Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Book 9 of 2016 -- Volume 5 of Les Miserables

It is Finished.

And I am so glad I chose to read it (and persevered as I waded through the heavy bits).  Then again the musical is one of my favourite shows ever so I was predisposed to push myself through the text.

The ending of the musical, with Cossette and Marius rushing in to Valjean just before he dies is touching.  The original scene as written by Hugo is far more deeply moving.

This version included as an appendix a letter from Hugo to the publisher of the Italian version of the book.  In this epistle he explains why the book is not just a French historical fiction. He explains that it touches on social issues that are universal across Europe.  So the book is, at least in Hugo's vision, a social commentary (and a fairly powerful one at that). Some (or even much) of this comes through in the Musical, but not nearly as deeply.

THere are books that deserve to be read more widely. This is one of them.  On the other hand, I suspect that in its full form many current readers would give up in those long descriptive and extraneous parts. Which is a pity (though I still believe there could have been a bit more heavy editing--because I still don't know why we needed  long in-depth description of Waterloo just so we can meet Colonel Pontmercy and see him rescued by Thenardier).  Some of those long descriptive passages are truly beautiful. And without some of them the depth of understanding of the characters would be lost.

There is one other thought. Hugo writes assuming that we have a deep knowledge of the history to which her refers, refers in great detail.  The novel works without that knowledge. But I suspect there are bits that would make far more sense and have far more meaning if I were much more familiar with French history of the early 19th century.

If you have the time....I encourage the reading of this book.

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