Les Miserables

Les Miserables

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Overview

SOON TO BE A SIX-PART MINISERIES ON MASTERPIECE ON PBS

The only completely unabridged paperback edition of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece—a sweeping tale of love, loss, valor, and passion.


Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean—the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread—Les Misérables ranks among the greatest novels of all time. In it, Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them to the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose.

Within his dramatic story are themes that capture the intellect and the emotions: crime and punishment, the relentless persecution of Valjean by Inspector Javert, the desperation of the prostitute Fantine, the amorality of the rogue Thénardier, and the universal desire to escape the prisons of our own minds. Les Misérables gave Victor Hugo a canvas upon which he portrayed his criticism of the French political and judicial systems, but the portrait that resulted is larger than life, epic in scope—an extravagant spectacle that dazzles the senses even as it touches the heart.
 
Translated by Lee Fahnestock and Norman Macafee, based on the classic nineteenth-century Charles E. Wilbour translation
 
Inlcudes an Introduction by Lee Fahnestock
and an Afterword by Chris Bohjalian

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101637777
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/01/2013
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 1488
Sales rank: 186,386
File size: 2 MB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Victor Hugo (1802–1885) was the son of a high-ranking officer in Napoleon Bonaparte’s Grand Army. A man of literature and politics, he participated in vast changes as France careened back and forth between empire and more democratic forms of government. As a young man in Paris, he became well-known and sometimes notorious for his poetry, fiction, and plays. In 1845, the year that he began writing his masterwork, Les Misérables, the king made him a peer of France, with a seat in the upper legislative body. There he advocated universal free education, general suffrage, and the abolition of capital punishment. When an uprising in 1848 ushered in a republic, he stopped writing Les Misérables and concentrated on politics. But in 1851, when the president proclaimed himself emperor, Hugo’s opposition forced him into a long exile on the British Channel Islands. There, in 1860, he resumed work on Les Misérables, finishing it the next year. With the downfall of the emperor in 1870, Hugo returned to France, where he received a hero’s welcome as a champion of democracy. At his death in 1885, two million people lined the streets of Paris as his coffin was borne to the Pantheon. There he was laid to rest with every honor the French nation could bestow.

Lee Fahnestock is a translator and writer who lives in New York and Massachusetts. In 2000, the French government made her a Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres for her services to French culture. She has translated four volumes of the poetry of Francis Ponge, including The Making of the Pré, The Nature of Things and Vegetation, and Paul Fournel’s novel Little Girls Breathe the Same Air As We Do. With Norman MacAfee, she translated two volumes of the letters of Jean-Paul Sartre to Simone de Beavoir, Witness to My Life and Quiet Moments in a War, as well as Les Misérables. She is writing an extended study of Victor Hugo's Paris. She is active with organizations promoting literary translation and served as president of the American Literary Translators Association.  

Norman MacAfee is a writer of poetry, prose, and performance works, a translator, editor, and visual artist. Some of his most recent books are The Gospel According to RFK: Why It Matters Now; The Death of the Forest, an opera by Norman MacAfee to music of Charles Ives; and his selected poems, One Class. In addition to Les Misérables, he and Lee Fahnestock translated two volumes of the letters of Jean-Paul Sartre to Simone de Beauvoir (Witness to My Life and Quiet Moments in a War). He translated (with Luciano Martinengo) Poems: Pier Paolo Pasolini; and (with Luigi Fontanella) Daniele del Giudice’s novel Lines of Light. He also translated from the French the legendary long-lost manuscript Heroines, by the lesbian surrealist photographer Claude Cahun, in Inverted Odysseys by Shelley Rice. He writes for The Huffington Post. He lives in Greenwich Village.

Date of Birth:

February 26, 1802

Date of Death:

May 22, 1885

Place of Birth:

Besançon, France

Place of Death:

Paris, France

Education:

