El Club Dumas Tidbit #1 - Arturo Pérez-Reverte

by Arturo Perez-Reverte

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El Club Dumas Tidbit #1 - Arturo Pérez-Reverte

Unread postby Liz » Mon Jul 07, 2008 4:50 am

Welcome to the beginning of The Club Dumas tidbits. We will start with a bio on the author. But before I begin, I just want to point out that my Avatar (which I’ve had since July 2004) comes from The Ninth Gate press conference.

Arturo Pérez-Reverte

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Arturo Pérez-Reverte first established himself as a war correspondent and television personality in Spain, but his intelligence and literary acumen have allowed him to become a best-selling author in his native country and around the world. His novels have been translated into twenty-nine languages, have been published in more than 50 countries and have sold more than three million copies, and several of his literary thrillers have been translated into English. While he is perhaps best known for his series about a sixteenth-century swordsman, Captain Alatriste, he has also written several other novels, some with contemporary settings, that are noted both for their suspenseful plotlines and the depth with which they explore underlying issues.

El maestro de esgrima, first released in 1988, was translated into English by Margaret Jull Costa as The Fencing Master and published in 1999. The tale is set in Madrid in the year 1868, where the fencing master Don Jaime Astarloa teaches his skill to young noblemen. He is approached by the beautiful Adela de Otero and offered a large sum of money to teach her his difficult secret sword thrust. He initially declines but her persistence outlasts his resolve. She soon improves on her already excellent swordmanship. When a wealthy client who has taken Adela for his own is killed by Don Jaime's famous technique, she becomes a suspect. Barbara Hoffert of Library Journal called the novel "a fine tale of political intrigue with a lot of fencing lore deftly mixed in." A Publishers Weekly contributor commended Pérez-Reverte for his "lushly atmospheric suspense" and "spellbinding" prose that combines fencing, Spanish politics, and "the eternal lure of the femme fatale." Brad Hooper, writing in Booklist explained that Don Jaime finally learns "what purpose his involuntary participation served--and this leads to a walloping ending."

The Flanders Panel, published in 1994, is a translation of Pérez-Reverte's 1990 novel La tabla de Flandes. Belonging to the genre of postmodern mysteries made popular by Italian author Umberto Eco, it has a much tighter plot and a much more exciting narrative in the opinion of Michael Eaude (Times Literary Supplement Contributor). The novel's heroine, Julia, is an art restorer who discovers a murder mystery hidden in a medieval painting of a chess game. The game's moves are continued in the form of messages and events in Julia's life amid the Madrid art world; gradually, she realizes that she has become a target in the centuries-old mystery.

Eaude maintained that "The Flanders Panel is never boring." He commended the way Pérez-Reverte works background material, including chess moves, into the plot, and noted "a number of shocking twists." "Above all," Eaude concluded, "Pérez-Reverte makes use of a vivid imagination." Plaudits also came from a reviewer for the London Observer, who called the novel a "delightfully absorbing confection" and "ingenious hocus-pocus from start to finish." A Publishers Weekly contributor characterized the novel as "uneven but intriguing." That reviewer, like Eaude, faulted the characters as underdeveloped and also felt that the mystery was solved unconvincingly and conventionally. The reviewer responded most favorably to Pérez-Reverte's use of chess metaphors for human actions and to Julia's analyses of the painting, termed "clever and quite suspenseful."

One of Pérez-Reverte's most acclaimed novels is El club Dumas. Margot Livesey, New York Times Book Review contributor, wrote: "Mr. Pérez-Reverte ... is extremely good on the business of book collecting. Among the pleasures of The Club Dumas is the intimate sense it conveys of this highly specialized type of commerce.... [He] does an admirable job of describing these bibliophiles, as well as of creating works like The Nine Doors, whose illustrations are reproduced and described in fascinating detail." A Times Literary Supplement reviewer reported that readers get, together with a mass of tables, diagrams, clues, decoys, and nudgings about intertextuality and all twenty-seven illustrations so that they can play spot-the-differences, and draw their own conclusions. The reviewer called The Club Dumas a "wayward and moderately enjoyable" mystery novel. Booklist contributor Brian Kenney labeled the novel "witty, suspenseful, and intellectually provocative." Although Livesey said she found herself "growing impatient" with some of the plot twists and narrative techniques, she called the book an "intelligent and delightful novel."

