Deeper into Jeopardy! XXXIII: French Lit – $400

Ah, the French. We’ve taken a look at plenty of literature categories (it being one of Jeopardy!’s most frequent high culture concerns), but not much French writing has snuck its way in so far. This installment will change that, though, as la littérature storms this blog like it’s the Bastille and today is July 14, 1789.

Jeopardy! category: FRENCH LIT (11-12-2014)

$400 clue: In 1845 this pere continued the story of a certain trio in “Twenty Years After”

Correct response

The gist: Pardon the pun, but that’s one storied lineage. 

Alexandre Dumas, père was born Aisne, France in 1802. His father was Alexandre Davy de la Palleterie, also known as Thomas-Alexandre Dumas or, confusingly, just regular Alexandre Dumas, the illegitimate son of a French nobleman and his enslaved African concubine enslaved on his Haitian (then known as Saint-Domingue) plantation. Sold by his father along with his mother and siblings at the age of 14 in order to get him cheaper passage back to France, he received an education worthy of a nobleman’s son in a town near Paris. He enlisted in the French army in 1786 and was a central military figure in the French Revolution and the Napoleon’s army, eventually attaining the rank of General-in-Chief, making him the highest ranking person of colour in a European army ever. Yes, ever. Like, until right now, when you’re reading this.

But back to 1802, when our Alexandre Dumas was born. The eldest A. Dumas died when A.D.p., as I’ve just decided we’ll call him, was four years old. The father’s latter-day misfortunes and long imprisonment in Italy had left the family destitute, but still holding on to their family’s excellent reputation. The family was unable to afford the sort of education his father received, A.D.p. was almost entirely self-taught, reading everything he could get his hands on from a young age. During the brief restoration of the Bourbon monarchy that followed Napoleon’s downfall, A.D.p. found some favour in the royal court at Paris. He began his writing career with plays, later moving on to his better-known swashbuckling adventure novels, making good money serializing them in newspapers and magazines. Perhaps his best known work, The Three Musketeers (of which the novel mentioned in the clue is one of two sequels), which followed the adventures of the titular Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, as well as their new friend d’Artagnan, as they traipse around France drinking, eating, sleeping with women, yelling their famous motto “One for all and all for one!”, and along the way foiling the conniving Cardinal Richelieu’s various plots. A.D.p.’s other best-known work, The Count of Monte Cristo, which follows the young sailor Edmond Dantès as he attempts to clear his name after being hit with trumped-up charges of treason. After escaping jail, he recovers a great fortune from a friendly fellow prisoner and assumes the persona of the Count of Monte Cristo. By the end of the novel, he has taken his revenge on his accusers, married his sweetheart, revealed his true identity, and cleared his own name. Although there’s no documentation to attest to it directly, it’s believed that tales A.D.p. heard of his father’s wartime adventures may have inspired his wild tales of daring and chivalry.

And he too had a son, known today as Alexandre Dumas, fils (French for “son,” like calling him “Alexander, Jr.”), who also became a successful writer in his time. He is best known for his 1848 love triangle novel Camille. The novel was adapted as a smash hit play, and then as an opera by none other than master composer Giuseppi Verdi.

An 1855 photograph of Alexandre Dumas, pere

The clue: Plenty of hints in this clue can lead you to Dumas. First, of course, there’s the “pere” in his name – I certainly can’t think of any other French writers who feature that. But if you just know him as Alexandre Dumas, without his familial trailer, there’s still the mention of a “certain trio,” a clear reference to the Three Musketeers, definitely the most famous trio in French literature. And finally, even if you don’t catch that hint, you might still be familiar with the sequel “Twenty Years After,” although if you know about that book I bet you know about the original better.

In Jeopardy!: “Alexandre Dumas” is in a good 41 regular and three FJ! clues in the J!Archive. 28 of the regular clues and one of the FJ!s mention musketeers (and one more the French “mousquetaire”), and just slightly behind that comes “Monte Cristo” in 21, either in the title of the book or, in two clues, as the name of his estate, the Chateau de Monte-Cristo. A summary knowledge of those two books, plus what we’ve gone over of his biography here, ought to cover you just fine for any clues about him – to be safe, you could take a look at some plot summaries: here’s Musketeers and here’s Monte Cristo.

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