Les Misérables – Victor Hugo
Les Misérables – Les Misérables (French pronunciation: [le mizeʁabl(ə)]) is a French historical novel by Victor Hugo, first published in 1862, that is considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century. In the English-speaking world, the novel is usually referred to by its original French title. However, several alternatives have been used, including The Miserables, The Wretched, The Miserable Ones, The Poor Ones, The Wretched Poor, The Victims and The Dispossessed. Beginning in 1815 and culminating in the 1832 June Rebellion in Paris, the novel follows the lives and interactions of several characters, particularly the struggles of ex-convict Jean Valjean and his experience of redemption.
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. Les Misérables has been popularized through numerous adaptations for the stage, television, and film, including a musical and a film adaptation of that musical.
“Hugo’s genius was for the creation of simple and recognizable myth. The huge success of Les Misérables as a didactic work on behalf of the poor and oppressed is due to his poetic and myth-enlarged view of human nature.”—V. S. Pritchett –This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
Born in 1802, the son of a high officer in Napoleon’s army, Victor Hugo spent his childhood against a background of military life in Elba, Corsica, Naples, and Madrid. After the Napoleonic defeat, the Hugo family settled in straitened circumstances in Paris, where, at the age of fifteen, Victor Hugo commenced his literary career with a poem submitted to a contest sponsored by the Académie Française. Twenty-four years later, Hugo was elected to the Académie, having helped revolutionize French literature with his poems, plays, and novels. Entering politics, he won a seat in the National Assembly in 1848; but in 1851, he was forced to flee the country because of his opposition to Louis Napoleon. In exile on the Isle of Guernsey, he became a symbol of French resistance to tyranny; upon his return to Paris after the Revolution of 1870, he was greeted as a national hero. He continued to serve in public life and to write with unabated vigor until his death in 1885. He was buried in the Pantheon with every honor the French nation could bestow.
Lee Fahnestock and Norman MacAfee have translated two volumes of the letters of Jean-Paul Sartre, edited by Simone de Beauvoir: Witness to My Life and Quiet Moments in a War. For their work together, they have received an NEA Translation fellowship and the American Literary Translators Association Award. Lee Fahnestock has translated fiction as well as four volumes of the poetry of Francis Ponge, including The Making of the Pré and The Nature of Things. The French Government honored her with the Chevalier de l’ordre des arts et des lettres. Norman MacAfee’s other books include One Class: Selected Poems; The Gospel According to RFK: Why It Matters Now; the opera The Death of the Forest; and translations of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s poetry.
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