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Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics: All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences-biographical, historical, and literary-to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.   One of the most widely read novels of all time, Les Misérables was the crowning literary achievement of Victor Hugo's stunning career. Though he was considered the greatest French writer of his day, Hugo was forced to flee the country because of his opposition to Napoleon III. While in exile he completed Les Misérables, an enormous melodrama set against the background of political upheaval in France following the rule of Napoleon I. This newly abridged edition of Les Misérables tells the story of the peasant Jean Valjean-unjustly imprisoned, baffled by destiny, and hounded by his nemesis, the magnificently realized, ambiguously malevolent police detective Javert. As Valjean struggles to redeem his past, we are thrust into the teeming underworld of Paris with all its poverty, ignorance, and suffering. Just as cruel tyranny threatens to extinguish the last vestiges of hope, rebellion sweeps over


the land like wildfire, igniting a vast struggle for the democratic ideal in France. A monumental classic dedicated to the oppressed, the underdog, the laborer, the rebel, the orphan, and the misunderstood, Les Misérables is a rich, emotional novel that captures nothing less than the entirety of life in nineteenth-century France. Laurence M. Porter has published twelve books, including Victor Hugo (1999), and a hundred articles and chapters. He was a National Endowment for the Humanties Senior Fellow in 1998. He teaches French at Michigan State University, where he won the Distinguished Faculty Award in 1995.  

About The Author Laurence M. Porter has published twelve books, including Victor Hugo (1999), and a hundred articles and chapters. He was a National Endowment for the Humanties Senior Fellow in 1998. He teaches French at Michigan State University, where he won the Distinguished Faculty Award in 1995.

Biography Novelist, poet, dramatist, essayist, politician, and leader of the French Romantic movement from 1830 on, VictorMarie Hugo was born in Besançon, France, on February 26, 1802. Hugo's early childhood was turbulent: His father, Joseph-Léopold, traveled as a general in Napoléon Bonaparte's army, forcing the family to move frequently. Weary of this upheaval, Hugo's mother, Sophie, separated from her husband and settled in Paris. Victor's brilliance declared itself early in the form of illustrations, plays, and nationally recognized verse. Against his mother's wishes, the passionate young man fell in love and secretly became engaged to Adèle Foucher in 1819. Following the death of his mother, and self-supporting thanks to a royal pension granted for his first book of odes, Hugo wed Adèle in 1822.

In the 1820s and 1830s, Victor Hugo came into his own as a writer and figurehead of the new Romanticism, a movement that sought to liberate literature from its stultifying classical influences. His 1827 preface to the play Cromwell proclaimed a new aesthetic inspired by Shakespeare, based on the shock effects of juxtaposing the grotesque with the sublime. The great success of Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) confirmed Hugo's primacy among the Romantics. By 1830 the Hugos had four children. Exhausted from her pregnancies and her husband's insatiable sexual demands, Adèle began to sleep alone, and soon fell in love with Hugo's best friend, the critic Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve. They began an affair. The Hugos stayed together as friends, and in 1833 Hugo met the actress Juliette Drouet, who would remain his primary mistress until her death 50 years later. Personal tragedy pursued Hugo relentlessly. His jealous brother Eugène went permanently insane following Victor's wedding to Adèle. His daughter, Léopoldine, together with her unborn child and her devoted husband, died at 19 in a boating accident on the Seine. Hugo never fully recovered from this loss. Political ups and downs ensued as well, following the shift of Hugo's early royalist sympathies toward liberalism during the late 1820s. He first held political office in 1843, and as he became more engaged in France's social troubles, he was elected to the Constitutional Assembly following the February Revolution of 1848. After Napoléon III's coup d'état in 1851, Hugo's open opposition created hostilities that ended in his flight abroad from the new government. Declining at least two offers of amnesty -- which would have meant curtailing his opposition to the Empire -- Hugo remained in exile in the Channel Islands for 19 years, until the fall of Napoléon III in 1870. Meanwhile, the seclusion of the islands enabled Hugo to write some of his most famous verse as well as Les Misérables (1862). When he returned to Paris, the country hailed him as a hero. Hugo then weathered, within a brief period, the siege of Paris, the institutionalization of his daughter Adèle for insanity, and the death of his two sons. Despite this personal


anguish, the aging author remained committed to political change. He became an internationally revered figure who helped to preserve and shape the Third Republic and democracy in France. Hugo's death on May 22, 1885, generated intense national mourning; more than two million people joined his funeral procession in Paris from the Arc de Triomphe to the Panthéon, where he was buried. Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Good To Know Hugo was seen by his fans as a grand, larger-than-life character -- and rumors spread that he could eat half an ox in one sitting, fast for three days, and then work without stopping for a week. Hugo owned a pet cat named Gavroche -- the name of one of the primary characters in Les Misérables. The longest sentence ever written in literature is in Les Misérables; depending on the translation, it consists of about 800 words. When Hugo published Les Misérables, he was on holiday. After not hearing anything about its reception for a few days, Hugo sent a telegram to his publisher, reading, simply: "?" The complete reply from the publisher: "!"

