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Classic fiction (pre c 1945)
First published in 1862 and considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century, Les Miserables is Victor Hugo’s classic epic novel depicting the struggles of the war-ridden French population in the period beginning with the Battle of Waterloo and culminating with the French rebellion of 1832, focussing on the protagonist ex-convict Jean Valjean’s experiences.
Summary Of The Book
Penguin Classics’ 1982 edition of Victor Hugo’s classic historical novel Les Miserables is set in France and chronicles the life and struggles of Jean Valjean, an escaped convict, who is determined to free himself from his past and get accepted into society. However, when, in a case of mistaken identity, an innocent man is wrongfully arrested for a crime that Valjean committed, he must come to terms with his own conscience. Being relentlessly pursued by policeman Javert, Valjean must stay out of prison, not for his own sake, but in order to keep his word, to the penniless prostitute Fantine and protect her baby daughter.
Hailed as a literary classic, and one of the longest novels ever written, Les Miserables is a heroic tale of valour and injustice that paints a poignant view of the many tragedies of war, through a myriad of fascinating characters like that of Fantine, a beautiful, illiterate, unwed mother, who loses her factory job and is forced to first sell her hair, and then her teeth in order to survive, finally resorting to prostitution. Cossette, is her illegitimate daughter, who is ill treated at the hands of the Thenardiers to whom she was entrusted, but Valjean rescues her from them, and cares for her as his own child.
Les Miserables is a rich exploration of two decades of French history, depicting the turmoils of the war, including the Battle of Waterloo and the 1830 revolution, and capturing the moral philosophies and themes of religion and love in French society, through its many sub-plots woven alongside the main storyline of Jean Valjean’s life struggles. Les Miserables was a huge literary commercial success, having been translated into different languages, and adapted into many plays, musicals, and films for radio and television. The most recent film adaptation is the 2012 film starring Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman.
About Victor Hugo
Born in 1802, to a Catholic Royalist mother, and a father who was an officer in Napoleon's French army, Victor Hugo was a prominent French novelist, poet, artist, and dramatist of the romantic period. Subsequently, he wrote several successful epic novels namely, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Last Day Of A Condemned Man, Ninety-Three, The Man Who Laughs, and Toilers Of The Sea.
Hugo’s works often described as passionate and eloquent, are known to have been inspired by Chateaubriand - the famed French literary figure of the romantic movement, and depict social injustices, artistic trends, and the political environment prevalent during his time.
Regarded as a freethinking Republican who strongly idolised Napoleon, and revered his whole life as a prominent statesman who influenced democracy in France, Hugo lived abroad for a few years under self imposed exile, and moved back to spend the greater part of his life in France. His very first novel Han d’islande was published in 1823. He died at the age of 83, in 1885.