Pension Cordier, Paris, 1815-18

Read an Excerpt

From the Introduction by Peter Washington- Victor Hugo might be regarded as the Mr Toad of French literature: vain, arrogrant, pompous, selfish, cold and stingy; a windbag, a humbug and a fraud, absurdly puffed up with the immensity of his own greatness. But unlike Mr Toad, he was also an astute and energetic promoter of hisown image as a Great Man. The process began early. Writing in Hugo's lifetime, Virginie Ancelot recalls the reception the young poet received in literary drawing-rooms when he arrived to read his latest ode. "...There was a few moments' silence; then someone rose and approached him with visible emotion, took his hand and raised their eyes to heaven.The multitude listened. A single word was heard, to the great surprise of the uninitiated. And this word, which echoed in every corner of the salon, was:'Cathedral!'Then the orator returned to his place; another rose and cried out: 'Ogive!'A third looked round him and ventured:'Egyptian Pyramid!'The assembly applauded, and then it was lost in profound reflection." To the Anglo-Saxon mind - and, it should be said, to many Frenchmen - this is Parisian literary life at its worst: the posturing, the pretension, the self-regard, masquerading under the name of art. Yet Hugo is the man who wrote a handful of the most exquisite lyrics - 'Victor Hugo, helas!'said Gide when someone asked him to name the finest French poet - and at least one novel judged to be supreme. In his person, he sums up all that is most monsterous in writerly vanity; in his best work he transcended his failings. How did he do it? How did a monster come to write the masterpiece that is Les Miserables? * In an early essay on Scott, Hugo prophesies that"After the picturesque but prosaic novel of Walter Scott, there will still be another novel to create ... It is the novel which is at once drama and epic, picturesque and poetic, real and ieal, true and great, the novel which will enshrine Walter Scott in Homer."These words were written in 1823, just after the publication of his own first novel, Han d'Islande, and there is no doubt that Hugo had himself in mind as the man who could 'enshrine Walter Scott as Homer'. Anyone who can still get through this book may take a rather different view. Set in seventeeth-century Norway and dripping with gore on every page, Han d'Islande is nearer to the Gothic horror tradition than to Scott. For the man who really succeeded in reconciling the genres of epic and historic fiction we have to look further afield, to Hugo's own admirerer, Tolstoy. Yet it was Tolstoy who vindicated the French novelist's early ambition by judging Les Miserables one of the world's great novels, if not the greates, and acknowledged its effect on his own work. Les Miserables was completed in 1862, shortly before the Russian novelist began War and Peace. The two novels are set in the same period. It cannot be said that Hugo had much to teach his junior about structure or characterization; like all his attempts at epic, in prose and verse, Les Miserables rambles, there are huge digressions and absurdities of plot, the characters are often thin, the action melodramatic. But in spacious, vigorous story-telling, in the use of an historical framework, in the relating of human events to a larger philosophical and spiritual context, in the deployment of fiction as a social and political weapon, in the exalatation of 'the people' as a supreme authority, in the treatment of suffering as a dominant theme - in all these matters, Hugo exerted a profound influence on Tolstoy. Without his example, War and Peace might have been a very different novel. Perhaps the most extraordinary point of contact between them concerns Napoleon. One might expect the emperor to intrigue European writers in the early nineteenth century, as he intrigues Byron, Balzac and Stendhal, among others, but by the 1860s almost half a century had passed since Waterloo, yet Hugo and Tolstoy are still trying to unravel the mystery of one whose shadow falls across the entire century. For Tolstoy, Napoleon is pre-eminently a human being - an extraordinary man, certainly, the instrument of destiny, but still a man. For Hugo he is more like a superman, a mysterious brooding presence with almost divine powers. The point is made by an ironic comparison between Napoleon and Wellington. Hugo's argument seems to be that Napoleon ought to have won Waterloo by sheer force of genius - indeed, that he did win it, when judged according to the rules of natural justice - but that Wellington achieved a victory on points by taking more care to spy out the lay of the battlefield and to estimate the balance of forces. Calculation is everything to the mundane Englishman, imagination nothing. When lightning flashes round the emperor's head, the duke looks like a very ordinary man. While Napoleon surveys the heavens, Wellington consults his watch. Clearly, the image of general as genius was vital to Hugo's own project of himself as a literary Napoleon, but there is more to it than that. Commentators have often lamented the digression on Waterloo which is quite unnecessary to the plot and, coming early in the book, throws it decisively out of its narrative stride. But Hugo, though careless of structural refinement, does have a more serious purpose here - a purpose from which Tolstoy must have learnt much, and not only in his description of Borodino. For Hugo, who in turn learnt so much from Scott, grasped the fact that by imprinting the significance of a decisive historical moment on the minds of his readers he could hugely enlarge the scope of his novel. Precisely because Les Miserables is about little people, the history of a great man is one means of linking their petty lives with the Infinite. (The link is made touchingly explicit in the chapter called 'In Which Little Gavroche Takes Advantage of Napoleon the Great'.) Even events as great as Waterloo, we are told, can hinge on details: the location of a ditch, the arrival of a platoon. Conversely, the most trivial life may exemplify a great truth - and in that sense, all lives are equally significant, for every existence embodies these truths. At the same time, Hugo's treatment of Waterloo makes it clear that realities and appearances diverge as much in everyday life as they do in historical interpretation - and that the two divergences are linked. What a post-Waterloo Frenchman thinks of Napoleon helps to shape what he thinks of himself. Sometimes we try to envision history in our own image; sometimes we use it to understand ourselves; at all times we are formed by it without our knowledge. One function of fiction is to help us achieve that knowledge. Les Miserables is, among other things, an attempt to explain the people of the mid-nineteenth century to themselves. Jean Valjean finds himself in a certain situation because he is a poor Frenchman at a particular time. This is one version of Fate - the sociological and political explanation of things. But Valjean is like Waterloo: his life also has a deeper purpose, a hidden meaning. Hugo has a number of names for this meaning - Fate, Destiny, God, the Infinite. But whatever he calls it, we observe a complex dialogue throughout the book between the surface causes of Valjean's predicament - poverty and ignorance - and their deeper meaning, to which he penetrates through suffering.

