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Napoléon Bonaparte, Failed Novelist

Did you know that Napoléon Bonaparte tried his hand at fiction before he became a revolutionary? Well, if Saddam Hussein could write a romance novel, why not Napoléon? In 2007, a French publishing company found (and published) a novella written by Napoléon, and now a few pages of the original manuscript is going up for auction.

Clisson et Eugénie is unabashedly autobiographical. Penned in the autumn of 1795, while Napoleon was still rising in the ranks of the French army, the novel centers around an officer named Clisson, “a man of fervent imagination, with his blazing heart, his uncompromising intellect and his cool head”. The war-weary Clisson decides to quit his position and enjoy the spa baths of central France. There he meets two young women, Amélie and Eugénie, and falls desperately (and tragically) in love with Eugénie. While tender, this romance is also quite tame. The closest the author comes to sex may be: “Their hearts fused … the most exquisite voluptuousness flooded the hearts of the two enraptured lovers.”

The novella only runs about 22 scribbled pages, so the plot swiftly progresses from love to marriage to melancholy.

Only four pages will go to auction; the rest are in a museum or single pages in private collections. Napoléon wrote the story when he was 26 years old, and it very well may have been a kind of self-therapy, as it was based on a woman he knew and loved. Think about how history may have been different if he had found success as a novelist! Read more about Clisson et Eugénie at the Guardian. -Thanks, John Farrier!  


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