"The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas

I saw a thread on X.com discussing fictional books about personal achievement. There are strangely few books that portrait human achievement in an optimistic light. Most of them are biographies, which I usually do not prefer. The most commonly mentioned book was the Count of Monte Cristo. I thought I had read this as a child, but since I’ve been reading the classics for a few years now I was excited to give it another read as an adult.

First of all there’s no way I read this as a child. More likely I got the abbridged version of the plot through some comic and believed I knew the story. I did not.

Second this book is a fantastic example of why the classics are special artefacts in history. It reads like it was writted today as a period story. It feels current. It feels modern.

My life partner has been helping me understand that the human experience does not change over time. The victorians were probably into kinks and drugs as we are. The ideals change so what we project on instagram, and therefore to history, changes. But not the parts that make us human. Our drives, our behaviors, our ways of failing and struggling. They are the same today as they were in ancient egypt.

It’s still a mindboggling thought to me, but this book rams it home by being in most ways a modern adventure book. I was excited to open it every night. I cried once. And I got excited to know what happened next from page 50 until the close at page 1000.

Highly recommend if you are looking for an adventure book.

“He soon felt that some light was once again penetrating his brain: all his vague and almost indefinable ideas resumed their place on that marvellous chessboard where perhaps a single extra square is enough to ensure the superiority of men over animals. He was able to think and to strengthen his thoughts by reasoning.”

“‘In their application, no; but the principles, yes. Learning does not make one learned: there are those who have knowledge and those who have understanding. The first requires memory, the second philosophy.’” — Dumas understood there’s a difference between rote memorization and internalisation.

“Before one is afraid, one sees clearly; while one is afraid, one sees double; and after being afraid, one sees dimly.”

“there is neither happiness nor misfortune in this world, there is merely the comparison between one state and another, nothing more. Only someone who has suffered the deepest misfortune is capable of experiencing the heights of felicity. Maximilien, you must needs have wished to die, to know how good it is to live.”