Table of Contents

FANTINE
I. A Just Man
II. The Fall
III. In the Year 1817
IV. To Confide is Sometimes to Deliver into a Person's Power
V. The Descent
VI. Javert
VII. The Champmathieu Affair
VIII. A Counter-Blow

COSETTE
I. Waterloo
II. The Ship Orion
III. Accomplishment of the Promise Made to the Dead Woman
IV. The Gorbeau Hovel
V. For a Black Hunt, A Mute Pack
VI. Le Petit-Picpus
VII. Parenthesis
VIII. Cemeteries Take That Which is Committed Them

MARIUS
I. Paris Studies in its Atom
II. The Great Bourgeois
III. The Grandfather and the Grandson
IV. The Friends of the ABC
V. The Excellence of Misfortune
VI. The Conjunction of Two Stars
VII. Patron Minette
VIII. The Wicked Poor Man

ST. DENIS
I. A Few Pages of History
II. Eponine
III. The House in the Rue Plumet
IV. Succor From Below May Turn Out to be Succor From on High
V. The End of Which Does Not Resemble the Beginning
VI. Little Gavroche
VII. Slang
VIII. Enchantments and Desolations
IX. Whither are They Going?
X. The 5th of June, 1832
XI.The Atom Fraternizes with the Hurricane
XII. Corinthe
XIII. Marius Enters the Shadow
XIV. The Grandeurs of Despair
XV. The Rue de l'Homme Arme

JEAN VALJEAN
I. The War Between Four Walls
II. The Intestine of the Leviathan
III. Mud but the Soul
IV. Javert Derailed
V. Grandson and Grandfather
VI. The Sleepless Night
VII. The Last Draught from the Cup
VIII. Fading Away of the Twilight
IX. Supreme Shadow, Supreme Dawn

What People are Saying About This

V. S. Pritchett

Hugo's genius was for the creation of simple and recognisable myth. The huge success of Les Miserables as a didactic work on behalf of the poor and oppressed is due to its poetic and myth-enlarged view of human nature... Hugo himself called this novel 'a religious work'; and it has indeed the necessary air of having been written by God in one of his more accessible and saleable moods.

Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION
The book which the reader now holds in his hands, from one end to the other...treats the advance from evil to good, from injustice to justice, from falsity to truth, from darkness to daylight, from blind appetite to conscience, from decay to life, from bestiality to duty, from Heaven to Hell, from Limbo to God. Matter itself is the starting point, and the point of arrival is the soul.
—Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

Twenty years in the conception and execution, Les Misérables was first published in France and Belgium in 1862, a year which found Victor Hugo in exile from his beloved France. Enemies and admirers throughout the world devoured his works—poetry, political tracts, and fiction—and the effect of these works upon the public was always sensational. On the morning of 15 May, a mob filled the streets around Pagnerre's book shop, eyeing the stacks of copies of Les Misérables that stretched between floor and ceiling. A few hours later, they had all—thousands of books—been sold. Hugo's critics were quick to condemn him for making money by dramatizing the misery of the poor, while the poor themselves bought, read, and discussed his book in unprecedented numbers. True to Hugo's political stance, he had written a book about the people that was for the people, a book that demanded a change in society's judgement of its citizens.

The story is set between 1815 and 1832, the years of Hugo's youth. The descriptions of Paris, the characterizations of Gavroche and other Parisian stock characters, and such statements as, "To err is human, to stroll is Parisian" all attest to Hugo's unswerving adoration of his home city. Exile no doubt encouraged the romantic meanderings of Hugo's prose. The protagonist of Les Misérables, Jean Valjean, is also in exile from the world of men because of the desperate crime he committed in his youth. Liberated from prison, Valjean hides his identity and becomes a successful man, as charitable as he is rich and powerful. His altruism leads him to promise Fantine, a dying prostitute, that he will seek out her exploited young daughter Cosette after her death. The ensuing love between "father" and "daughter" (Cosette) is miraculous, redeeming Valjean and bestowing happiness on his otherwise grim life. To some extent, Hugo also was seeking redemption, having, for much of his youth, ignored the populist concerns of Republican France. He sacrificed his lifestyle in Paris for justice, and Les Misérables, "the Magna Carta of the human race," is a testament of this humanitarian awakening.

