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O.G. - or - the Angel of Music

April 19, 2005, Literature
Last edited on November 24, 2005

Last evening after The Big Lebowski hanging in the crowded students' bar Z10 I read the last few pages of the epilogue of Gaston Leroux' The Phantom of the Opera. What an incredibly marvellous book!

Years ago I bought a quite impressive collection of 1-Pound-Books on a field excursion to London during my 12th or last year at school. I have to admit that I only read some of them.. A week ago when I could not sleep I went to my bookcase and thought: "Mmmm, lets try one of them", and The Phantom of the Opera was the lucky story.

I was lucky to chose it as well! Leroux begins his story with an introduction in which he claims that the Opera ghost really existed. The subsequent narrative bases on this assumption; the narrator presents his researches in a authentic manner in order to convince the reader of his assumption of which he claims that it is a steadfast fact that no-one could question after reading his "report".

Usually I do not like this kind of writing, investigative or even detective stories, but this one is really great. The atmosphere is dense and intense, the story is tragical, wonderful and intriguing. I am not a person who can recreate a book's atmosphere in his own writing and I also do not want to spoil this wonderful story for you. Just grab a copy and read it!

And be not afraid that it starts as an investigative report. Large parts of the story consist of extensive talking of the characters, whole sections -- over several chapters! -- are said to be taken from a manuscript which the Persian left behind and other parts are copied from M Armand Moncharmin's Momoirs of a Manager. These parts "from burrowed plumes" have a completely different style -- and even the "actual reports' parts" are far from representing a neutral and unenthusiastic position --, making the whole novel diverse under this aspect as well.

One last word about the language of my English copy: It is marvellous! An older one, not the English of Shakespeare's time, but not quite the one of to-day either. A refined English on a sophisticated level; truly a pleasure. It is a pity that in the whole book, which is a "Wordsworth Classic" of 1995 by the way, the translator's name is not mentioned. I'm sure that the original text was written in French by Leroux, having read the foreword of this edition that includes a paragraph on Leroux' life.

Originally I wanted to include a sentence or a short paragraph to illustrate the novel's language, but now, at the time I finally complete this article, it is nearly two months after the day I started it and I do not know which part I wanted to include and I'm not able to find one in a reasonable amount of time anymore either. Pardon me, but if you follow my enthusiastic recommendation you'll find one, and by doing it you will enjoy two-hundred-and-five further exciting pages of a brilliant story.

addendum

I'm on a longer train trip and skimmed through the novel.. What about this section:

"Look! You want to see? See! Feast your eyes, glut your soul on my cursed ugliness! Look at Erik's face! Now you know the face of the voice! You were not content to hear me, eh? You wanted to know what I looked like? Oh, you women are so inquisitive! Well, are you satisfied? I'm a good-looking fellow, eh? . . . When a woman has seen me, as you have, she belongs to me. She loves me for ever! I am a kind of Don Juan, you know!"

Hopefully it doesn't reveal too much. Actually I have found a nicer section I could have quoted instead but that one really reveals too much in my opinion. Ergo you have to be content with this little quote of Erik's speech, although his words are often a tad obscene (at least likened to the rest of the novel).

There is a second addendum in form of a separate article: On Translations of Le Fantôme de l'Opéra.

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