Les Miserables (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)
  • Les Miserables (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)
  • Les Miserables (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Les Miserables (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

3.9 352
by Victor Hugo

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Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:…  See more details below


Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

One of the most widely read novels of all time, Les Misérables was the crowning literary achievement of Victor Hugo’s stunning career. Though he was considered the greatest French writer of his day, Hugo was forced to flee the country because of his opposition to Napoleon III. While in exile he completed Les Misérables, an enormous melodrama set against the background of political upheaval in France following the rule of Napoleon I.

This newly abridged edition of Les Misérables tells the story of the peasant Jean Valjean—unjustly imprisoned, baffled by destiny, and hounded by his nemesis, the magnificently realized, ambiguously malevolent police detective Javert. As Valjean struggles to redeem his past, we are thrust into the teeming underworld of Paris with all its poverty, ignorance, and suffering. Just as cruel tyranny threatens to extinguish the last vestiges of hope, rebellion sweeps over the land like wildfire, igniting a vast struggle for the democratic ideal in France.

A monumental classic dedicated to the oppressed, the underdog, the laborer, the rebel, the orphan, and the misunderstood, Les Misérables is a rich, emotional novel that captures nothing less than the entirety of life in nineteenth-century France.

Laurence M. Porter has published twelve books, including Victor Hugo (1999), and a hundred articles and chapters. He was a National Endowment for the Humanties Senior Fellow in 1998. He teaches French at Michigan State University, where he won the Distinguished Faculty Award in 1995.

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From Laurence Porter's Introduction to Les Miserables

The Great French Novel
Why do we still read Les Misérables? Not too many years ago, it was added to the required reading list for the agrégation in French literature, the competitive state examination that qualifies teachers at advanced levels. Its moral, social, and political messages remain pertinent to many of the situations we confront. But above all, Les Misérables is the unrecognized “Great French Novel,” analogous to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, Alessandro Manzoni’s The Betrothed, Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, or Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain. I do not mean that it is necessarily the greatest French novel: one might prefer Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, just as in the literature of other languages, one might prefer Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, James Joyce’s Ulysses, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, Kafka’s The Trial, or Gunther Grass’s The Tin Drum. The social, moral, and intellectual range of Hugo’s characters far exceeds what we find in all these other great authors, whose social density is nonetheless noteworthy. Beyond that impressive achievement, Les Misérables in many respects conforms to an ideal type, an influential theoretical entity whose traits are realized only in part by any concrete example.

The Great National Novel is capacious: it covers substantial amounts of time and space. It contains many vivid characters belonging to varied social conditions: it is not intimist in its setting, not a drawing-room adventure limited to family, friends, and courtship. It tells its sprawling story in a traditional mode, dominated by the controlling perspective of an omniscient author who, despite flashbacks and digressions, generally proceeds steadily forward, following the protagonists as they age. It usually deploys la grande histoire (“big” history, revolutions and wars) in the background, although the main characters, affected as they are by political dramas, usually are not leading players in them. It implies some connection between individual and national destinies. By the time he wrote Les Misérables, Hugo had had more direct political experience at the highest levels of government than had many other writers of his time. Very often the Great National Novel suggests the looming presence of the supernatural, hidden but at times glimpsed behind the scenes, or during “second states” of consciousness such as dreams, drug experiences, visions, hallucinations, illness, passion, or prayer. Hugo began writing Les Misérables shortly after spending several years of evenings at mystical séances, and after elaborating the religious system, based on punitive and redemptive reincarnation, that he finally made explicit in his visionary poem La Fin de Satan. The Great National Novel usually relegates artistic self-consciousness to the background: it does not become a Künstlerroman—the portrait of the artist as a young man—nor does it foreground the cleverness of the writer’s craft by radical experiments in point of view, plot structure, stylistic innovations, or characterization. Instead, the Great National Novel quietly insinuates the mature author’s hard-won wisdom through a series of aphorisms, or pithy, penetrating generalizations about human nature. These maxims demonstrate the author’s ability to synthesize many experiences. The digressions are miniature essays on varied subjects—authors of the Great National Novel are born essayists and amateur philosophers—that aim to instruct the audience. In contrast to the Self-Conscious Novel (Cervantes, Sterne, Diderot), digressions do not serve to tease the expectant reader by delaying the forward progress of the story, but to establish the writer’s authority as a portraitist of a wide world by giving glimpses into his or her encyclopedic knowledge.

The Influence of Les Misérables
In the late nineteenth century, Les Misérables anticipated both the naturalistic movement and its opposite pole, the Catholic Renaissance. Whereas the realistic novel typically deals with the middle class, Naturalism deals with the working class and with the underworld. Repetitious, menial labor is difficult to dramatize in a novel; but Hugo devotes ample space to describing members of the working class at play (Fantine and her friends), and the criminal class at work or trying to escape from the police. In the Paris scenes, he depicts the grisettes (young proletarian women who wore gray smocks at their jobs, and who were stereotypically easy targets for seduction). Notably in the chapter “L’Année 1817,” he emphasizes the inequities of their sexual exploitation by middle-class men in a direct way that Zola, with his sexual insecurities, could not (compare Zola’s Nana, 1880, depicting female sexuality as a monstrous source of social corruption). Hugo has not yet received due credit for anticipating the naturalist movement in the chapters devoted to Fantine’s life both in Paris and in her hometown.

