Synopses & Reviews
was born into a family of artists in Paris in 1803. He studied law and languages in school, and in 1825, he published his first book, Le Théâtre de Clara Gazul
—a purported translation of plays written by a Spanish actress and translated by one Joseph L’Estrange. He followed this up with another “translation” of a selection of folk ballads under the title La Guzla
. No less a personage than Pushkin was convinced, quoting a few of the ballads in his own work. In 1834, Mérimée was appointed inspector-general of historical monuments, a job for which he was uniquely suited with his linguistic and scholarly skills. He successfully led a protest movement to save the medieval walled city of Carcassonne from destruction and, with his friend George Sand, rediscovered the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries lying neglected in a provincial château. On a journey to Spain he became friendly with the Countess of Montijo, whose daughter Eugénie would marry Napeleon III. When the emperor acceded to the throne, Mérimée was made a senator. His correspondence with such figures as Stendhal and Anthony Panizzi, the librarian of the British Museum, was legendary for its wit and intelligence, and Mérimée’s novellas on historical and supernatural themes, including Colomba
and La Vénus D’Ille
, are some of the finest of the romantic era. He died in 1870 in Cannes.
George Burnham Ives (1856–1930) also translated the work of George Sand and Honoré de Balzac.
The swashbuckling story that inspired one of the world's most beloved operas
The novella that was the basis for one of the most popular operas of all time, Prosper Merimee's Carmen is swashbuckling story of a nineteenth-century Spanish soldier who deserts his post to pursue the fiery gypsy beauty, Carmen -- who seems to love him yet nonetheless seems to do everything in her power to escape him.
But the opera, it turns out, is only based on a part of the larger adventure that is Carmen. The story opens, for example, with Prosper Merimee himself meeting an famous (and on-the-run) highwayman on the plains of Andalusia. Helping the dangerous robber -- whom he feels is a kind of Robin Hood -- he is rewarded with the story of the wild Gypsy woman he knows of back in Seville ...
What follows is a swashbuckling tale to rival those of Zorro, with sword fights and and horse chases and wild dancing and more -- except, no mezzo-sopranos.
About the Author
(1803-1870) was a French writer, historian, and archeologist. As an official in the French government (he was the inspector-general of historical monuments) he wrote numerous official works about French archeological and architectural history. In this capacity he famously made a major contribution to the history of medieval art by discovering, along with his friend the writer George Sand, The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries.
Mérimée also wrote numerous plays and stories, and in particular mysteries, but he is best known for his novella Carmen, the basis of one of the world's most famous operas: Georges Bizet's Carmen.