Pérez-Reverte's 1995 novel La piel del tambor, translated by Sonia Soto as The Seville Communion, was noted by reviewers for its enjoyably skillful plotting, rich use of background information (including in this case a map of Seville, Spain), and intellectual gamesmanship. The premise of the narrative is that the secret files of the Vatican have been broken into by a computer hacker whose message implores the Pope to help save a seventeenth-century Seville church destined to be demolished. The church, it is said, "kills to defend itself." Father Lorenzo Quart, a tall, good-looking priest-sleuth, is called in to investigate. Meanwhile, the parish priest, aided by an American nun, is fighting the corrupt real-estate developer who wants to build on the church site. Quart's self-discipline is challenged by the presence of a beautiful duchess whose estranged husband is a banker involved in the real-estate deal.

A reviewer for the Economist called Pérez-Reverte "a master of intelligent suspense and reader-friendly action" and pointed out that this novel was "a hymn to Seville" and a work in which "postmodernistic tics do not interfere with a smoothly written, realist novel." Paul Baumann, in a review for the New York Times Book Review, called Quart "a St. James Bond, an agent in a Roman collar and handmade leather shoes who wields a Mont Blanc pen instead of a snub-nosed Beretta." Baumann found the novel "good fun," "entertaining," and sometimes "silly." A Publishers Weekly contributor commented: "Despite some unconvincing plotting and a few heavy-handed moments, Pérez-Reverte's characters capture the imagination." John Elson of Time called the book "one of those infrequent whodunits that transcend the genre." Baumann wrote: "Pérez-Reverte writes with wit, narrative economy, a sharp eye for the telling detail and a feel for history. ... You'd have to be a remarkably faithless reader not to want to visit Seville after finishing this flavorful confection." Elson concluded that the novel "may well inspire readers to order round-trip tickets to an ancient city redolent of jasmine and orange blossoms."

La Carta Esférica comes from the author's lifelong love for the sea and sailing. Translated by Margaret Sayers Peden as The Nautical Chart, it involves an undersea treasure hunt for a fortune in emeralds amid the wreckage of a Jesuit ship sunk in the Mediterranean during the mid-eighteenth century. The protagonist, an exiled sailor named Manuel Coy, meets the beautiful Tanger Soto of Madrid's Naval Museum after she wins the bid for an old nautical map at an auction in Barcelona. Coy joins Soto in her search for the sunken treasure off the coast of Spain in the wreckage of the Dei Gloria. However, they encounter a group of sinister treasure seekers who want to stand in their way. As Coy falls in love with Soto, the reader begins to wonder whether she will betray him.

In La reina del sur (The Queen of the South), Pérez-Reverte sets down the complex story of a female drug lord, Teresa Mendoza. As Teresa's story begins, she is largely innocent of involvement in illegal trafficking, except for her romantic relationship with a drug-running pilot. After his death in a plane crash, Teresa is slowly drawn into his world, and eventually heads up a ruthless, international drug-smuggling ring. Teresa's story is told through conventional narration and also through the reports of a journalist who is interviewing Mendoza's criminal contacts and law enforcement agents who pursued her. The novel gives a realistic picture of how the international drug trade works. Pérez-Reverte "excels in his meticulous research," commented Ilan Stavans in a School Library Journal review. Bill Ott, writing in Booklist, described The Queen of the South as "a thriller with an almost meditative tone."

Pérez-Reverte took his success to new levels with the publication of his series featuring the sixteen-century mercenary soldier, Capt. Diego Alatriste y Tenorio. Alatriste was a hero in the Thirty Years' War, and is known for surviving the Battle of Flanders, where most of his comrades perished. The novel takes place years later, when Alatriste, poor, disillusioned, yet still noble, survives as a hired swordsman. In the first novel, Capitán Alatriste, the captain is hired to terrorize some Englishmen; in so doing, he gets involved in affairs of state. The tale is "as gripping as any swashbuckler," stated Barbara Hoffert in Library Journal, yet it is also "a much more sobering tale of honor, responsibility, and political machination."

