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Les Miserables (Signet Classics) Mass Market Paperback – Unabridged, October 1, 2013

4.7 out of 5 stars 898 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Hugo's genius was for the creation of simple and recognizable myth. The huge success of Les Misérables as a didactic work on behalf of the poor and oppressed is due to his poetic and myth-enlarged view of human nature.”—V. S. Pritchett

About the Author

Victor Hugo (1802–1885) was the son of a high-ranking officer in Napoleon Bonaparte’s Grand Army. A man of literature and politics, he participated in vast changes as France careened back and forth between empire and more democratic forms of government. As a young man in Paris, he became well-known and sometimes notorious for his poetry, fiction, and plays. In 1845, the year that he began writing his masterwork, Les Misérables,the king made him a peer of France, with a seat in the upper legislative body. There he advocated universal free education, general suffrage, and the abolition of capital punishment. When an uprising in 1848 ushered in a republic, he stopped writing Les Misérables and concentrated on politics. But in 1851, when the president proclaimed himself emperor, Hugo’s opposition forced him into a long exile on the British Channel Islands. There, in 1860, he resumed work on Les Misérables,finishing it the next year. With the downfall of the emperor in 1870, Hugo returned to France, where he received a hero’s welcome as a champion of democracy. At his death in 1885, two million people lined the streets of Paris as his coffin was borne to the Pantheon. There he was laid to rest with every honor the French nation could bestow.

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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Signet; Unabridged edition (October 1, 2013)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Mass Market Paperback ‏ : ‎ 1488 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 045141943X
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0451419439
  • Lexile measure ‏ : ‎ 990L
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.3 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 4.13 x 2.06 x 6.94 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.7 out of 5 stars 898 ratings

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Victor Marie Hugo (/ˈhjuːɡoʊ/; French: [viktɔʁ maʁi yɡo]; 26 February 1802 – 22 May 1885) was a French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romantic movement. He is considered one of the greatest and best-known French writers. In France, Hugo's literary fame comes first from his poetry and then from his novels and his dramatic achievements. Among many volumes of poetry, Les Contemplations and La Légende des siècles stand particularly high in critical esteem. Outside France, his best-known works are the novels Les Misérables, 1862, and Notre-Dame de Paris, 1831 (known in English as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame). He also produced more than 4,000 drawings, which have since been admired for their beauty, and earned widespread respect as a campaigner for social causes such as the abolition of capital punishment.

Though a committed royalist when he was young, Hugo's views changed as the decades passed, and he became a passionate supporter of republicanism; his work touches upon most of the political and social issues and the artistic trends of his time. He is buried in the Panthéon. His legacy has been honoured in many ways, including his portrait being placed on French franc banknotes.

Bio from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Photo by Étienne Carjat [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Customer reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5
898 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States on June 9, 2020
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Reviewed in the United States on March 4, 2021
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5.0 out of 5 stars "It is nothing to die; it is horrible not to live."
By Rex A. on March 3, 2021
I feel humbled, elated, jubilant and serenely contented, after finishing the longest novel, I have ever read in my life! Victor Hugo’s tour de force Les Misérables. With its hefty size of 1,468 pages, completed in 31 days, I look back at my failed attempt, last year, when I gave-up around 26% on my Kindle.

I’ve always wanted to read this magnum opus of a novel, but always felt intimidated by its Brobdingnagian size ( that too in tiny print)! To add fuel to the fire, the translations were quite candidly offputting as well. From time-to-time, the desire to read it, would surface, especially, when the 2012 movie came out, but would wane out naturally. However, last year, when I watched the 6-hour/episode of Les Mis on PBS’s Masterpiece, a mere desire grew up to be a full-fledged cacoethes to read the novel in full. Thank you, PBS!

Out of the various translations, I found this one by Lee Fahnestock and Norman MacAfee (Signet Classics), which is apparently the only complete and unabridged paperback edition available as one volume, to be the best. I really fell in love with this version, so much so that I was waiting for my evenings to continue where I had left it the previous day.

I did struggle a bit over the Battle of Waterloo sections with all the intricate details that only Victor Hugo can muster. As a linguaphile, I found his obsession over argot and cant bemusingly bright, curious, and entertaining. While I was somewhat lost a bit over the coordinates on the Paris Sewers section, I was laughing out loud over his deep disdain over the concept of sewers and how he had thought it out as to the environmental degradation and the corrosive, pollutive effects of letting out millions of gallons of sewer into the Seine.

I couldn’t stop marveling over the Chekhov’s gun of meticulous plots he had planted throughout the novel, so much so, not a minute detail was lost. Besides the plot, what a rich, noetic, thoughtful prose that makes it a feast to an ordinary reader, with a cornucopia of apothegms interspersed throughout the novel! Besides, I feel, as though right from Mabeuf and Fauchelevent to Jean Valjean and Cosette or Javert and Monsignor Bienvenu, the powerful characters in the novel – from small to big – are all indelibly etched in our collective consciousness. Oh well, what else to expect from a classic, eh?

Thankfully, besides my Kindle version (of the same book), I decided to purchase the paper-version this January’21, which is what is now heavily underlined, scribbled, and highlighted to delirium, so much so that this 40-day old book now of mine has become threadbare and sports a look of several years old! Just to collect the notes, my scribbles, and my thoughts from this book to my personal vade mecum will take several weeks, if not months. And that is the experience, I will always savor, whenever I fondly recollect of reading Les Misérables in full, for the first time.

While the 2012 movie was good, PBS’s Masterpiece version was better, the best experience was in reading Victor Hugo’s in his own words. I could see how, even in the 6-part/6-hour extended PBS Version certain directorial digressions had to be adopted for the screen.

Also, while there were some teary moments ("No vacuum in the human heart!"), there were also some, real moments of exhilarating guffaws – for e.g., the scene when Jean Valjean had to escape out of the nunnery by faking his own death with Fauchelevent’s help.

And, yes, I will be re-reading the same classic on my Kindle, in not too distant a future.
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Reviewed in the United States on June 14, 2021
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Reviewed in the United States on February 16, 2021
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