Victor Hugo's Les Misérables: a game with destiny | Books | The GuardianWhat I seem to almost always forget is that this story started life as a novel, and a long novel at that. Written by French author Victor Hugo who also penned The Hunchback Of Notre-Dame , the story takes place in France during the early to midth century, focusing on the lives of several characters whose lives intertwine through a series of coincidences and happenstance. So, exactly what happens in the Les Miserables book? As much as I would love to do a deep dive into the world of this literary classic , there is way too much info to cover and spoil. Instead, I'll give you a quick low-down on the main players of the story, and what Hugo tried to accomplish with the narrative. The story begins in , and mainly follows Jean Valjean , an escaped convict who was sentenced to nineteen years in prison after stealing a loaf of bread for his sister, and for attempting to escape incarceration. He tries to begin life anew, but struggles as he is a former convict.
Victor Hugo's Les Misérables: a game with destiny
To begin with the central problem: the exorbitant length. But length is not just a question of pages, it's also a question of tempo. In his essay "The Curtain", Milan Kundera writes how "aesthetic concepts began to interest me only when I first perceived their existential roots, when I came to understand them as existential concepts. It is intimately, intricately linked to what it describes. And the most obvious transformation Victor Hugo effects in the novel's form is sheer gargantuan size. This megalomania was a conscious choice on Hugo's part.
It was an instant popular success and was quickly translated into several languages. Set in the Parisian underworld and plotted like a detective story, the work follows the fortunes of the convict Jean Valjean , a victim of society who has been imprisoned for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread. A hardened and streetwise criminal upon his release, he eventually softens and reforms, becoming a successful industrialist and mayor of a northern town. Despite this, he is haunted by an impulsive, regretted former crime and is pursued relentlessly by the police inspector Javert. Valjean eventually gives himself up for the sake of his adopted daughter, Cosette, and her husband, Marius. A popular musical stage adaptation was produced in Info Print Cite.
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In the English-speaking world, the novel is usually referred to by its original French title. Examining the nature of law and grace, the novel elaborates upon the history of France , the architecture and urban design of Paris, politics, moral philosophy , antimonarchism , justice, religion, and the types and nature of romantic and familial love. So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilization, artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age—the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of women by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night—are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless.
The first draft, painstakingly reconstructed by researchers at the University of Paris 7 and now accessible online, breaks off in February None but the blind can fail to see it. Bonaparte said so! The French Revolution is an act of God. As Hugo was writing about his fictional barricade, the government collapsed and real barricades were once again erected in Paris in The writer stood for election to the new Constituent Assembly and was elected a representative of the people of Paris in June. Soon afterwards, a state of siege was declared, and Hugo, who had no military experience, took command of one of the battalions of soldiers ordered to suppress the barricades.