The Count of Montecristo

photo from

photo from


Before the arrival of telenovelas and iPods, Cuban cigar rollers (torcedores) used to be entertained by having someone read the newspaper or a book to them.


photo from weird

photo from weird


Legend has it that one of their favorite books was Alexandre Dumas’ Le comte de montecristo (The Count of Montecristo).


photo from fnac. com

photo from fnac. com


And this is why the famous cigar is named the Montecristo.


photo from

photo from



66 thoughts on “The Count of Montecristo

  1. So interesting. I think being read to would be a great way to pass the time at work. I guess all the Cuban cigars aren’t rolled on the thighs of beautiful Mulatto women– so goes the legend.

  2. So cool! I love hearing books read, and sadly, I don’t read aloud as much as I used to. It’s tough in a studio with a husband. Plus the cats attack me too. 🙂

    You know, I’ve never read this book! Not sure how it slipped by, but I added it to my to-read list. Saw the movie a few times and I love the story.

  3. Hi Letizia,
    This is a great story! We have always read books aloud to each other. First it was parents reading to children, and now my kids read to me! This last Christmas my daughter read me Terry Pratchett’s Monstrous Regiment. But the idea that they would spare a person to entertain the workers is a surprise to me. My great grandmother was orphaned early and worked in a cigarette factory in Rochester, NY., rolling cigarettes by hand. They made their own entertainment. She said the girls used to find cockroaches crawling across their work tables and for fun they would roll them up into cigarettes!

  4. I love thinking of all the Cuban workers rolling the cigars but lost in their imagination of the Count of Montecristo stories…. Forgetting the reality of life…like we were all when we read Dumas! I remember reading it in the metro in Paris and so lost in the story that I missed my stop to go to work!! Well worth it…

  5. Interesting.We didn’t go to a cigar factory while in Cuba a couple of years ago, but have always heard of the readers. It soothed them and helped pass the time. Besides, many couldn’t read. Tampa, Florida has a Cuban cigar history and their museum in Ybor City (mostly Cuban) shows pictures of the readers. I didn’t know about their favorite book or why the Montecristo cigar was named such. My husband will be going back to Cuba mid Feb for another photographic workshop.

    • The history of the readers is so interesting; I would love to see that museum one day in Florida. I haven’t been to Cuba yet but hope to go soon. In the meantime, I will enjoy Ron’s beautiful photos.

  6. Good choice indeed. The hero of Monte Cristo was inspired by the life of Dumas’s father, the son of Marie Cessette Dumas, a black slave from Saint-Domingue (modern-day Haiti) and wife of a French nobleman, Alexandre Antoine Davy, the Marquis de Pailleterie who sold his wife and children back into slavery when he learned of an inheritance back in France. When he discovered the inheritance truly was his, he pawned the son back, had him brought to France and turned him into something of a nobleman himself.

    The first time he wrote a story inspired by the life of his father was in his novel Georges, however the public were said to be outraged due to the hero of the book being portrayed as a coloured man, so Dumas is said to have written The Count of Monte Cristo in response to that outrage (and no doubt due to his own outrage) changing the colour of the skin of his protagonist.

    Tom Reiss writes about it in his excellent biography Black Count – Glory, Revolution, Betrayal and the Real Count of Monte Cristo.

    Love that they listened to these adventures in Cuba!

    I’ve just finished reading Margarita Engle’s excellent book The Poet-Slave of Cuba, A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano, once freed, in his adult years, he used to pull great crowds of people who came to listen to him recite his poetry.

  7. Well that’s an interesting origin story! I would’ve imagined that they named it as such because it sounded fancy, not because they actually enjoyed the book.

    That said, I don’t remember the last time someone read a book to me. I kinda miss it. 😦

    • Origin stories are so interesting, right? My father used to smoke cigars and my grandfather used to smoke pipes, so the smell of good quality tobacco has wonderful associations for me.

  8. I remember reading “The Count of Monte Cristo” in 7th grade behind the facade of a math book during math class. But I did not know how prolific Alexandre Dumas was until I met my husband who has read all of the D’Artagnan Romances plus many others. To me, the idea of being able to share the joy, intensity, drama, poignancy of a story comes from the oral tradition. My mother read books to us (there were four of us) from “Pilgrim’s Progress” to “Mutiny on the Bounty.” As you know, I enjoy reading via audiobooks. My son and I read JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings together, each one taking a page before the other took another.

    Thank you for this post – and for generating a most excellent dialogue! Hugs coming your way…

    • I always love hearing your family reading stories! Reading Dumas in math class with the textbook hiding The Count of Monte Cristo is such a charming image!!!

      hugs to you, Rebecca

  9. Letizia I love how you dig up such interesting stuff on reading. I love that book and could imagine why they would want to name a cigar after it. Thanks for entertaining me and teaching me something I did not know again.

  10. Yes, perhaps if I had been rolling cigars I could have gotten through it 😦 Is that terrible? Maybe I shouldn’t have attempted it right it after Moby Dick : /

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