The Revolution and Republic of France had failed to redress the unconscionable social conditions in which many French citizens languished. Les Misérables became an expression of and an inspiration for that attempt. Hugo initially entitled his work, Les Misre ("the poverty"), but changed it to Les Misérables, which, in Hugo's time, denoted everyone from the poor to the outcasts and insurrectionists. In Hugo's lifetime, the schism between "haves" and "have-nots" was vast; an unbalanced economy made jobs scarce for those who earned their living by work. This was an era without a welfare system, unemployment benefits, or worker's compensation. The closest thing to a homeless shelter was prison, a macabre dungeon where inmates slept on bare planks and ate rancid food. To this place the disabled, insane, hungry, or desperate citizens of France eventually found their way. The one hope of the poor for relief was charity from those who were, if not indifferent to their plight, outright hostile to it.

Les Misérables vindicates those members of society forced by unemployment and starvation to commit crimes—in Jean Valjean's case, the theft of a loaf of bread—who are thereafter outcast from society. It is fairly common parlance today to suggest that prison creates more hardened criminals than it reforms, but the idea was radical to Hugo's contemporaries. "Perrot de Chezelles, in an 'Examination of Les Misérables,' defended the excellence of a State which persecuted convicts even after their release, and derided the notion that poverty and ignorance had anything to do with crime. Criminals were evil." Jean Valjean morally surpasses characters working on behalf of this excellent State. The poor and the disenfranchised understood Hugo's message, accepted the affirmation he gave them, and worshipped him as their spokesman. Workers pooled their money to buy the book not one of them could afford on their own. The struggling people of France had found an articulate illustration of the unjust forces arrayed against them.

Hugo's gift to the people simultaneously affirms that every citizen is important to the health of the nation and emphasizes how that fact gives each individual responsibility for the conditions we all share. Hugo sees the world as a convoluted pattern: "Nothing is truly small...within that inexhaustible compass, from the sun to the grub, there is no room for disdain; each thing needs every other thing." He illustrates a system full of injustice, but in that same sphere, a single gesture of kindness redeems the world; he shows us a civilization based on self-interest and profit, but in one generous act the possibilities of a better world become manifest; he portrays people who regard their neighbors with suspicion and contempt, but with one vow of love, humanity's faith is born anew. Les Misérables is one of history's greatest manifestos of hope for humankind.

The immense popularity of this story has not diminished over time. Since the original 1935 film version, there have been several other international films entitled Les Misérables including a Spring 1998 release starring Liam Neeson and Uma Thurman. The "most popular musical in the world" has toured the globe several times and has been running on Broadway since March 1987. Why does this story continue to charm and inspire audiences and readers? In our time, as there was in Hugo's, there is cause for despair: greed and violence undermine true progress; human life is rendered meaningless through materialism and nihilism; children the world over suffer neglect, poverty, and ignorance. Who does not identify with Jean Valjean's arduous journey through the sewers, and who does not long for an escape like his emergence into the pristine Parisian dusk? Hugo illustrates how the most profound revolution takes place in our individual consciences, how every moment we are faced with decisions to do right or wrong, and how to make in our hearts pitched battles against our own worst impulses. Les Misérables incites us to make the best fight of our lives the fight to become authentically good people and gives us hope that our efforts will not be in vain. Time cannot change the necessity or urgency of that message—only people can.


ABOUT VICTOR HUGO

Victor Hugo died in 1885 as one of the most famous Europeans in history. The number of people who attended Hugo's funeral ceremony was larger than the normal population of Paris. On the first of April, Hugo's pauper's coffin, which he had requested in his will, was carried from the Arc de Triomphe to his final resting place at the Panthéon. At eighty-three years old, Hugo had outlived two siblings, his wife, three out of four of his children, and thousands of admirers and critics who had watched his career transform and flourish. Prolific and protean as an artist, a politician, and a man, Hugo was capable of testing the limits of extremes, having learned the tension of polar opposites from his parents early in life. Victor-Marie Hugo was born on 26 February 1802 to Sophie Trébuchet and Joseph-Léopold-Sigisbert Hugo. His father was a decorated General in Napoléon's army, stationed in Italy and Spain during much of young Victor's youth. His mother was not only a Monarchist, but was involved in a plot to overthrow Napoléon. Under the care of his stoic mother, Hugo grew into a traditionalist, sworn to preserving the neo-Classical tradition of French literature and the rights of the French monarchy.

Hugo's literary talent was first publicized when he was seventeen years old. In 1819, he submitted two poems to the Académie Française, winning the Golden Amaranth for one poem and the Golden Lily, the Académie's highest honor, for another. (Hugo was elected to the Académie in 1841.) He published 112 articles and twenty-two poems in Le Conservateur Littéraire, the magazine founded by his brother Abel. These writings all supported traditional French literature and castigated early Romanticism, an ideology that soon thereafter lured Hugo to its camp with its irresistible ideals of freedom, honesty, and originality.

