Short summary - Gil Blas de Santillane - Alain-René Lesage

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - Gil Blas de Santillane
Alain-René Lesage

“I was amazed by the amazing variety of adventures, marked in your facial features,” a random henchman will once say to Gilles Blas, one of the many people with whom fate brought the hero and whose confession he happened to hear. Yes, the adventures that fell to the lot of Gilles Blas from Santillana really would have been more than a dozen lives. The novel narrates about these adventures - in full accordance with its name. The story is told in the first person - Gilles Blas himself confides in the reader his thoughts, feelings and innermost hopes. And we can see from the inside how he loses his youthful illusions, grows up, matures in the most incredible trials, deludes himself, sees and repents, and finally finds peace of mind, wisdom and happiness.
Gilles Blas was the only son of a retired military man and servant. His parents got married when they were not their first youth, and soon after the birth of their son they moved from Santillana to the equally small town of Oviedo. They had the most modest income, so the boy had to get a poor education. However, his uncle, a canon, and a local doctor helped him. Gilles Blas proved to be very capable. He learned to read and write perfectly, learned Latin and Greek, got used to logic and loved to start discussions even with unfamiliar passers-by. Thanks to this, by the age of seventeen, he had earned a reputation in Oviedo as a scientist.
When he was seventeen, his uncle announced that it was time to take him out. He decided to send his nephew to the University of Salamanca. Uncle gave Gilles Blas some ducats for the road and the horse. Father and mother added to this admonition "to live as an honest person should, not to get involved in bad deeds and, especially, not to encroach on someone else's good." And Gilles Blas went on a journey, barely hiding his joy. Smart and well versed in science, the young man was still completely inexperienced in life and too trusting. It is clear that the dangers and traps were not long in coming. At the very first inn, on the advice of a cunning owner, he sold his horse for a pittance. For a few flattering phrases, he treated him to a swindler who sat down with him in a tavern, having spent most of the money. Then he got into the carriage of a rogue driver, who suddenly accused the passengers of stealing a hundred pistols. From fear, those scatter in all directions, and Gilles Blas rushes into the forest faster than others. Two horsemen grow up on his way. The poor man tells them what happened to him, they listen sympathetically, laugh and finally say: “Calm down, friend, go with us and do not be afraid of anything. We will take you to safety. " Gilles Blas, not expecting anything bad, mounts a horse behind one of the people he meets. Alas! Very soon he is captured by the forest robbers, who were looking for an assistant to their cook ...
Events unfold so rapidly from the very first pages and throughout the entire huge novel. The whole "Gilles Blas" is an endless chain of adventures-adventures that fall to the lot of the hero - despite the fact that he himself does not seem to be looking for them. “I am destined to be a toy of fortune,” he will say about himself many years later. This is true and not true. Because Gilles Blas didn't just obey the circumstances. He always remained active, thinking, brave, dexterous, resourceful. And the main thing, perhaps, was the quality - he was endowed with a moral sense and in his actions - albeit sometimes unconsciously - was guided by it.
So, with mortal risk, he got out of the robber captivity - and not only fled himself, but also saved a beautiful noblewoman, also captured by thugs. At first, he had to pretend that he was delighted with the life of a robber and dreamed of becoming a robber himself. If he had not entered the confidence of the bandits, the escape would have failed. But as a reward, Gilles Blas receives gratitude and a generous reward from the Marquess of Dona Mencia, who was saved by him. True, this wealth briefly lingered in the hands of Gilles Blas and was stolen by the next deceivers - Ambrosio and Raphael. And again he finds himself penniless, in the face of uncertainty - albeit in an expensive velvet suit, sewn with the money of the marquise ...
In the future, he is destined to an endless series of successes and misfortunes, ups and downs, wealth and need. The only thing that no one can deprive him of is life experience, which is involuntarily accumulated and comprehended by the hero, and the feeling of the homeland through which he travels in his wanderings. (This novel, written by a Frenchman, is all permeated with the music of Spanish names and geographical names.)
... On reflection, Gilles Blas decides not to go to the University of Salamanca, since he does not want to devote himself to a spiritual career. His further adventures are entirely connected with the service or the search for a suitable place. Since the hero is good-looking, literate, smart and agile, he finds work quite easily. But he does not stay with a single owner for a long time - and every time it is not his own fault. As a result, he gets the opportunity for a variety of impressions and the study of mores - as it should be by the nature of the genre of a rogue novel.