Altriste's adventures continue in Limpieza de sangre (Purity of Blood). This story is "in the mold of Dumas' musketeer novels and excitingly upholds the tradition," found Booklist reviewer Brad Hooper. The plot has Alatriste hired to save a wealthy girl from a convent that is under the control of a corrupt chaplain. In the next installment of the series, El sol de Breda, (The Sun over Breda), Alatriste and his young servant, Inigo Balboa--the son of one of Alatriste's old war companions--return to Flanders to help Spain take the city. The climactic battle scene is told in great historical detail. The character of Alatriste is "a bit lost in the panoramic action--a real pity, given his riveting presence," stated Hoffert in a Library Journal review. The reviewer went on to say that Pérez-Reverte's depiction of the horrors of war is "faultless."

Discussing his "Captain Alatriste" series with Barbara Hoffert in Library Journal, Pérez-Reverte said that he wrote them because he "wanted to tell the story of the only type of hero that can exist today: the tired hero, the one who has fought in the name of king, country, god, or whatever cause and who, at the end of combat, discovers that life has taken away all his innocence and has left him only his pride and his sword." He added that these books "voice the lesson that even when empires pass (and they all do), the shadows of those who once built them continue to wander like ghosts amid their ruins."


PERSONAL INFORMATION

Born November 24, 1951, in Cartagena, Spain. He makes his home near Madrid, and his interests include sailing. Pérez-Reverte, originally a journalist, was a war correspondent in African countries for the Pueblo and for Spanish national television.


AWARDS

Goya Prize for best script adaptation, 1992, for El maestro de esgrima; Grand Prix de literatura policiaca de Francia, 1993, for Le Club Dumas; Prize Asturias de periodismo, 1993, for coverage of war in Yugoslavia; Premio Ondas, 1993; Swedish Academy Prize for best foreign translation, 1994, for The Table of Flandes; Premio Palle Rosenkranz, 1994, Academia Criminologica de Dinamarca, for El club Dumas; Elle readers' prize, 1995, for The Skin of the Drum; Jean Monnet Prize for European literature, 1997, for La pel del tambor; Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, 1998; Adalid de la Libertad, 1999; Mediterranean Prize for best foreign work published in France, 2001; Medalla de la Academia de Marina Francesa, 2002; named member of the Spanish Royal Academy, 2003; honorary degree, Universidad Politecnica de Cartagena, 2004; Prize Gonzalez-ruano de periodismo, 2004; Joaquin Romero Murube Prize, 2004; Gran Cruz del Merito Naval, 2005; Medalla de oro de San Telmo, Fundacion Letras del mar, 2006.


