“Do you hear the people sing
Lost in the valley of the night?
It is the music of a people
Who are climbing to the light.
For the wretched of the earth
There is a flame that never dies.
Even the darkest night will end
And the sun will rise.”
Written by Victor Hugo, Les Misérables (literally meaning “the miserable ones” in French and pronounced as “Lay Mee-say-harbl”) is a French historical novel that is known as one of the greatest novels in the 19th century. Beginning in 1815 and culminating in the 1832 June Rebellion in Paris, the novel examines the nature of law and grace, elaborating upon the history of France and its politics, moral philosophy, justice, religion, and the types and nature of romantic and familial love.
The novel, which consists of five volumes, each divided into several books, and further subdivided into chapters, follows the lives and interactions of several characters, particularly the struggles of ex-convict Jean Valjean, who becomes a force for good in the world through his experience of redemption, but cannot escape his criminal past.
In Les Misérables, readers will be taken deep into the Parisian underworld, and carried onto the barricades during the uprising of 1832, where they will be immersed in a battle between good and evil. Within this dramatic story by Victor Hugo are themes that capture the intellect and the emotions: crime and punishment, the relentless persecution of repeat offender Valjean by local policeman Inspector Javert, the desperation of a prostitute named Fantine, the amorality of the rogue Thénardier, as well as the universal desire to escape the prisons of our own minds. Another theme is that of love, especially about the love triangle caught between Cosette, Éponine, and Marius. This book is a must-read for people craving some historical action and excitement, so if you are one of them, do remember to look out for the translated version of Les Misérables during your next trip to the library!
Germaine Lee (3T)