Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Napoleon's Novel

In 1795, Napoleon wrote a novel. Why yes, gentle reader, you did read that correctly. It is not a very good novel, though it has a somewhat startling predictive value for any scholar of Napoleon's life.

Clisson and Eugenie is the name of Napoleon's masterwork, a nine-page (count 'em!) romance with an extremely awkward writing style, endearing earnestness and a very cliched plot. Clisson, our hero, is a humor-less twenty-year-old who "understood nothing of word play" and "whose power, sangfroid, courage and moral firmness only increased the number of his enemies". Isn't he a charmer?

Clisson meets two sisters and falls in love with the younger one, Eugeine (which happened to Napoleon right before he took up his pen; he and his brother Joseph met the sixteen-year-old Desiree Clary and her sister, Julie, in 1794. Joseph married Julie, after Napoleon steered him away from Desiree who- guess what!- he nicknamed Eugenie).

Clisson then apparently forgets that there's a war going on, marries Eugeine and starts producing an alarming number of sons within the span of six years. Napoleon then, somewhat unnecessarily, points out that his hero and heroine "remain lovers". Clisson, however, gets appointed a commander of the army and manages to win a string of victories that surpasses "the hopes of the people and the army". However, the victories come at a price and Clisson is wounded. He sends his "loyal" aide-de-camp to tell his wife the news and, expectedly, the aide-de-camp seduces Eugeine (no one is really sure why) and Clisson decides to die. After bitterly and passive-agressively demanding that Eugenie "live contentedly without ever thinking of the unhappy Clisson" and that his sons "may not have the ardent soul of their father, lest they be victims of men, of glory and of love". Clisson then gets "pierced by a thousand blows" (ouch) and dies. The End.

Whatever your personal feelings on Napoleon's epic military career, I think we can all agree that it's good thing that his literary career came to an end.


  1. Mussolini wrote a historical bodice-ripper style novel before he learned about a more lucrative career (it's available in English but I have not read it. Yet.); Saddam Hussein has supposedly written a number of romance novels, I've heard, though they definitely aren't translated into English.

    Am I the only one who spots a pattern here?

  2. Hahah Napoleon...well can't blame a guy for trying:)

  3. REally? Who knows what it is about megalomania that lends itself to the writing of bodice rippers?

    Thank you- he tried. It really didn't work, but he tried.