In 1830, Hugo's play Hernani put all Paris on its feet. The play opened at the Comédie Française and was attended by the new and the old aesthetic regimes. Ignoring the classical unities and their stale dignity of speech, Hernani was cheered by the Romantics and insulted, booed, and declaimed by the older, more conservative "kneeheads." Aesthetic disagreements escalated into riots, and duels were even fought over Hugo's play. Thus began a volatile and prolific career, each work fresh, surprising, and loaded with that Hugolian tendency to incite controversy. Hugo's literary output was staggering and the following is but a brief list of his major works: (poetry) Les Châtiments, Les Feuilles d'automne, La Légende des siécles, Les Orientales, Odes et Ballades, Les Rayons et les ombres, L'Art d'^etre grand-pére, (novels) Bug-Jargal, Notre Dame de Paris, Les Misérables, Les Travailleurs de la mer, L'Homme qui rit, Ruy Blas. Add to this his political and cultural commentary, his travelogues, letters, speeches, and plays, and you have a corpus of work that scholars are still compiling, publishing, and analyzing.

Hugo made no attempt to separate his life as a writer from his life as a citizen. In 1845, Hugo was made a pair de France (life peer and member of the Upper House), a position which should have endeared him to powerful circles and alienated him from the people. Yet a comfortable existence acquiescing to unjust powers was not to be Hugo's destiny, as he often proclaimed, "Not to believe in the people is to be a political atheist." During the revolutions, riots, and massacres of 1848 and 1849, Hugo abandoned the regime of Louis-Napoléon, nephew of Napoléon Bonaparte, because of its increasing authoritarianism; and when Louis-Napoléon was confirmed the leader of the Republic, Hugo and thousands of other thinkers, dissenters, and literati went into exile. For the next twenty years, Hugo disseminated his works from Belgium and the small islands in the English Channel, smuggling political satires and polemical verse in sardine tins, walking sticks, and baggy trousers. It was at this period Hugo produced his magnificent excoriation of Louis-Napoléon, Napoléon-le-Petit, as well as Les Châtiments (The Punishments), an explosion of poetic wrath directed at the emperor. Throughout his life, Hugo worked to further Republican virtues, affirming education and a democratic distribution of property, denouncing the unbalance of power and capital punishment.

Hugo's home, however, did not quite match the utilitarian simplicity of his ascetic ideal Jean Valjean. He had proven that one could get rich writing books; it was partially Hugo's love of humanity that had made him a millionaire. The two women he loved—his wife Adèle and his mistress Juliette— shared in a large part of the work—answering letters, copying manuscripts, etc.—and a small part of the glory. Hugo had married his childhood sweetheart against his parents' wishes in 1822, and they had four children. This family avoided the actress and ex-prostitute who resided down the street from them, Juliette. Her affair with Hugo lasted for fifty years, perhaps the longest extra-marital affair in history. Neither a model of virtue or simplicity, Hugo nonetheless inspired the people of many nations and many generations to act with greater regard for others.

Today it is hard to imagine a playwright whose works young men die defending, a poet whose followers cry for revolution, a thinker whose thoughts change world history. Hugo was all of these and his legacy survives through his tremendous literary bequest. He lived in a time when children were shot in the streets of Paris and governments were violently overthrown every twenty years. His presence was a beacon and a pillar, a palpable force to struggle against or with, a mad blend of courage, genius, and kindness. It is not his godliness which assures Hugo's place in eternity, but his humanity.


