Scenes of Bohemian Life  

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"It was this same cynic, Mathurin Regnier, who, adding fresh knots to the satiric whip of Horace, exclaimed, in indignation at the manners of his day, "Honor is an old saint past praying to. ... cite Jean Jacques Rousseau and d'Alembert, the foundling of the porch of Notre Dame, and amongst the obscure, Malfilâtre and Gilbert, two overrated reputations, for the inspiration of the one was but a faint reflection of the weak lyricism of Jean-Baptiste Rousseau, , and the inspiration of the other but the blending of proud impotence with a hatred which had not even the excuse of initiative and sincerity, since it was only the paid instrument of party rancour." --Bohemians of the Latin Quarter, Henri Murger

A Paris street - set design for Act II of Puccini's La bohème by Adolfo Hohenstein.
A Paris street - set design for Act II of Puccini's La bohème by Adolfo Hohenstein.

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

La Vie de Bohème (full title in French, Scènes de la vie de bohème) is a work by Henri Murger, published in 1851. Although it is commonly called a novel, it does not follow standard novel form. Rather, it is a collection of loosely related stories, all set in the Latin Quarter of Paris in the 1840s, romanticizing bohemian life in a playful way. Most of the stories were originally published individually in a local literary magazine, Le Corsaire. Many of them were semi-autobiographical, featuring characters based on actual individuals who would have been familiar to some of the magazine's readers.

The first of these stories was published in March 1845, carrying the byline "Henri Mu..ez". A second story followed more than a year later, in May 1846. This time Murger signed his name "Henry Murger", spelling his first name with a "y" in imitation of the English name, an affectation he continued for the rest of his career. A third story followed in July, with the subtitle "Scènes de la bohème". The same subtitle was used with 18 more stories, which continued to appear on a semi-regular basis until early 1849 (with a long break in 1848 for the revolution in Paris).

Although the stories were popular within the small literary community, they initially failed to reach a larger audience or generate much income for Murger. This changed in 1849, after Murger was approached by Théodore Barrière, an up-and-coming young playwright, who proposed writing a play based on the stories. Murger agreed to the collaboration, and the result — titled La Vie de la bohème, credited to Barrière and Murger as co-authors — was staged to great success at the Théâtre des Variétés.

The popularity of the play created a demand for publication of the stories. Murger therefore compiled most of the stories into a single collection. To help establish continuity, he added some new material. A preface discussed the meaning of "bohemian", and a new first chapter served to introduce the setting and the main characters. To the end were added two more chapters which wrap up some loose ends and offer final thoughts on the bohemian life. This became the novel, published in January 1851. A second edition was published later in the year, in which Murger added one more story.

Two operas were later based on the novel and play, La bohème by Giacomo Puccini in 1896 and La bohème by Ruggero Leoncavallo in 1897. Puccini's became one of most popular operas of all time, spawning several later works based on the same story.

Works involving the La bohème theme

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Scenes of Bohemian Life" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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