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I had Les Misérables on the Kindle, so read it a bit at a time.  Glad I went that route, as reading a book that thick in bed would have given me carpal tunnel syndrome.  I never quite got into it, as Victor Hugo went on these long tangents about battles, French kings, slang, and "recent" French history, using classical allusions and talking about people his 1860s audience probably knew well but didn't mean anything to me.

Amid the essays and political pronouncements, the book follows the lives of several people.  With few exceptions, I didn't like them.  Jean Valjean is an interesting character, but let's face it:  He's an idiot.  Sort of Like McTeague, he's not very smart but tries to do the right thing... and doesn't always.  Javert doesn't ring true.  Thénardier was too convenient as a deus ex machina.  To talk more would involve spoilers, so you'll have to let me be general.

I loved The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  Didn't like Les Miserables.   Ah well.  I've added the most recent movie to my Netflix queue.

Note:  This was written for the dKos group Les Miserables, but nothing new has been added since May and this has been in the queue for a week.  I hope the quotes make it of more general interest.

A few quotes below the fold.

"Intellectual and moral growth is no less indispensable than material improvement.  To know is a sacrament, to think is the prime necessity, truth is nourishment as well as gain.  A reason which fasts from science and wisdom grows thin.  Let us enter equal complain against stomachs and minds which to not eat.  If there is anything more heart-breaking than a body perishing for lack of bread, it is a soul which is dying from hunger for the light." -- Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

"Mud can never enjoy a good fame." -- Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

"Where are your free and compulsory schools? Does every one know how to read in the land of Dante and of Michael Angelo? Have you made public schools of your barracks? Have you not, like ourselves, an opulent war-budget and a paltry budget of education? Have not you also that passive obedience which is so easily converted into soldierly obedience? military establishment which pushes the regulations to the extreme of firing upon Garibaldi; that is to say, upon the living honor of Italy? Let us subject your social order to examination, let us take it where it stands and as it stands, let us view its flagrant offences, show me the woman and the child. It is by the amount of protection with which these two feeble creatures are surrounded that the degree of civilization is to be measured." -- Victor Hugo, Letter to M. Daelli, Publisher of the Italian translation of Les Miserables, 1862

"The invention of printing was the greatest event in history.  It was the parent revolution; it was the fundamental change in mankind's mode of expression, it was human thought doffing one garment to clothe itself in another; it was the complete and definitive sloughing off of the skin of a serpent, which, since the time of Adam, has symbolized intelligence." -- Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame

"If we try to form a collective picture of the combines results of printing down to modern times, does not this total picture seem to use like an immense structure, having the whole world for its foundation, a building upon which humanity has worked without cease and whose monstrous head is lost in the impenetrable mist of the future?  This printed tower is the swarming ant-hill of the intelligences.  It is the beehive where all the imaginations, those golden bees, arrive with their honey.  The building has a thousand stories." -- Victor Hugo (predicting blogs, perhaps), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831)

Originally posted to Baron Dave on Sat Nov 02, 2013 at 07:56 AM PDT.

Also republished by Les Miserables.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (7+ / 0-)

    "What doesn't have credibility today is the truth." -- Bill Moyers, The Daily Show 6/22/05

    by Baron Dave on Sat Nov 02, 2013 at 07:56:48 AM PDT

  •  I loved it. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    grannycarol, IM, Baron Dave, weck

    I read it as a break from St. John's Great Books reading list and I got into it quickly and finished it in juat a few days. I haven't yet read "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," but I have it on my Nook and look forward to it.

    The bit about the history of Paris's sewer system was a lot more interesting than I thought it would be, the characters were consistent and the weak points in the plot were very rare.

    The victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.

    by Pacifist on Sat Nov 02, 2013 at 08:29:39 AM PDT

    •  Sewers were interesting (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Pacifist, weck

      I'm on the final photo gallery follwing a two year project to repave the road next to where I live, which included major new work on the sewers, sometimes replacing pipes that have been around since the 1890s. The long bit about the sewers in Paris were interesting to me, for roughly the same visual/kinesthetic reasons the long panoramas of Paris buildings in Hunchback.

      But too much of the history was ephemeral and local.  One of my friends liked the book because she skipped over all those parts.  I skimmed them, hoping for a payoff that rarely came.

