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Saturday, 30 November, 2002, 15:22 GMT
Dumas takes his place among greats
Dumas' coffin at the chateau de Monte Christo
Dumas is being reinterred after 130 years
The BBC's Valerie Jones

The remains of the French writer, Alexandre Dumas, have arrived in Paris en route to the Pantheon, where his bones are to be interred.

Covered in a blue velvet cloth inscribed with the words "All for one, one for all" - a phrase from one of Dumas' most famous works, The Three Musketeers - the author's coffin stopped at the Senate on its way to the large-domed monument.

The Pantheon is the resting place for the luminaries of France and the author will take his place alongside the great names of literature, music, science and politics.

An actor portrays a character from Dumas' novels
Fans of Dumas blame snobbery for his late recognition
Dumas is the 19th Century writer of internationally renowned adventure stories such as The Man in the Iron Mask and The Count of Monte Cristo, but for many years some criticised his work for lacking depth.

Earlier this year, the French President, Jacques Chirac, decided to honour him by authorising his admittance to the Pantheon.

Mr Chirac described him as one of France's most creative geniuses.

Growing demand

In the bookshops of Paris, the sales of Dumas' novels have been increasing and not just because his name is in the media at the moment.

French readers are perhaps searching for something, according to Richard Gaillard from one book department.

He says there is a renewed demand for romance in literature - an escape from modern life.

Now the man who certainly brought his readers romance and adventure is being given the highest literary honour in France.

More than 130 years after his death, his bones are to be interred in the Pantheon, alongside other great French writers such as Hugo, Zola and Voltaire.

'Too popular'

His supporters blame literary snobbery for the time it has taken.

Dumas was just too popular, according to one of his biographers, Claude Schopp.

"All literature is very often elitist," Mr Schopp said.

"Dumas was suspected to be a very bad writer because he had too many readers! If he was a very bad writer, it is sure that today nobody would read him."

Since Thursday, Dumas' coffin has been on a slow, 80-kilometre (50-mile) journey from his home town of Villers-Cotterets to Paris.

It spent Friday night at the chateau of Monte Cristo, the fantasy castle he built and named after one of his novels.

It will be received into the Pantheon in a ceremony attended by President Chirac - Dumas's final recognition as one of the great writers of France.

The BBC's Val Jones
"The great and illustrious of France"
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