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DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  • How did Bishop Bienvenu's visit to the dying revolutionary G—change him? What about this man surprised the Bishop and why? How are the Revolutionary ideals espoused by G— similar to or different from the pure Christian ideals of the Bishop?
  • Why did Jean Valjean steal the Bishop's silver? How was this act influenced by his experience in prison? Discuss the process of change that occurred in Valjean after the Bishop "bought back his soul from Satan" with the silver. Would this bargain have been successful with every person? Why was Valjean subject to such transformation?
  • Discuss what you know about the French Revolution and its cultural echoes in France. Could this story of Valjean's redemption be told in another historical context? In what ways is this story dependent on and independent of its setting?
  • How would you characterize Hugo's political and nationalist stance based on his description of the Battle of Waterloo and his account of other political events? Can his loyalties—Monarchist, Bonapartist, nationalist, humanist, etc.—be discerned and defined?
  • Marius's friends die in the July Revolution. What values were they defending? What do you think Hugo values in these heroic characters and how does his description of them show this?
  • Hugo inserts a rather scathing aside about the nature of Fame in Part I, chapter one: "Prosperity presupposes ability." Jean Valjean is an example of a man who is exceptional in many significant ways, who positively and profoundly affects the lives of people around him, and who lives and dies in absolute obscurity. This portrait is drawn by a man who was inarguably the most famous man in France, literally "a legend in his own time." How can fame adversely influence one's ability to do good in the world? How does Valjean safely covet his obscurity, and how does this obscurity contribute to the good deeds Valjean habitually performs?
  • Cosette was never more fortunate than when she left the home of the socially "respectable" Thénardiers to be raised by a feared ex-convict. How is this an indictment of Hugo's society's criteria for respectability? What are the Thénardiers symbolic or symptomatic of?
  • One of the most psychologically complex characters is Javert, who— though he plays the role of a villain—acts not out of malice but out of a sense of duty to what he truly believes is ethically correct. How would you define Javert's value system? There is a weak link in Javert's chain of rationalizations for his behavior and his life. Identify it and explain how it leads to Javert's suicide. At which points in the book does Hugo show Javert to advantage? At which points does Javert appear to be more a classic villain?
  • Hugo clearly adores Paris. How is the street urchin Gavroche symbolic of the city in which he runs rampant? If he is truly a "son of Paris," which attributes did he inherit from his "mother"? Compare Hugo's descriptions of Paris to his descriptions of the French countryside and smaller cities. How do Parisians differ from denizens of the rest of France? Are these differences slight or serious?
  • Compare the musical Les Misérables to the book. What is left out, emphasized, or added? How does the change of medium effect the pace and tone of the story? To what do you attribute the long-running success of the musical?
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    Les Miserables 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 199 reviews.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    As if anyone needed an excuse to read Les Miserables--one of the most fantastic pieces of literature of all time--we now have a wonderfully rendered translation by Julie Rose. Coupled with a wildly intelligent introduction by Adam Gopnik, this is the most complete and informative edition of Hugo's masterpiece to date. With ludicrously complete endnotes, one can read the novel and achieve near total comprehension of the era about which Hugo was writing. We understand through this winning translation and notes why Napoleon was good and evil, why he was such a polarizing figure, why the French Revolution was so important to European and world history. Understanding the world from which Hugo's charaters come helps us relate and identify with them even more. We understand why Enjolras is a zealot, why Javert is dedicated beyond reason to the law, why Fantine felt she had run out of options, to name a very few. Les Miserables, at its core, is a meditation on the human spirit in its idealized form: what Man can achieve through good deeds, dedication, and love of his fellow men. Read and be inspired.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    The translation of Victor Hugo's Les Misrables by Norman Denny is as close as you can get to an unabridged version. This is not a volume to be read quickly, so if you are on a deadline let this one lie & get one of the shorter translations; but you will be missing the full experience! Hugo's style was to go on in excrutiating detail about the people, places, & institutions in his stories. It is one of the things that make his works timeless; you come away with not just so much entertainment, but an understanding of the place & time that the characters inhabited, & what they thought & felt & why. Norman Denny captures that full experience in his translation, with minimal editorializing or abridging. He includes two appendices that were complete chapters in Hugo's original text, but depart fully from the story line to give background & explanation. You will be tempted at times to skip several pages or whole chapters. Don't! Instead, take a break (stretch, get a cup of coffee, a nap, some conversation, some excercise, or do some work) and come back to it fresh later so you can savor every nuance. It will be worth it when you come to the last chapters & can read not only what happens to the characters, but feel what they feel.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Abridged
    LibrarianJP More than 1 year ago
    In this epic tale, Hugo has an endless array of characters that are willing to do whatever they have to including sacrificing themselves, to ensure that those they love are happy. The amazing characters are made even more realistic in that Hugo shows that each one of them is human, each one has their own faults, this only makes the novel more inspiring, as it illustrates to us that everyday people, just like us, have the strength to self sacrifice for the greater good. It is a beautiful novel that inspires us to live not for ourselves, but for others.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Hey Man you can't believe how long this book is until you've finished reading it. A European literature classic for sure.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    THis is by far my favorite book! It was outstanding.I read the entire book when I was 14 and still is my favorite.I love all of the detailing Victor Hugo does.He is a Great writer and the book is full of adventure ,I just couldn't put the book down!My favorite character has to be Eponine.I definatly recommend this book!!!