Reviews From Barnes & Noble

This Barnes & Noble Classics edition will be an ideal accompaniment to musical film production of Les Misérables that opens on Christmas Day. The extravaganza stars Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried.

If you're really up to it and like a good long book, the unabridged is about 4500 pages, but it's divided into 5 volumes and then the books in each, it's enough to keep you busy for a while :) I do like Hugo's writing style, it's descriptive in a way that it pulls you in, wanting to know more about what's going on, it s interesting the further you get into it. I don't feel bogged down as much anyway because I already got to the third chapter and pretty much get what's going on. Don't want to give spoilers away but I think anyone who appreciates classics and is familiar to this story even after watching the movie will be in for a treat. I read Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame and just like his style of writing. He's interesting :)

It took me awhile to read this book, but once I finished it, I put it down on my desk and just stared into space thinking '......' I couldn't find words to describe this book. It's characters, setting, historical value and above all, the style in which Hugo presents himself and in which this edition presents Hugo all combines to form a story that is not easily put down. From Jean Valjean to Javert to Courfeyrac and Marius and to Thenardier... these are just some characters that were broght to live with such fullness, so much passion, so ruch in their own ways, this is what made Les Miserables my favourite story of all times.


"Not like the play." You're joking, right? You do realize the play was based off the novel (which was written approximately a hundred and fifty years ago) and not the other way around? Les Miserables is quite possibly the most brilliant work of all classic literature. Personally, I prefer the unabridged version, but I can understand why people would want the abridged, as Hugo does tend to get a bit long-winded... I was told once that authors back then were paid by the page or the word.

Read An Excerpt From Laurence Porter's Introduction to Les Miserables  The Great French Novel Why do we still read Les Misérables? Not too many years ago, it was added to the required reading list for the agrégation in French literature, the competitive state examination that qualifies teachers at advanced levels. Its moral, social, and political messages remain pertinent to many of the situations we confront. But above all, Les Misérables is the unrecognized "Great French Novel," analogous to Herman Melville's Moby Dick, Alessandro Manzoni's The Betrothed, Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace, or Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain. I do not mean that it is necessarily the greatest French novel: one might prefer Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu, just as in the literature of other languages, one might prefer Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, James Joyce's Ulysses, Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, Kafka's The Trial, or Gunther Grass's The Tin Drum. The social, moral, and intellectual range of Hugo's characters far exceeds what we find in all these other great authors, whose social density is nonetheless noteworthy. Beyond that impressive achievement, Les Misérables in many respects conforms to an ideal type, an influential theoretical entity whose traits are realized only in part by any concrete example. The Great National Novel is capacious: it covers substantial amounts of time and space. It contains many vivid characters belonging to varied social conditions: it is not intimist in its setting, not a drawing-room adventure limited to family, friends, and courtship. It tells its sprawling story in a traditional mode, dominated by the controlling perspective of an omniscient author who, despite flashbacks and digressions, generally proceeds steadily forward, following the protagonists as they age. It usually deploys la grande histoire ("big" history, revolutions and wars) in the background, although the main characters, affected as they are by political dramas, usually are not leading players in them. It implies some connection between individual and national destinies. By the time he wrote Les Misérables, Hugo had had more direct political experience at the highest levels of government than had many other writers of his time. Very often the Great National Novel suggests the looming presence of the supernatural, hidden but at times glimpsed behind the scenes, or during "second states" of consciousness such as dreams, drug experiences, visions, hallucinations, illness, passion, or prayer. Hugo began writing Les Misérables shortly after spending several years of evenings at mystical séances, and after elaborating the religious system, based on punitive and redemptive reincarnation, that he finally made explicit in his visionary poem La Fin de Satan. The Great National Novel usually relegates artistic self-consciousness to the background: it does not become a Künstlerroman-the portrait of the artist as a young man-nor does it foreground the cleverness of the writer's craft by radical experiments in point of view, plot structure, stylistic innovations, or characterization. Instead, the Great National Novel quietly insinuates the mature author's hard-won wisdom through a series of aphorisms, or pithy, penetrating generalizations about human nature. These maxims demonstrate the author's ability to synthesize many experiences. The digressions are miniature essays on varied subjects-authors of the Great National Novel are born essayists and amateur philosophers-that aim to instruct the audience. In contrast to the Self-Conscious Novel (Cervantes, Sterne, Diderot), digressions do not serve to tease the expectant reader by delaying the forward progress of the story, but to establish the writer's authority as a portraitist of a wide world by giving glimpses into his or her encyclopedic knowledge.


