The novel by Abbe Prevost Manon Lescaut is a love story of an upper-class young man, Chevalier Des Grieux, who falls in love with a lower-class young woman, Manon Lescaut.
This humorous —and yet morally serious— story reminds me of my own infatuation when I was a teenager in Lima, Peru.
The Chevalier Des Grieux and Manon elope, not to get married, but simply to live together and enjoy each other. Green, inexperienced, naïve, the young man cannot foresee the financial difficulties of keeping up with a high-maintenance young lady. As a result, he ends up compromising his own values when he allows Manon to take in a lover and keep both of them living high on the hog.
In my case, when I was fifteen years old I met a mature woman—I never learned her exact age, but I guessed she was in her late forties— a popular singer, with many records to her name, night club appearances galore, and live radio broadcasts that kept her busy the whole year round. Of course, back then, I had no idea about the meaning of the word ‘infatuation.’ To me, to my young untried mind, the experience was nothing but sublime love!
Manon repeats her infidelities three times, with each adventure sinking the lover deeper into graver financial and moral circumstances. The good advice of family and friends, to abandon such a disastrous life, falls into deaf ears. The young Cavalier will never abandon Manon. In his blind love, he even follows her to Louisiana, America, where she ultimately finds her demise.
Reading Manon Lescaut as a mature man, reminded me of my own juvenile adventure. Whatever my family and friends said against my beloved queen and mistress of Peruvian music —that she was old enough to be my mother; that she was a ‘puta,’ etc., — only increased my desire to remain with her.
Manon Lescaut ends tragically, though with the hope that Des Grieux’s decision will lead him to the moral road again.
My teen romance ended only when my parents —to great expense defrayed by the sale of some of their lands— persuaded me to come to New York City to attend college, at Columbia University.
If you haven't read this book--you must! If will not disappoint you.