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    Les Miserables Les Miserables is one of the best books I¿ve ever read. It contrasts the hard life of Jean Valjean, a convict, to the sheltered and almost star struck life of Cossette, whom Jean Valjean fosters after her mother, Fantine, dies. When placed against the striking background of a Paris in political turmoil, this story strikes a chord in every person who reads it. I give it an A+, 10 out of 10, 5 stars, whatever I can to express how good this book is.
    ClutchClutch More than 1 year ago
    1285 nook pages. if you doubt this is the full unabridged version look at the file size; 4MB for a ebook is f*cking huge.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This is a great classic. I love it. What's more is that it's an extremely affordable: it 's only 99 cents!!!
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    undoubtedly, this novel is an eye-opener! with the revealing plot and the symbolic figures used, Hugo artistically presented a story of a convict with a touch of the political dilemma of the people during his time. the characters of fantine, cosette and javert add up to the effectiveness of the novel and their stories are somehow affecting the the outcome. Valjean's character is outrageously different , his transformation from a convict into an important man of society makes his character interesting despite the struggles he encountered especially with Javert who appeared as a classical villain although his objectives are just a part of his job. the love story of marius and cosette , on the other hand made a little part boring because the flow of story became slow but still it adds flavor to the completeness of the novel!!! truly les miserables is recommendable and 5 stars are enough to fully recognized the essential points that this eye-opener is trying to implant into our minds.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    This book was amazing. I first picked it up in sixth grade and couldn't put it down! This book is so moving and is a masterpiece of nineteen century literature. A must read for anyone that loves the classics!
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    This is a marvelous, detailed, and exciting read. This is quite possibly my favorite book- there aren't any words to describe it more than that... This text must have inspired thousands of books to be written, and is still, in my opinion, one of the best books in history.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    This book wraps you up in a whirlpool of remarkable characters and inspiring events. Way cool. Try this novel if your looking for something that will leave you pining for it ages after it. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious ending! Something you could read again and again! (Also because it's so long by the time it's done you forgot how it started.)
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    Les Miserables was amazing. Hugo's motivational inspiration on the actions and events in his actual life time are just amazing, and reflect on his writing, and how he portrays his story, and characters. Not only is the storyline intriguing, and adventurous, but his personal view on life in general, is so true. This is what highschool literature should be based on. Not these idiot teen novels we're forced to be reading. Thankyou Victor. I enjoyed your book very much.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    Escape - to avoid capture, danger, or harm. This simple word is the center of life for Jean Valjean, a master of escape in Victor Hugo's novel, 'Les Miserables'. Les Miserables is not only a captivating novel which cultivates and evokes deep thoughts, but it also retained this reader¿s interest. Les Miserables has an excellent mixture of grief, action, suspense, and eventual happiness to please any avid reader. It allows insight into the human soul and gives hope for the future through Valjean¿s actions. The mood in Les Miserables is a constantly changing one. Tension consumed me as the mood changed and made me feel the imminent doom, reconciliation, and hopelessness released by the characters. A sense of mystery and foreboding is emulated through the dark settings. Most of the action occurs in a dark, dreary place, or at night, so as to give off a feeling of bad happenings. One of the biggest reasons for my love of Les Miserables has to be the story line itself. An ex-convict transforms himself from a bitter, angry person to one who sacrifices himself to better others. Stories like this give me faith in the human race and humanity. The characters are what give Les Miserables its power to fascinate readers. Each character plays a specific part in creating the novel. Fantine, a lonely, hopeless prostitute, represents misfortune. Jean Valjean is the savior for all characters. He is the one who nurses Fantine in her time of need, raises the orphaned Cosette, and saves Marius in his time of peril. Cosette is light of Valjean¿s life. Witnessing Cosette make Valjean happy lightens the mood and give Les Miserables appeal to the emotions. Javert, the police investigator, is the stimulant for most of the action and chasing in the novel. Each character contributes his or her personality to the work as a whole. I would recommend this riveting book to people who enjoy action novels with plenty of conflict and pleasing endings. Extreme detail makes Les Miserables memorable. I remembered the smallest detail because of the wonderful descriptions portrayed by Hugo. Relying heavily on justice and morality, Les Miserables kept me in suspense waiting to discover what misfortune would fall upon the next character. I recommend this book to all ardent readers.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    I believe Les Miserables deserves four stars. It encompasses the primary historical trends of the nineteenth century. Victor Hugo, the author of Les Miserables, utilizes some of his personal experiences to create the exciting adventures of Jean Valjean, the protagonist of the novel, provides insight on poignant issues such as universal suffrage, prison reform, free education, and social equality. I recommend reading this novel. Les Miserables not only broadens the mind toward social issues, but the techniques used to form the novel enhanced the theme. The context of this novel was enjoyable because Hugo appropriately used different techniques to intensify the effect of the novel, one of which is symbolism. Three of the main characters symbolize different dilemmas present during the French Revolution, the period in which Les Miserables was written. Jean Valjean symbolizes the degradation of man in the proletariat; once a man has committed a crime, he will always be a convict. Cosette symbolizes atrophy of the child by darkness; women who birth children out of wedlock are belittled. Fantine symbolizes the subjection of women through hunger; women would suffice