The Catholic Renaissance, which deplored Hugo’s bombastic, prophetic rhetoric and his pretensions to revealing a new religion, also derived considerable indirect inspiration from Hugo. Like Claudel, who detested him and made a point of saying so, like Mauriac, or like Bernanos, from thirty to ninety years after him, Hugo in 1862 dramatizes his heroes’ relentless pursuit by conscience, meaning our instinctive awareness of God.

Hugo’s appeal to posterity depends not only on the awe-inspiring range and depth of his masterpiece, Les Misérables, not only on his inspiring, idealistic visions of political and social progress, but also on the acute visual sense that put him well ahead of his time, but that can be captured and reinforced by modern media such as film and television. His extraordinary visual imagination is both impressionistic—sensitive to colors, including colored shadows, and to changes in light—and cinematic, aware of varying angles of vision and shifting vantage points. It involves an exceptional responsiveness to both light and motion. One can find striking proof of this in Hugo’s correspondence. He does not write interesting letters; he wrote letters while resting from his continuous periods of creative work on most days, on his feet in front of his writing stand from 5 a.m. to noon, with a cup of hot chocolate nearby. In letters, he cares more about making contact with others than about thinking of precisely what he has to say. But the one interesting letter in the first volume of his correspondence describes his first ride on a train, and his fascination with how the landscape blurs and flickers as he passes it at speeds far greater than he had ever experienced before. Compare the description of what Jean Valjean sees on his carriage ride to denounce himself at the court in Arras. Notre-Dame de Paris provides even better examples. Hugo anticipates Claude Monet’s famous series of paintings of the same subject when he evokes the changing light on the façade of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Following this passage, he executes the verbal equivalent of a zoom-in shot to approach a balcony on which an engagement party has gathered. Earlier, the description circling Paris from the top of the cathedral towers (“A Bird’s-Eye View of Paris”) anticipates the cinematic technique of the traveling shot. At the beginning of the twentieth century, polls rated Hugo as the greatest nineteenth-century French poet, but his gifts as a storyteller in his plays and novels were fully acknowledged on an international scale only when Les Misérables was produced as the first full-length feature film in France in 1909; within a few years Albert Capellani of Pathé and André Antoine of Le Théâtre-Libre produced a noteworthy series of silent films of Hugo’s works: Les Misérables (1912), the play Marie Tudor (1912), and the novels Quatrevingt-treize (1914) and Les Travailleurs de la mer (1918). Lon Chaney’s celebrated performance as Quasimodo in W. Worsley’s film The Hunchback of Notre-Dame de Paris (1924) consolidated these triumphs. More recently, television versions of the plays Les Burgraves (1968) and Torquemada (1976) were triumphs. Today (November 2002), Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schoenberg’s stage version of Les Misérables (1980), inspired by the rock opera Jesus-Christ Superstar, is still running in New York and on tour in the United States. It eclipsed the record number of international productions of a musical, previously held by Cats (see Porter, Victor Hugo, pp. 152–156).

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Les Miserables 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 352 reviews.
KateBrianIsAwesome More than 1 year ago
The unabridged version is what you should read. That's what the author Victor Hugo wanted us to read. He did not write 1463 pages for people to butcher it up to an abridged version. And with the abridged version you don't fully get the affect of the book. I know people don't have a very good attention span these days but it's so worth it to read the unabridged version. The abridged version takes alot of important parts out. If you are in a hurry and need a quick read for school or something like that get the spark notes or cliff notes. Please show the author respect by reading the unbutchered version. I'm dissappointed in BN for publishing the abridged version. Les Miserables is one of the most greatest books on the world. Don't let the size of the book discourage you. When you look at it like this some of us read 1000 some pages a month when we add up all the books we've read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read both the unabridged version and this abridged version. This version summarizes parts of the book where Hugo gets a bit long winded and spends several pages just to make one point that could easily be made by one paragraph. I prefer this version.