The Influence of Les Misérables In the late nineteenth century, Les Misérables anticipated both the naturalistic movement and its opposite pole, the Catholic Renaissance. Whereas the realistic novel typically deals with the middle class, Naturalism deals with the working class and with the underworld. Repetitious, menial labor is difficult to dramatize in a novel; but Hugo devotes ample space to describing members of the working class at play (Fantine and her friends), and the criminal class at work or trying to escape from the police. In the Paris scenes, he depicts the grisettes (young proletarian women who wore gray smocks at their jobs, and who were stereotypically easy targets for seduction). Notably in the chapter "L'Année 1817," he emphasizes the inequities of their sexual exploitation by middle-class men in a direct way that Zola, with his sexual insecurities, could not (compare Zola's Nana, 1880, depicting female sexuality as a monstrous source of social corruption). Hugo has not yet received due credit for anticipating the naturalist movement in the chapters devoted to Fantine's life both in Paris and in her hometown. The Catholic Renaissance, which deplored Hugo's bombastic, prophetic rhetoric and his pretensions to revealing a new religion, also derived considerable indirect inspiration from Hugo. Like Claudel, who detested him and made a point of saying so, like Mauriac, or like Bernanos, from thirty to ninety years after him, Hugo in 1862 dramatizes his heroes' relentless pursuit by conscience, meaning our instinctive awareness of God. Hugo's appeal to posterity depends not only on the awe-inspiring range and depth of his masterpiece, Les Misérables, not only on his inspiring, idealistic visions of political and social progress, but also on the acute visual sense that put him well ahead of his time, but that can be captured and reinforced by modern media such as film and television. His extraordinary visual imagination is both impressionistic-sensitive to colors, including colored shadows, and to changes in light-and cinematic, aware of varying angles of vision and shifting vantage points. It involves an exceptional responsiveness to both light and motion. One can find striking proof of this in Hugo's correspondence. He does not write interesting letters; he wrote letters while resting from his continuous periods of creative work on most days, on his feet in front of his writing stand from 5 a.m. to noon, with a cup of hot chocolate nearby. In letters, he cares more about making contact with others than about thinking of precisely what he has to say. But the one interesting letter in the first volume of his correspondence describes his first ride on a train, and his fascination with how the landscape blurs and flickers as he passes it at speeds far greater than he had ever experienced before. Compare the description of what Jean Valjean sees on his carriage ride to denounce himself at the court in Arras. Notre-Dame de Paris provides even better examples. Hugo anticipates Claude Monet's famous series of paintings of the same subject when he evokes the changing light on the façade of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Following this passage, he executes the verbal equivalent of a zoom-in shot to approach a balcony on which an engagement party has gathered. Earlier, the description circling Paris from the top of the cathedral towers ("A Bird's-Eye View of Paris") anticipates the cinematic technique of the traveling shot. At the beginning of the twentieth century, polls rated Hugo as the greatest nineteenth-century French poet, but his gifts as a storyteller in his plays and novels were fully acknowledged on an international scale only when Les Misérables was produced as the first full-length feature film in France in 1909; within a few years Albert Capellani of Pathé and André Antoine of Le Théâtre-Libre produced a noteworthy series of silent films of Hugo's works: Les Misérables (1912), the play Marie Tudor (1912), and the novels Quatrevingt-treize (1914) and Les Travailleurs de la mer (1918). Lon Chaney's celebrated performance as Quasimodo in W. Worsley's film The Hunchback of Notre-Dame de Paris (1924) consolidated these triumphs. More recently, television versions of the plays Les Burgraves (1968) and Torquemada (1976) were triumphs. Today (November 2002), Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schoenberg's stage version of Les Misérables (1980), inspired by the rock opera Jesus-Christ Superstar, is still running in New York and on tour in the United States. It eclipsed the record number of international productions of a musical, previously held by Cats (see Porter, Victor Hugo, pp. 152– 156).

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