The Confession of a Child of the Century


La Confession d'un enfant du siècle (Confession of a child of the century) is a novel written by the French poet Alfred de Musset (1810–57) when he was 26 years old. It depicts the love affair of a young man named Octave, who, betrayed by his mistress, becomes cynical and drowns his sorrows in alcohol and debauchery. He then falls in love with Brigitte, but his jealous tendencies, his desire to “touch misfortune, otherwise called truth,” put a strain on their relationship. So he decides to let go of his lover, willingly condemning himself to a life of unhappiness. This text, partially autobiographical, was written after Musset and George Sand (pseudonym of Amandine Lucile Aurore Dupin, 1804−76) broke off their relationship. While Musset accepted responsibility for the failure of the relationship, in this novel he turned their story into a tale of lovers who were cursed, akin to Romeo and Juliet. He also imparted to it an additional dimension: in his story, feelings create a connection between the individual existence of people and their social destiny. After the French Revolution and the end of the Empire, there “came upon a world in ruins an anxious truth…. Frightful despair stalked over the earth.” In Musset’s portrayal of society, the ideal and the dream have disappeared. In this closed, empty, and boring world, hypocrisy and cynicism rule. Only love is able to transcend the “cold star of reason,” but Octave no longer believes in absolutes and his dismay intensifies. This novel, typical of the emblematic disappointment of romanticism, is presented here in its original version, published in 1836.

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F. Bonnaire, Paris


Title in Original Language

La Confession d'un enfant du siècle


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2 volumes

Last updated: April 23, 2015