French soldier, satirist
, and dramatist
, whose life has been the basis of many romantic but unhistorical legends. The best-known of them is Edmond Rostand
's verse drama
Cyrano de Bergerac (1897). Historians have pointed out that Rostand's portrayal
of the hero was not truthful - Cyrano was a serious writer of philosophical romance
s and a virile
lover. Bergerac also wrote about space travel - According to Arthur C. Clarke
, he was the first writer to use the rocket for interplanetary
Bergerac was born in Paris and educated by a priest in the village of Bergerac. Later he was sent to the Collège de Beauvais. After acquiring fame as a duelist and Bohemian, he enlisted in the army at the age of 20. He was severely wounded twice, once at a fight with a Gascon Guard, and the second time at the siege of Arras in 1640. There he was hit in the neck with a sword, an injury from which he never fully recovered. In the following year he gave up his military career and started to study under the philosopher and mathematician Pierre Gassendi. Influenced by Gassendi's theories and libertine philosophy, he wrote stories of imaginary journeys to the Moon and Sun, and satirized views which saw humanity and the Earth as the center of creation.
Cyrano de Bergerac died in Paris on July 28, 1655. The cause of his death was banal: a piece of plank dropped on his head, a fate which his literary namesake also shared.
The definitive film version of Rostand's play is Jean-Paul Rappeneau's movie from 1990, starring Gérard Depardieu as Cyrano, Anne Brochet as Roxanne and Vincent Perez as a somewhat befuddled Christian. The movie is beuatifully, opulently cinematographed, with a richness which echoes and reflects the byzantine complexity of the play's text, used in its original form in the film. The final scenes between Roxanne and Cyrano have not yet failed to make me bawl my eyes out, even though I've watched the movie 20 times (at least). Very highly recommended, only watch it in French! Even if you don't know it & have to read the subtitles, the music and rhythm of the original French, together with Depardieu's exuberant, almost violent delivery are well worth the effort.