Tuesday, May 11, 2010
The Most Unusual Medal Awarded for Conduct During the Battle of Waterloo
Les Miserables has, as yesterday's post proved, a strange and powerful effect on people. When the novel first came out, for example, there was a great and powerful backlash against the digression Hugo included on the battle of Waterloo. Hugo had the audacity to include what he considered "perhaps the finest word ever spoken by a Frenchman," the defiant cry of "Merde!" by General Cambronne to the English during the battle.
This was not only excluded from several early translations of Les Miserables (most notably, the English one) but also caused a debate over General Cambronne's exclamation so virrulent that a sergeant (Deleau) who insisted that no such vulgarity had passed from General Cambronne's lips, despite the temptation to do so, won a medal.
Hugo was incredibly flattered: "To get a man the croix d'honneur, all I have to do is say merde."