“On the 24th of February, 1815, the lookout of Notre-Dame de la Garde signaled the three-master, the Pharaon, from Smyrna, Trieste, and Naples.”
Thus begins Alexandre Dumas’The Count of Monte Cristo, telling of the arrival of the ship Pharaon (bearing the novel’s protagonist, Edmond Dantes) into Marseille. By a strange coincidence, I arrive in Marseille on the 25th of February, almost exactly two centuries later. I had vowed to visit this sacred place ever since I’d read Alexandre Dumas’ novel at an impressionable young age – – and finally, here I am.
The Count of Monte Cristo is Dumas’ sweeping tale of love, betrayal, and, above all, revenge. But it is also the story of transformation, both of its protagonist, Edmond Dantes, and of the reader – and at the center of that story of transformation figures the Chateau d’If. Mentioned in a deceptive, throwaway line on the first page, as the Pharaon passes by it on its way into port, the island fortress comes to play a significant and symbolic role in the novel: imprisoned there for fourteen years, Edmond Dantes escapes through the means of a faked death, his symbolic resurrection transforming him into the eponymous Count of Monte Cristo and allowing him to pursue his revenge.
Read my first piece of published travel writing at Travel Thru History.