Impressionists, and a special exhibit of sculptures by Bugatti. He was the brother of the famous automaker, and sculpted amazing animals out of bronze. It was interesting to learn how his lifelike animals were connected with the rising popularity of public zoos in the late 1800’s.

The National Gallery building

The National Gallery building

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A Bugatti vulture

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My favorite sculpture, the hippopotamus

The New Museum, ironically, held mostly ancient artifacts. The most impressive collection was their Egyptology collection. I had no idea that Berlin has long been one of the centers around the world for Egyptology studies. The building itself was also an attraction. After World War II it was rebuilt, but the ruins of the old building were left and simply built around. I thought the effect was captivating. We had no time or energy left to explore the other museums around, but I hope to see the Pergamon on my next trip. It was mostly closed for remolding this time.

Some of the inside of the New Museum

Some of the inside of the New Museum

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An Egyptian artifact that is still this colorful 3000 years later.

Berlin is a big city, brimming with sights both old and new to visit. I had a great time getting a small taste for the city