Beau Geste

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Beau Geste
Beau Geste novel.jpg
Author P. C. Wren
Publication date
1924
Media type Print

Beau Geste is a 1924 adventure novel by P. C. Wren. It has been adapted for the screen several times.

Plot summary[edit]

Michael "Beau" Geste is the protagonist. The main narrator (among others), by contrast, is his younger brother John. The three Geste brothers are a metaphor for the British upper class values of a time gone by, and "the decent thing to do" is, in fact, the leitmotif of the novel. The Geste brothers are orphans and have been brought up by their aunt at Brandon Abbas. The rest of Beau's band are mainly Isobel and Claudia (only daughter of Lady Patricia, and in a way, also reason enough for Michael to join the French Foreign Legion), and Lady Patricia's relative Augustus (always considered "the heir" of Sir Hector Brandon).

When a precious jewel known as the "Blue Water" goes missing, suspicion falls on the young people, and Beau leaves Britain to join the Foreign Legion (la Légion étrangère), followed by his brothers, Digby (his twin) and John. There, after some adventure and separation from Digby, the sadistic Sergeant Major Lejaune gets command of the little garrison at Fort Zinderneuf in French North Africa, and only an attack by Tuaregs prevents a mutiny and mass desertion (only the Geste brothers and a few loyals are against the plot). Throughout the book and adventures, Beau's behaviour is true to France and the Legion, and he dies at his post. At Brandon Abbas, the last survivor of the three brothers, John, is welcomed by their aunt and his fiancée Isobel, and the reason for the jewel theft is revealed to have been a matter of honour, and to have been the only "decent thing" possible.[citation needed]

Title[edit]

The phrase "beau geste" (pronounced: [bo ʒɛst]) is from the French, meaning "a gracious (or fine) gesture".[1]

In French, the phrase includes the suggestion of a fine gesture with unwelcome or futile consequences,[1] and an allusion to the chanson de geste, a literary poem celebrating the legendary deeds of a hero.[2]

In English, "geste" is a homophone with "jest," meaning "a joke" or "to joke." As a pun, a "beau geste" may therefore indicate a beautiful (or poignant) joke.

Sequels[edit]

P.C. Wren wrote the sequels Beau Sabreur and Beau Ideal. He also wrote Good Gestes, a collection of short tales (about half of them about the Geste brothers and their American friends Hank and Buddy, who also feature prominently in Beau Sabreur and Beau Ideal) and Spanish Maine (UK) or The Desert Heritage (USA), where loose ends are tied up and the successive tales of John Geste's adventures come to an end. John Geste's adventures appear in five different volumes.[3][4][5][6]

Analysis[edit]

The original novel, on which the various films are more or less loosely based, provides a detailed and fairly authentic description of life in the pre-1914 Foreign Legion, which has led to (unproven) suggestions that P. C. Wren himself served with the legion.[citation needed]

Adaptations[edit]

Beau Geste was also adapted for the stage in 1929 by British theatrical producer Basil Dean. The production featured Laurence Olivier in the lead role. The play ran for just five weeks.[7]

Parodies[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Definition at Dictionary.com
  2. ^ Definition at Dictionary.com
  3. ^ Wren, P.C. Beau Sabreur, Grosset & Dunlap, 1928
  4. ^ Wren, P.C. Beau Ideal, Frederick A Stokes Company, 1928
  5. ^ Wren, P.C. Good Gestes, Frederick A Stokes Company, 1929
  6. ^ Wren, P.C. The Desert Heritage, Houghton-Mifflin, 1935
  7. ^ Coleman, Terry (2005). Olivier. Macmillan (ISBN 0-8050-7536-4), pp 31–32.
  8. ^ King Features Syndicate

Bibliography[edit]