      "What doesn't have credibility today is the truth." -- Bill Moyers, The Daily Show 6/22/05

      by Baron Dave on Sat Nov 02, 2013 at 10:55:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It was fascinating, to me. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        The additional assertion that it was the real measure of a city's civilization was an especially interesting perspective. It was a lot more interesting to me than Tolstoy's bit about the irrelevancy of individual leaders.

        The victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.

        by Pacifist on Sat Nov 02, 2013 at 12:00:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  My copy is in four volumes, easier to read in bed! (0+ / 0-)

    If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever. &

    by weck on Sat Nov 02, 2013 at 08:36:29 AM PDT

    •  But how could you look up the footnotes? (0+ / 0-)

      Did they put the footnotes on the bottom of the page, or keep as endnotes?  On the Kindle, it was a push of a button to go to one, and another button to go back.

      "What doesn't have credibility today is the truth." -- Bill Moyers, The Daily Show 6/22/05

      by Baron Dave on Sat Nov 02, 2013 at 10:56:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The edition is actually 5 volumes, and published (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Baron Dave

        by David McCay in Philadelphia.  It is undated, and contains no footnotes.  A quick look on the net suggests the set was published between 1880 and 1910, and is valued at $99-$185 dollars.  I had no idea I had such an old book set, I will be especially careful of it now!  Thanks for the push!

        If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever. &

        by weck on Sat Nov 02, 2013 at 11:43:51 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I re-read this recently because it was assigned (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    grannycarol, Baron Dave, weck

    class reading for my son, and I hadn't read it since high-school.  It seemed much better the second time around.

    If the plutocrats begin the program, we will end it. -- Eugene Debs.

    by livjack on Sat Nov 02, 2013 at 08:41:33 AM PDT

  •  I mostly read it years ago when in my early 20's. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Got pretty much to the end and stopped reading when it seemed certain that Valjean was going to jail and quit reading because I couldn't bear that thought. And, so long as I didn't finish the book, Valjean was spared. Imagine my surprise when I went to see Les Miserables stage production. I remember commenting to my husband that all my effort on that book was for naught. What I read I enjoyed thoroughly, iirc.

  •  I read Les Miz years ago (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Baron Dave, weck

    and re-read it/scanned through it when the movie opened.

    Hugo probably is a bore- but to all those who finished the book- wouldn't you say he was an 'interesting bore?'.  After all- you did manage to get caught up, right?

    It helped knowing all the back stories when watching the movie. (Although, when I read the book, the Broadway play was running- and I started looking for the scenes where the songs occurred.)

    And I was glad to be able to explain some of it to friends.

    Especially dispelling the myth that the story takes place during the French Revolution.

    Growing old is inevitable...Growing up is purely optional

    by grannycarol on Sat Nov 02, 2013 at 09:19:43 AM PDT

    •  But what happened to the revolution? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:


      One of the big turn offs, for me, was how he left that part hanging.  After spending much of the book on the characters, how Paris needs the occasional revolution, how bad the king was, the construction of the barricade, the battles for it, etc etc, Jean Valjean leaves and... we never find out anything more.

      Knowing backstories helps.  I like to read the book before seeing the movie.

      "What doesn't have credibility today is the truth." -- Bill Moyers, The Daily Show 6/22/05

      by Baron Dave on Sat Nov 02, 2013 at 11:02:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Trying again just now (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I am trying again juts now, after several fruitless attempts. I have no problem with the plot - a few contrived coincidences, but a suspension of disbelief and it works. And i like some of the characters. But the long digressions - convents, sewers, Waterloo always stall me.

    Sewers and convents are irrelevant but still interesting, but waterloo is so boring and irrelevant

  •  How frightened hypocrisy hastens to defend itself (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Baron Dave, weck

    Seems to sum up the modern Republican Party.

    I have been trying to go back and read all those books I should have read, but somehow didn't. But mostly I read them because I am cheap. :)

    It is a bit of a problem with books written in another language because, even though the book is public domain, the translation might not be. I ran into that with Crime and Punishment, although I am told all translation have their problems. Than there was the problem with Ulysses. I was never sure if the text suffered from an OCR error, or Joyce actually wrote it that way. :)

    “We can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all the other possibilities.” - Winston Chuchill

    by se portland on Sat Nov 02, 2013 at 10:07:39 AM PDT

  •  Saw the play, the movie too (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    That was enough for me.
    If I want long books I read Michener

    Happy just to be alive

    by exlrrp on Sat Nov 02, 2013 at 02:01:01 PM PDT

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