( E X C E R P T )V I C T O R H U G OLes Miserables
Les Misérables(1862) is a novel by French author Victor Hugo and is widely considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century. It follows the lives and interactions of several French characters over a twenty-year period in the early 19th century, starting in 1815, the year of Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo.The novel focuses on the struggles of ex-convict Jean Valjean and his experience of redemption. It examines the nature of law and grace, and expounds upon the history of France, architecture of Paris, politics, moral philosophy, antimonarchism, justice, religion, and the types and nature of romantic and familial love. The story is historical fiction because it contains factual, historic events, including the Paris uprising of 1832(often mistaken for the much earlier French Revolution).
S u m m a r yBishop Myriel lives a quiet life as a just man, who is especially sympathetic toward the poor, bandits, and convicts. One day a strange man asks for shelter at his home and, with his usual compassion, the bishop gives him room and board. This man is Jean Valjean, who has just been released from prison after serving a lengthy, unjust sentence, during which he tried to escape numerous times. Valjean is angry, hurt, and vengeful. His soul has "withered" and all but died. The bishop urges him to replace anger with goodwill in order to be worthy of respect.
Valjean listens. Nevertheless, he decides to rob the good bishop. During the night, he runs away with the bishop's silver. He is caught and brought back to the bishop, who tells the police that he himself gave Valjean these precious objects. Later Bishop Myriel tells Valjean, “You belong no longer to evil, but to good. It is your soul I am buying for you. I withdraw it from dark thoughts and from the spirit of perdition and I give it to God!"
T r i v i a120 years earlier, Italian composer Giacomo Puccini attempted to adapt the book as an opera, but gave up on the project, declaring it impossible.