By the way, Gilles Blas is really a rogue, or rather a charming rogue who can pretend to be a simpleton, and flatter, and cheat. Gradually, he overcomes his childish gullibility and does not allow himself to be easily cheated, and sometimes he himself embarks on dubious enterprises. alas, the qualities of a rogue are necessary for him, a commoner, a man without clan and tribe, in order to survive in a large and harsh world. Often his desires do not extend beyond having a warm shelter, eating his fill every day and working to the best of his ability, and not to wear and tear.
One of the works that at first seemed to him the height of luck was with Dr. Sangrado. This self-righteous physician knew only two remedies for all diseases - drink plenty of water and bleed. Without thinking twice, he taught Gilles Blas the wisdom and sent him to visit poorer patients. “It seems like never before have there been so many funerals in Valladolid,” the hero comically appreciated his own practice. Only many years later, already in adulthood, Gilles Blas will remember this dashing youthful experience and be horrified by his own ignorance and impudence.
Another sinecure stood out to the hero in Madrid, where he got a job as a lackey at a secular dandy who was shamelessly burning his life. This service was reduced to idleness and swagger, and friends-lackeys quickly knocked out of Gilles Blas provincial habits and taught him the art of talking about nothing and looking down on others. “From the former judicious and sedate young man, I turned into a noisy, frivolous, vulgar helper,” the hero admitted with horror. The matter ended with the owner falling into a duel - as senseless as his whole life had been.
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After that, Gilles Blas was sheltered by one of the friends of the late duelist - an actress. The hero plunged into a new environment, which at first charmed him with bohemian brightness, and then scared him off with empty vanity and transcendental revelry. Despite a comfortable idle existence in the house of a cheerful actress, Gilles Blas once fled from there wherever he could see. Reflecting on his different masters, he sadly admitted: "Some reign envy, anger and stinginess, others have renounced shame ... Enough, I do not want to live among the seven deadly sins anymore."
Thus, in time to elude the temptations of an unrighteous life, Gilles Blas escaped many dangerous temptations. He did not - although he could by virtue of circumstances - neither a robber, nor a charlatan, nor a swindler, nor a loafer. He managed to maintain his dignity and develop his business qualities, so that in his prime he found himself close to his cherished dream - he got a secretary position from the all-powerful first minister of the Duke of Lerma, gradually became his main confidant and gained access to the innermost secrets of the Madrid court itself. It was here that a moral abyss opened before him, into which he almost stepped. It was here that the most sinister metamorphoses took place in his personality ...
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“Before getting to the court,” he notes, “I was by nature compassionate and merciful, but there human weaknesses evaporate, and I became harder than a stone. I was also healed of my sentimentality towards friends and stopped feeling affection for them. " At this time, Gilles Blas estranged himself from his old friend and fellow countryman Fabricio, betrayed those who helped him in difficult times, and surrendered himself to the thirst for profit. For huge bribes, he helped seekers of warm places and honorary titles, and then shared the booty with the minister. The clever servant Sipion endlessly found new petitioners willing to offer money. With equal zeal and cynicism, the hero was engaged in pimping for the crowned heads and arranging his own well-being, looking for a richer bride. He was helped to see clearly by the prison in which he one day ended up: as expected, the noble patrons betrayed him with the same ease with which they had previously used his services.
Miraculously survived after many days of fever, in captivity he rethought his life and felt a previously unfamiliar freedom. Fortunately, Sipion did not abandon his master in trouble, but followed him to the fortress and then secured his release. The master and the servant became close friends and after leaving prison they settled in a small remote castle, which was presented to Gilles Blas by one of his longtime companions - Don Alfonso. Strictly judging himself for the past, the hero experienced remorse for the long separation from his parents. He managed to visit Oviedo on the eve of his father's death and gave him a rich funeral. Then he began to generously help his mother and uncle.
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Gilles Blas was destined to survive the death of his young wife and newborn son, and after that another serious illness. Despair almost overwhelmed him, but Sipion managed to persuade his friend to return to Madrid and serve at court again. There was a change of power - the selfish Duke of Lerma was replaced by the honest minister Olivares. Gilles Blas, now indifferent to any palace temptations, managed to prove his need and feel satisfaction in the field of noble service to the fatherland.
We part with the hero when, having retired from business and remarried, he "leads a delightful life in the circle of dear people." To complete the bliss, heaven deigned to reward him with two children, whose upbringing promises to be the entertainment of his old age ...