New post: Classics Dis-illustrated
A response to @matthewjmandel asking my thoughts on A Comparative Book / Movie Review of LES MISÉRABLES
It’s interesting. I agree with a lot of the comments about losing complexity, but I don’t have as much of a problem with the character changes (partly because I’m used to the stage version, where Gavroche is less political & the the Thenardiers are funny, but still dangerous)
Eponine’s probably the biggest change that isn’t just a simplification, but I think her role in the story still works, even if the details have been changed.
I do have a problem with the finale, because it’s *not* Jean Valjean’s heaven by any stretch of the imagination. It works better on stage, where it’s more like a curtain call for all the characters who have died.
The main place I disagree with the post, though, is about the theme and title. Listening to @readlesmispod talking about how the word is perceived in French makes it clear that *all* of the main characters are “miserables” and Hugo is linking the sympathetic wretched like Valjean and Fantine with the clearly evil wretched like the Thenardiers because, as far as society is concerned, they’re the same. Society looks at Fantine and thinks she’s just as depraved as Thenardier.
And Hugo is arguing that they *all* deserve compassion, that they *all* should have a better life, that society should treat them *all* better, whether they turn to evil when they fall or not.
So the musical is less of a complete inversion of the theme and (once again) more of a simplification.
Something I wrote after my third time through #LesMiserables:
Fiction can’t *prove* a point about about reality, but it can make you *think* about it, and consider connections or perspectives that you might not have considered before. And that’s a very valuable thing.
I finally picked up a print copy of Christine Donougher’s #LesMiserables translation, which is my favorite of the modern English versions. If my old copy was the Brick, this one’s the Cinder Block. Bigger in all dimensions and more than twice the weight.
There is another Manga edition of #LesMiserables????!!!!
(Pippin voice): I’m getting one!
LES MISERABLES (Omnibus) Vol. 1-2 by Takahiro Arai, Victor Hugo
Oh wait, I *have* heard of this one. It came out a few years ago in Japan, and now it’s been translated into English
*sigh* apparently there’s still no official English-language version of Shoujo Cosette
Tholomyes is losing his hair and teeth. How the heck did I not make that connection before?
Every time through the book, the bishop’s chapters are more interesting. But “In the Year 1817” gets more tedious each time through.
Argot, the sewers, the convent – there’s at least some substance there and you can see how things connect. “1817” is just a list of contemporary pop culture references that would already have been barely relevant 50 years on, never mind 200 years on and across the world.
Modern editions of it have more footnotes than text. Last time I read it, it took forever because I was looking up every footnote as I got to it.
And it’s all ONE LONG PARAGRAPH.
The bishop keeps reminding Jean Valjean about the cheese makers in the region he’s required to go to for his parole, and I can’t stop thinking of the joke in The Life of Brian where people mishear “peacemakers”
Yeah, I’ve definitely had similar thoughts over the past year.
Just noticed the list price for the Donougher translation of Les Mis is $18.32. How appropriate. https://www.ebooks.com/en-us/book/1210674/les-mis-rables/christine-donougher/
Javert is authoritarian, but he’s not a leader. He’s a follower of what he thinks authority dictates to him. Why? because he craves *certainty*. He hates having to think for himself. And submitting to authority lets him justify any cruelty he does because it *must* be righteous!
So when Valjean puts him into a position where he suddenly *has to start thinking for himself*, he (1) can’t justify who he’s been, and (2) can’t decide what path to follow, because he isn’t used to making decisions.
I also found out there was an 1863 edition from Virginia that removed all the abolitionist references, which explains why “Lee’s Miserables,” the Confederate soldiers who were fans of the book, didn’t flip out over mentions of, say, Harper’s Ferry.
Though considering that they somehow managed to identify with the societally-oppressed in a book about the evils of societal oppression, while fighting to preserve societal oppression…
Finding a specific translation of #LesMiserables as an eBook is tricky. Stores rarely list the translator & the market’s flooded with reprints of Wilbour & Hapgood. I’ve put together links to each English translation on Gutenberg & several eBook stores:
Thinking about how early in the siege at the barricade, before the troops arrive, a man called Le Cabuc shoots a bystander. Enjolras executes him on the spot to prevent the violence from spreading. He later turns out to have been an undercover police agent.
@readlesmispod Congratulations on completing the podcast! I really enjoyed listening to it and learned a lot, from the cultural background I was missing, to catching so many details and connections I’d missed.
@readlesmispod @FreedomTide I realized that I never got around to reading the unabridged version of Notre Dame, only an abridged one. I’m going to have to do that one of these days.
I don’t think I’ll live-tweet it, though!