WRITINGS

• El húsar, Akal (Madrid, Spain), 1986, reprinted, Alfaguara (Madrid, Spain), 2004.
• El maestro de esgrima, Mondadori (Madrid, Spain), 1988, translation by Margaret Jull Costa published as The Fencing Master, Harcourt Brace (New York, NY), 1999.
• La tabla de Flandes, Alfaguara (Madrid, Spain), 1990, translation by Margaret Jull Costa published as The Flanders Panel, Harcourt Brace (New York, NY), 1994.
• El club Dumas, Santillana (Madrid, Spain), 1993, translation by Sonia Soto published as The Club Dumas, Harcourt Brace (New York, NY), 1996.
• La sombra del águila, Alfaguara (Madrid, Spain), 1993, new edition, Editorial Castalia (Madrid, Spain), 1999.
• Territorio comanche: un relato, Ollero & Ramos (Madrid, Spain), 1994.
• La piel del tambor (title means "The Skin of the Drum"), Santillana (Madrid, Spain), 1995, translation by Sonia Soto published as The Seville Communion, Harcourt Brace (New York, NY), 1998.
• Los héroes cansados (collection), introduction by Santos Sanz Villanueva, Espasa Calpe (Madrid, Spain), 1995.
• Obra breve (title means "Short Works"), Santillana (Madrid, Spain), 1995.
• Patente de corso: 1993-1998, introduction and selection by José Luis Martín Nogales, Alfaguara (Madrid, Spain), 1998.
• La Carta Esférica, Alfaguara (Madrid, Spain), 2000, translation by Margaret Sayers Peden published as The Nautical Chart, Harcourt (New York, NY), 2001.
• Con animo de offender, 1998-2001, Alfaguara (Madrid, Spain), 2001.
• La reina del sur, Alfaguara (Madrid, Spain), 2002, translation by Andrew Hurley published as The Queen of the South, Putnam (New York, NY), 2004.
• El Caballero Del Jubón Amarillo, Alfaguara (Madrid, Spain), 2003.
• Cabo Trafalgar: Un Relato Naval, Alfaguara (Madrid, Spain), 2004.
• No Me Cogeréis Vivo (2001-2005), Alfaguara (Madrid, Spain), 2005.
• El Pintor De Batallas, Alfaguara (Madrid, Spain), 2006, translation by Margaret Sayers Peden published as The Painter of Battles, Random House (New York, NY), 2008.
Author of film adaptation of El Maestro de Esgrima,
"ADVENTURES OF CAPITÁN ALATRISTE" SERIES
• El Capitán Alatriste, Alfaguara (Madrid, Spain), 1996, translation by Margaret Sayers Peden published as Captain Alatriste, Putnam (New York, NY), 2005.
• Limpieza de sangre, Alfaguara (Madrid, Spain), 1997, translation by Margaret Sayers Peden published as Purity of Blood, G.P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 2006.
• El sol de Breda, Alfaguara (Madrid, Spain), 1998, translation by Margaret Sayers Peden published as The Sun over Breda, G.P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 2007.
• El oro del rey, Alfaguara (Madrid, Spain), 2000.
• Corsarios De Levante, Alfaguara (Madrid, Spain), 2006.


MEDIA ADAPTATIONS

The Club Dumas was adapted for film as The Ninth Gate, directed by Roman Polanski, 1999; La Capitán Alatriste was filmed in Spain and released in 2006 as Alatriste.


SOURCES

Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2008. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2008

www.perez-reverte.com
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Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Mon Jul 07, 2008 5:02 am

Have been waiting to see Alatriste the film as yet it has no release date here, it stars Viggo Mortensen.

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Unread postby Parlez » Mon Jul 07, 2008 9:00 am

WooHoo! The tidbits begin! I've been spending the last month reading several of Perez-Reverte's books, which I've found to be a bit of a hit-and-miss affair for me. However, I must confess, I've fallen in love with the character of Alatriste, and, like Gilberts Girl, I'm hoping for word that the movie will be released to wider audiences soon. I'm also eagerly awaiting the next installment in the series.

For our TCD discussion, and to give myself an idea of Dumas' writing style, without having to delve head-first into The Three Musketeers (thank you, Nebraska, for doing that), I'm reading The Viscomte de Bragelonne, which finds the Musketeers at the end of their careers - scattered, disillusioned, self-absorbed, and exhausted. Will they be able to reunite for one last trip together down the High Road? The answer to that question is intriguing enough keep me reading.

Meanwhile, having immersed myself to some degree in the writings and literary stylings of both Perez-Reverte and Dumas, I find I have, among other things, a growing affection for swashbuckling fiction, written in serial form, with the unbridled use of the parenthetical phrase, which I plan to use as liberally as they do in the course of this discussion! Ye be warned! Watch out of commas!

Thanks for the great tidbit, Liz! :cool:
Last edited by Parlez on Wed Jul 09, 2008 12:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread postby fansmom » Mon Jul 07, 2008 2:25 pm

The reviewer called The Club Dumas a "wayward and moderately enjoyable" mystery novel
Well now, that's enthusiastic.

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Unread postby magpie » Mon Jul 07, 2008 4:03 pm

I've read TCD, The Flanders Panel, & Captain Alatriste. The Flanders Panel was my favorite--not surprising as I enjoy art history.

I'd like to see the Alatriste movie, too.
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Unread postby Liz » Mon Jul 07, 2008 4:52 pm

Gilbert's Girl wrote:Have been waiting to see Alatriste the film as yet it has no release date here, it stars Viggo Mortensen.


2+ years is a rather long time to wait. I wonder what the hold-up is.
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Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Mon Jul 07, 2008 4:58 pm

Liz wrote:
Gilbert's Girl wrote:Have been waiting to see Alatriste the film as yet it has no release date here, it stars Viggo Mortensen.