Hugo's Jean Valjean will have you sharing his feelings as society both praises and condemns him. Society praises his accomplishments yet can condemn him for past mistakes and for which overrule anything he did or could have done to better himself and those around him. While reading this novel I often wonder how close to the truth this treatment was. I suspect, very close.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It is skillfully written and truly a classic. I would recommend reading the full version, not the abridged because there is a lot that you miss. A wonderful book full of action and love. It is now my favorite book ever!
Aimee_Leon More than 1 year ago
Les Miserables is my new all-time favorite books. I love the richness of the story, the grandness and generosity of the sentiments, and the deep human insight. I find this old translation to be just lovely. I can open it to many a page and just read, like lovely poetry, for the beauty of the language. But it is most worthwhile for the depth of humanity that Hugo shows thru his precious character. Such Jean Valjean who stole my heart. As I mentioned in my headline the book is a must read. It would be a crime to miss this wonderful - you are among the miserable of the earth in a very different sense if you don't take the time to read it. Another wonderful element is the sense of history that you get from it. The Napoleonic wars still inspired passion. It's great to see the battle of Waterloo recounted from the French side. There a forty or fifty page chapter that is worth reading for the history alone - all triggered as an aside to explain why Valjean was convicted a second time despite his good works, because, in court, he referred in passing to Napoleon as "the Emperor." It brings history alive in a way that history books alone do not at times. And I usally look for those since I am a huge history buff. For anyone else who luvs to jog back into history pick up this book. It's definately worth the read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is my favorite book of all time. It is filled with great characters that one would sincerily care about, and has an unforgettable, yet sometimes misunderstood hero. I VERY highly recommend this book to all!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"Not like the play." You're joking, right? You do realize the play was based off the novel (which was written approximately a hundred and fifty years ago) and not the other way around? Les Miserables is quite possibly the most brilliant work of all classic literature. Personally, I prefer the unabridged version, but I can understand why people would want the abridged, as Hugo does tend to get a bit long-winded... I was told once that authors back then were paid by the page or the word.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this after enjoying the movie, unaware of its size. It took me a month to complete. Excepting this fact, and a few confusing tidbits here and there, this book is astounding. Hugo's writing is amazing, and I grew attached to every single one of the characters. It is most definently worth the time and money. And its not too terribly hard to understand- I was 12 when I read it and understood it fine. You have no excuse to not buy it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's in French, so non-French speakers beware
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I cannot read French.
Dianadomino More than 1 year ago
I keep missing parts of the book. This is no good for someone who already loves great literature and is trying to re-read.
jval24601 More than 1 year ago
Victor Hugo is to France what Abraham Lincoln is to the United States, What Mohandas Ghandi is to India. Les Miserables is not a work of Fiction in the simple sense - It is a vision from the mind of the great French Visionary, a tale from the mind of a man made a hero by his own humanity. It may sound cliche, I know - but this book has the ability to change your life...that is, assuming your willing to let that happen.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
French version. Wish it would say that in description!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read it a few years ago and fell in love w the characters. The situations and the tragities moved me.
Claude59 More than 1 year ago
No other story summarises so many human aspects as this one: forgiveness, sacrifice, passion, love, greed and deception. A masterpiece of literature.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Despite a large number of typos in the 1996 B&N unabridged edition, every word in it marks two masters--Hugo as editor, and Wilbour as translator. Don't lose out by choosing an abridged edition! All 1222 pages of the 1996 ed. are worth reading--twice.
theReaper1 More than 1 year ago
The books are always better than the movie and they're are no scenes you've seen coming and you have to think this book deserves a five
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For what you pay, it's great
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
.....useless unless you can read French.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What are you talking about? It is NOT in French!! Sure, the original nineteenth century novel is, but there are many versions translated to English. And why are you on here anyway if you're not reviewing the book? I already wrote my review a while back on this AND the Hapgood translation. (Here that? TRANSLATION. Such as, English translation.) Okay, sorry that I'm being rude 'cause that's really not my nature, but I'm a bit defensive because I LOVE this book and musical, and I think Victor Hugo was a genius, and I hope to read Les Miz in French one day.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I saw the movie adored it and im a bookworm should i read it? Rating for movie
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this great novel!!! I couldn't put it down! Victor Hugo depicts a world that makes you feel the power of emotions from love to hatrid. One of the best books I've ever read !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Barnes & Noble really should not sell a classics edition of an abridged novel. If they want their classics books to be authoritative, they need to be unabridged. Nobody should read an abridged book, and nobody should be accepting of having other people make the decision for them of what is important and not.
Gryphon79 More than 1 year ago
If you're really up to it and like a good long book, the unabridged is about 4500 pages, but it's divided into 5 volumes and then the books in each, it's enough to keep you busy for a while :) I do like Hugo's writing style, it's descriptive in a way that it pulls you in, wanting to know more about what's going on, it s interesting the further you get into it. I don't feel bogged down as much anyway because I already got to the third chapter and pretty much get what's going on. Don't want to give spoilers away but I think anyone who appreciates classics and is familiar to this story even after watching the movie will be in for a treat. I read Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame and just like his style of writing. He's interesting :)
LaLettrice More than 1 year ago
Why are people saying this is in French? Barnes & Noble (who publishes this edition) does not publish in French. I'll throw in a 5 star because it's a great book. I would recommend the unabridged but if 1463 pages is a bit daunting to you, at least pick up this version.