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Thursday, November 3, 2011
Classic Thursdays: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, literally meaning 'The Miserable Ones', is an 1862 French novel, widely considered as one of the greatest novels of the nineteenth century. It follows the lives and interactions of several French characters over a seventeen-year period in the early nineteenth century, starting in 1815 and culminating in the 1832 June Rebellion.
The novel focuses on the struggles of ex-convict Jean Valjean and his experience of redemption. It examines the nature of law and grace, and expatiates upon the history of France, architecture of Paris, politics, moral philosophy, antimonarchism, justice, religion, and the types and nature of romantic and familial love. The story is historical fiction because it contains factual and historic events. Contrary to what some believe, it does not use the French Revolution as a backdrop.
The first two volumes of Les Misérables were published on 3 April 1862, heralded by a massive advertising campaign; the remainder of the novel appeared on 15 May 1862. At the time, Victor Hugo enjoyed a reputation as one of France's foremost poets, and the appearance of the novel was a highly anticipated event.
Critical reactions were wide-ranging and often negative; some critics found the subject matter immoral, others complained of its excessive sentimentality, and still others were disquieted by its apparent sympathy with the revolutionaries.
The book was a great commercial success. First translated into foreign languages (including Italian, Greek, and Portuguese) the same year it originally appeared, it proved popular not only in France, but across Europe.
Les Misérables is known to many through its numerous stage and screen adaptations, most notably the stage musical of the same name.
- Debolina Raja Gupta