anything to survive in society. Through Jean Valjean, Hugo implemented satire to provide Les Miserables with moral redemption. In Valjean¿s attempt to redeem his past, he progresses from convict to saint. This ironical situation salvages one¿s view of mankind, that salvation can be acquired and produce a tremendous impact. The satire and moral redemption, in this novel, added immensely to the effect of the theme. It provides a sense of comfort; people make mistakes, but through those mistakes knowledge is gained for them to succeed. Another interesting technique Hugo used consists of a microcosm. He created a world within a world. Valjean possessed his own world that revolved around him and Cosette. Through this microcosm the reader gains a feeling of attachment to Cosette and Valjean. When something happens to either of them it seems as though it has befallen upon a close friend of the reader. Although this novel contains unsurpassable context, it also contains a few minor flaws. The story line for Les Miserables seems to drag out, which makes the book difficult to read. It seems as though the novel may continue forever. If the novel had not tarried along, it may have been easier to comprehend. Unfortunately, I became bored with the novel at times and had to cease reading for a while. Hugo¿s eccentric use of symbolism, satire, a microcosm, and moral redemption, provide a source of exquisite reading material. Hugo used many other techniques to spawn Les Miserables, such as flashbacks, similes and metaphors, irony, monologue, and self-communion. Each technique adds to the exquisiteness of the final product. This novel is distinguished worldwide for its portrayal of France during the French Revolution. Ultimately, Les Miserables subsists of extraordinary context. I highly recommend reading it.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    I find 'Les Miserables' to be one of the most incredible novels ever written! 'Les Miserables' is a wonderful novel about redemption and the analysis of one's own heart. The primary focus shadows upon the life of protagonist, Jean Valjean. Valjean, after many years of imprisonment, sets forth on a journey to give himself a new name and place in society. All of his random acts of kindness are a result of the hospitality of a town priest. The seeds of compassion that were sprinkled on Valjean grow into an array of meaningful lessons that the 'real world' will later find enduring. I believe that 'Les Miserables' is an astounding novel. In fact, I had the entire book read in less than one week. I never wanted to put it down. The plotlines are all about common and perceivable issues, but they are displayed in such an intensely rich, dramatic manner that is extremely mind-captivating. Nineteenth Century France is a very culturally and socially rich place to begin with, but the way Victor Hugo writes makes the entire novel sound that much more impeccable. The creative imagery (to some extent) invokes the reader to feel as if they are a part of the novel. I even found myself yelling at the book at the very exciting parts. Yes folks,I was that drawn into the novel! 'Les Miserables' centers around many themes which I feel that the society of today and the society of tomorrow should start examining very closely. To begin, one common theme is: 'Nothing is more worthy to own that compassion, ' which is also a quote from Bette Midler. This theme is consistantly examplified all throughout the novel. Seemingly, compassion is the key element motivating everything in 'Les Miserables.' If not for compassion, the fate of the characters would seem even more detrimental and depressing that what they already appear. Also, much usage of sensory details enhances the tone of the setting. A Parisian cathedral is no longer looked at as another common church, but as an emmaculate building of devoted worship. 'Les Miserables' is also told from many different points of view, adding more complexity and intenseness to this piece of literary art. The novel is divided into five sections, each with its own morality play essence. Whether it be a story from the devoted Jean Valjean, or the saint-like Fantine, none are forgettable. In order to fully enjoy this novel, one would have to possess a lot of empathy, sympathy, and understanding. If the reader does not dive into the novel with these qualities, he or she will surely finish the novel with them. Personally, I was very moved by the entire work as a whole. The drama, emotion, and most of all, the teachings are heartfelt and inspiring. I strongly recommend this novel to everyone! The climactic adrenaline that the reader feels is enough to last a lifetime. However, do not let the number of pages steer you away from something so prestigious.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    Les Miserables was a truly remarkable book and i loved every part of it. I simply could not put it down once i started. It was a great work of art. And i simply enjoyed it.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    im a seventh grader and im reading this for an honors english class. i will admit it is kinda hard to read but in the end it is all worth while!!!!!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    marcelrochester on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Um Cosette + Marius are annoying/boring. Javert and Valjean are interesting. The many chapters of history and background got on my nerves and weren¿t good reads. The plot got meh later, esp given the over-focus on boring romance. A good adaptation could actually be better than the book. Though there aren¿t especially strong female roles.
    Stodelay on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    So I started this book in Provo and then read most of it throughout Europe, finishing it on our third floor bedroom in Geneva, Switzerland. It was strange to be reading the unabridged English translation of Hugo's novel in a part of the world where everyone spoke French, but I tried a bit of the French and was completely blown out of the water, my language being wildly insufficient. It's a sprawling, moving opus epic devoted to the divine in man and the possibility of love, redemption, and revolutionary goodness. I would say it is an example of committed art, and while at times it is tedious and laborious, it is on the whole magnificent.
    luvs2read18 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    This is a much needed condensed version of the classic novel. Adapted by Jim Reimann for modern audiences
    Beatles101 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    An absolutely and astoundingly amazing book, Victor Hugo paints a detailed masterpiece that encourages actual thought. It is impossible to relate the whole story - a simple attempt would take hours. All in all, it's about one person's desperate, miraculous life and all who touch or effect this gem. Read it every waking minute of every day.
    almuzyien on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    i flew to london lately to had the DVD,i think this novel is master piece