2+ years is a rather long time to wait. I wonder what the hold-up is.


No distribution deal. I think it got a limited release in some cities in the US and was recently shown at Cinevegas.

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Unread postby Liz » Mon Jul 07, 2008 5:09 pm

Gilbert's Girl wrote:
Liz wrote:
Gilbert's Girl wrote:Have been waiting to see Alatriste the film as yet it has no release date here, it stars Viggo Mortensen.


2+ years is a rather long time to wait. I wonder what the hold-up is.


No distribution deal. I think it got a limited release in some cities in the US and was recently shown at Cinevegas.


I wonder if it will be released on DVD.
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Unread postby jdpes » Mon Jul 07, 2008 5:19 pm

I've read "Territorio comanche" that was about a war correspondant and also started reading The Fencing Master long time ago but didn't finished it, and of course I read the Club Dumas some months ago and I'm glad we are having a discussion about it now! :disco:

I saw the movie Alatriste and didn't like it much, to try to tell all the stories happening in 4 books in only one movie is too much

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Unread postby stroch » Mon Jul 07, 2008 5:21 pm

I read The Fencing Master years ago and enjoyed it -- I like layered stories like that.

I think I will look for The Flanderes Panels -- it sounds interesting also.
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Unread postby Parlez » Mon Jul 07, 2008 7:33 pm

Liz wrote:
Gilbert's Girl wrote:
Liz wrote:
Gilbert's Girl wrote:Have been waiting to see Alatriste the film as yet it has no release date here, it stars Viggo Mortensen.


2+ years is a rather long time to wait. I wonder what the hold-up is.


No distribution deal. I think it got a limited release in some cities in the US and was recently shown at Cinevegas.


I wonder if it will be released on DVD.

Aye, it is available on DVD (in Spanish with English subtitles) and somewhere on one of Viggo's fansites is the best source for getting a copy, for @ $30, as I recall. Viggo was one of the honorees at the Cinevegas fest so he got to pick which of his movies to show...he chose Alatriste (which he brought personally, hand-delivered, to the venue) in hopes of getting it a wider distribution stateside.
I hope it worked.
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Unread postby gemini » Tue Jul 08, 2008 8:31 pm

Arturo looks like a very interesting fellow.. I like his eyes. They are intent and honest and that says much about him. I knew from reading TCD that he is an intelligent fellow and I see he does like the swashbuckling era from the books he has written. I see several I am adding to my reading list. Very nice tidbit Liz.
I have never been really big on Viggo but Alatriste the film may win me over.
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Unread postby Parlez » Tue Jul 08, 2008 10:19 pm

gemini wrote:I have never been really big on Viggo but Alatriste the film may win me over.

Here ya go, Mate...some promo images from Alatriste to help win you over ~

Image
Image
Ya gotta love the hat!
Last edited by Parlez on Wed Jul 09, 2008 12:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread postby Bohemian » Tue Jul 08, 2008 11:01 pm

Thank you, Liz!

He does nice eyes, gemini, doesn't he?

I have read four of Perez-Reverte's novels and, like Magpie, The Flanders Panel is my favorite thus far. The Club Dumas is next for obvious reasons, but also because the world of high-end book collecting is fascinating to me. The Fencing Master was good fun, but I had trouble really getting into Captain Alatriste (must try again, for Viggo ;-) ).

There are three more waiting on my shelf, but they and about a hundred others will have to wait while I re-read TCD. Now knowing that he enjoys sailing, I think The Nautical Chart may be next.
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Unread postby Parlez » Wed Jul 09, 2008 12:58 am

I just finished The Nautical Chart and liked it...better than The Queen of the South anyway...but not as much as the Alatriste series. The reader definitely gets a modern sailor's view of what it's like to try to make a living sailing the seas and to still hear the sirens' call inspite of all the supertankers and high tech navigational instruments and crews made up of multi-nationals who pretty much could care less about actually being onboard a seagoing vessel these days.

One thing I've found interesting is that Perez-Reverte tends to refer to his other characters in his subsequent books...for instance, he mentions the nautical chart in this story as having passed through the hands of Corso on it's way to being obtained by the main character. Cool!
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