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Les Misérables (English language) by…

Les Misérables (English language) (original 1862; edition 2010)

by Victor Hugo (Author)

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22,885306121 (4.27)1058
Story of Valjean, the ex-convict who rises against all odds from galley slave to mayor, and the fanatical police inspector who dedicates his life to recapturing Valjean.
Title:Les Misérables (English language)
Authors:Victor Hugo (Author)
Info:Public Domain Books (2010), 959 pages
Collections:Your library

Work Information

Les Misérables by Victor HUGO (Author) (1862)

  1. 200
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  8. 20
    The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo (CorinneT)
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English (279)  French (8)  Spanish (5)  Italian (3)  Norwegian (2)  Finnish (2)  Dutch (2)  Portuguese (1)  Aragonese Spanish (1)  Piratical (1)  All languages (304)
Showing 1-5 of 279 (next | show all)
NaNoReadMo Challenge (which I made up myself): Pick a big, fat classic and read the whole thing in November.
Challenge Chosen: Les Miserables, Victor Hugo, 1231 pages unabridged
Challenge Completed: With 4.5 hours to spare*

*Granting that I completely skipped the description of the Battle of Waterloo except for the last section that introduces relevant characters; skimmed any religious, political, and sewer system-related** philosophy, whether Hugo included it as exposition or as character monologue; and flipped right on past the two sections on the role of religion in French society that the editor of my edition had the good sense to move to appendices.

**Really, Victor? Fifteen pages on the history and philosophy of the PARIS SEWER SYSTEM? REALLY?

In all, Les Mis uses the predictable 19th-century tropes in which only the perfectly good (Marius and Cosette) can have a happy ending, and characters that have even the slightest stain on their characters (Fantine, Jean Valjean, Gavroche) must pay for their sins with their lives. Cosette in particular is one of the most boring "perfect" characters I've ever read. She has hardly any dialogue until after her marriage, and then it's all simpering banter. And Hugo's idealization of Cosette as the perfect virgin bride is really ridiculous to 21st-century feminist sensibilities:
But suddenly a silence fell. The newly married pair had disappeared. Shortly after midnight Monsieur Gillenormand's house became a temple.
And here we must pause. A the door of every bridal bedchamber an angel stands, smiling, with a finger to his lips. . . .
The lover is a priest, the ravished virgin a consenting, trembling sacrifice. . . . When two mouths, consecrated by love, draw close together in the act of creation it is impossible that this ineffable kiss does not cause a tremor among the stars.


Thankfully that sort of dreck is kept to a minimum, and interesting characters get more scope. Fantine and Gavroche, although supporting characters, are my personal favorites. Despite his inability to realistically convey a young bride, Hugo does a good job with the "fallen" Fantine, describing her mistakes and the cultural mores that turn those mistakes into fatal failures. And Gavroche is just a lot of fun, right up to the moment when he's brutally killed. Which is less fun.

The "major" plot between the legalistically honorable but emotionally bankrupt Javert and the technically criminal but good-hearted Jean Valjean is fairly close to my memory of the stage play, and probably for that reason made the least impression on me. But those interactions also constitute some of the best action sequences in this genre and era of literature. ( )
  IVLeafClover | Jun 21, 2022 |
The author spends much time developing his characters, resulting in incredibly complex and dynamic people. He also doesn't refrain from waxing philosophic for a page or two every now and then. You have to be patient to read this book. Its not a "thriller" by any stretch like much American literature seems to strive to be. I would recommend it to moral philosophers and anybody who just enjoys reading. I am glad I read it, and certainly don't consider my time wasted, but I would not recommend this to everybody. Many I know would not have the patience for it. ( )
  Michael_J | Jun 2, 2022 |
Ahhhh....this audio book was amazing!! I was wondering how to introduce this classic without overwhelming my children by handing them the unabridged version that this bookworm fell in love with at the age of 14. And this came up for review!!

