Saturday, February 23, 2008

A New Trilogy, an Opera, and an Explanation

October 2008 will see the release of the first installment of a trilogy of historical novels about Marie-Antoinette by André Romijn. The first novel is called Vive Madame la Dauphine and it sounds promising. Although, I don't understand why Count Fersen has to be brought into it. "What effect did the Swedish Duke[?] Alex von Fersen have upon her young heart and mind?" Well, not much, since at that period of her life she saw him once, for ten minutes at the masked ball.

A new theatrical production is in the works as well. It is not yet clear whether it is an opera, a Broadway show, or a combination of both. Stay tuned.

People frequently ask me why I wrote Trianon. One of the reasons is that I kept encountering educated people who really thought that Marie-Antoinette said "Let them eat cake." I kept running into Catholics, including priests and nuns, who thought that Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were killed as punishment for some egregious wickedness or, at least, for unforgivable stupidity. Having read books about Louis and Antoinette since I was nine years old, I knew that not to be true; it was only after a great deal more research that I came to see how completely false is the common belief about the king and queen. But the demonization of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette in the popular mind is necessary in order to justify the excesses of the French Revolution. When people have a false and distorted view of history, then it is difficult for them to grasp the present, and almost impossible to meet the future with any kind of preparedness.

The French Revolution was not necessary, simply because it is never necessary to murder tens of thousands of people. Reform certainly was needed, but reform can happen without death. Louis XVI was an intrepid reformer. He was not afraid to break with the past and abolish outdated customs, while introducing new ways of doing things. Louis was not resistant to change, although that is how he is usually portrayed. The changes were slow but over time might have been effective, had the violent upheavals not swept everything away. Too often the violence is represented as a sad but unavoidable means of achieving freedom and democracy. For the French Revolution overturned not only the social order but it was ultimately an attack on the Church. Many Catholics were killed, especially those peasants who did not want their religion taken away.

I started writing the novel about twenty years ago, while finishing graduate school. It was put aside for a long time, but after a trip to Vienna in 1995 the inspiration came to take it up again. It was never my intention to write Marie-Antoinette's complete life story but rather a series of vignettes from various points of view. The spiritual struggle in the lives of Louis and Antoinette became the focus. They were ordinary, flawed human beings who showed great fidelity and courage in a way that should never be forgotten. Where did they find strength and courage? Where does any Christian find it? It is such questions that I sought to explore in Trianon. Share