The actors were perfect! My children were captivated as they sat with pen, paper, and colored pencils sketching and journaling their impressions of the story. Finally a way to delve into a classic without without being overwhelmed. This offered the opportunity for my children to picture the story in their mind first. I was sadly not impressed with the movie so this audio version was perfect. My children laughed and cried with the characters and talked about the many symbolic things and under currents of the book. It opened the opportunity to explore the social and political climate of that time and discuss the ultimate impact of grace, mercy and love.

Thank you Tyndale for this review copy. ( )
  abbieriddle | Mar 1, 2022 |
I'm doing my main Les Mis re-read in Wilbour, but using this Donougher edition for notes and translation comparison. Overall, I feel like the flow and phrasing in this translation can be more stilted than Wilbour, hence why I'm using this as the companion instead of the main text (also the Everyman's Library edition got me with the ribbon!), but I like both quite a bit.
  misslevel | Jan 31, 2022 |
I found out Les Mis has 365 chapters, so, as I wanted it re-read it anyway, I'm making it a project where I read one chapter ever day in 2022. The first translation I read was the good ol' brick-- Fahnestock and MacAfee-- and after surveying and sampling all my choices I'm not going too far afield with this read-through, and sticking with Wilbour, though I have the Donougher alongside for notes and comparison. I am recording my impressions as I go, trying to write a little something about every book.

Vol. One: Fantine

I. An Upright Man -- Ah, the bishop! I think that this extended character profile is an extremely suitable opening to Les Mis, and allows Hugo to get right into some of the issues that most interest him. When you're used to the musical version, I think it can be easy to think of the Monseigneur Bienvenu as a bit of a cipher, a perfect angelic intervention into Valjean's plight, but Hugo's scrupulous detail on this first of his so-called "tangents" reveal all of Myriel's fallible humanity and humor. He reminds me a bit of a moralistic Regency/Victorian heroine, a Fanny Price or Agnes Grey-- could be irredeemably priggish in the hands of a less skillful author, but is instead endearing and revealing.

II. The Fall -- I had completely forgotten about the extended metaphor in chapter 8, the title of which Wilbour translates as "The Waters and the Shadow". Distressing and overwhelming. I'm reading Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell right now as well, and it was here that I started to think about all the overlap between them. The two books were published only 14 years apart (with English translations of Les Mis following very closely on, including Wilbour's) and both deeply explore the plight of the poor and the wretched-- the miserable, even. It's interesting to think about the contemporary readers who could easily have gotten hold of both of them as new books. I can't find much info about translations of Mary Barton, I wonder if Gaskell had much of a French readership.

III. The Year 1817 -- The tragedy of the surprise is heartbreaking every time, even when you're expecting it. Switching over to Felix Tholomyes and the double quatuor is our first jump to a seemingly entirely unrelated place, time, and cast of characters from what has come before (though of course we know they will later converge). But Hugo's consistency of style and precision of detail and atmosphere binds everything together even as we jump around. Cosette emerges from an ensemble. Tholomyes is wonderfully charismatic and detestable (I think we all know a Tholomyes). Btw, had to switch to Donougher to get translations of the songs-- the old habit of translators to leave verse untouched always confuses me.

IV: To Entrust is Sometimes to Abandon -- A short book, just three chapters. I forgot Mme Thenardier has among her faults being a novel-reader, ha!

V. The Descent -- I am impressed by how, in my opinion, Hugo is able to write about privation and despair both without glorifying them and without making the text so unpleasant as makes me want to just put the book down. Especially struck by the first paragraph of Chapter X: Results of the Success about winter for the working poor, which Wilbour translates as "The sky is but the mouth of a cave. The whole day is the cave." and Donougher translates as "The sky is a basement window, the whole day a cellar." Extremely evocative. I'm glad to be approaching spring, myself. Also, just noticed the similarity in title to Book 2. I wonder what distinction if any is implied between Valjean's Fall/chute and Fantine's Descent/descente in the original linguistic context.

VI. Javert -- Another short one. I find it interesting that the book named after Javert focuses not his introduction, which came just previously, but on the scene where he reveals his own perceived failing. Honestly, though, I think what we learn about his character here is more key to understanding the eventual arc of his story than anything about his background or the "dog son of a wolf" stuff.

VII. The Champmathieu Affair -- A book of three journeys. Valjean's moral/spiritual decision, the path of Valjean's dream, and Valjean's physical struggle to travel from M---- sur M---- to Arras. All three of them are rendered very distinctly by Hugo, but they all feed into each other. This is where we definitely get the best sense of Valjean as a complete character, not just what prison made of him, or the face he puts on as M Madeleine, but as he has been influenced and created by all of his experiences-- what he thinks of them, how he has been shaped by them in ways he doesn't understand or control. and how he acts because of them (each of the three journeys!). This firmly establishes him as the character that I am interested in following throughout the rest of the book.

VIII. A Counter-Blow -- I had forgotten about the exact circumstances of Fantine's death! Probably my memory was overwritten by the musical's version. Really absolutely heartbreaking, almost overdoes it with making Javert into a brute. And in general this book is a little brutal in the way it plunges you out of the extended sequence of Valjean's long day's journeys, and back into the realities of the rest of the world. Revealing your white hair, as it were. Short chapters full of business. Excitement, things progressing. And of course the Sister Simplice setup and payoff is amazing, gets me every time.

Vol. Two: Cosette

As I enter the second volume, the length of this review is already approaching insufferable, so it will continue in the Comments section of my copy of the book.
  misslevel | Jan 31, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 279 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (182 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
HUGO, VictorAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Charles E. WilbourTranslatormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Lee Fahnestockmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Norman MacAfeemain authorall editionsconfirmed
Bayard, Émile-AntoineIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Beaumont, Pierre desecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Denny, NormanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Donougher, ChristineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guidall, GeorgeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hapgood, Isabel FlorenceTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kauer, Edmund TheodorÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Keeping, CharlesIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lehtonen, J. V.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Picchi, MarioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rose, JulieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sabard, Marie-Hélènesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Serdav, ManuelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thirlwell, AdamIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tombs, RobertIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Voionmaa, EinoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ward, LyndIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilbour, Charles E.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wraxall, LascellesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Solange kraft der Gesetze und Sitten eine soziale Verdammnis existiert, die auf künstlichem Weg, inmitten einer hoch entwickelten Zivilisation, Höllen schafft und noch ein von Menschen gewolltes Fatum zu dem Schicksal, das von Gott kommt, hinzufügt ; solange die drei Probleme des Jahrhunderts, die Entartung des Mannes durch das Proletariat, die Entsittlichung des Weibes infolge materieller Not und die Verwahrlosung des Kindes, nicht gelöst sind ;
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In the Year 1815 Monseigneur Charles-François-Bienvenu Myriel was Bishop of Digne.
So long as there shall exist, by virtue of law and custom, decrees of damnation pronounced by society, artificially creating hells amid the civilization of the earth, and adding the element of human fate to divine destiny; so long as the three great problems of the century - the degradation of man through pauperism, the corruption of woman through hunger, the crippling of children through lack of light - are unsolved; so long as social asphyxia is possible in any part of the world - in other words, and with a still wider significance, so long as ignorance and poverty exist on earth, books of the nature of Les Miserables cannot fail to be of use. (Preface)
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This work represents complete editions. Please do not combine with the first volume of multi-volume editions.
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Story of Valjean, the ex-convict who rises against all odds from galley slave to mayor, and the fanatical police inspector who dedicates his life to recapturing Valjean.

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Book description
Ce prost sunt! îşi zise Jean Valjean. Nu-l remarcase încă şi i-l arăt chiar eu.
O, naivitate a bătrânilor! Înţelepciune a copiilor!
Haiku summary
A fugitive man
gets a new name and new life.
He adopts a girl.


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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140444300, 1846140498, 0141392606


An edition of this book was published by HighBridge.

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HighBridge Audio

An edition of this book was published by HighBridge Audio.

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Tantor Media

2 editions of this book were published by Tantor Media.

Editions: 1400102758, 1400109000

Recorded Books

An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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