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Les Mis

Introducing one of the most famous characters in literature, Jean Valjean - the noble peasant imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread - Les Misérables (1862) ranks among the greatest novels of all time. In it Victor Hugo takes readers deep into the Parisian underworld, immerses them in a battle between good and evil, and carries them onto the barricades during the uprising of 1832 with a breathtaking realism that is unsurpassed in modern prose.

Within his dramatic story are themes that capture the intellect and the emotions: crime and punishment, the relentless persecution of Valjean by Inspector Javert, the desperation of the prostitute Fantine, the amorality of the rogue Thénardier and the universal desire to escape the prisons of our own minds. Les Misérables gave Victor Hugo a canvas upon which he portrayed his criticism of the French political and judicial systems, but the portrait which resulted is larger than life, epic in scope - an extravagant spectacle that dazzles the senses even as it touches the heart.

About the author

Victor Hugo

He was born in Besançon on February 26th, 1802. He was raised by his mother Sophie Trébuchet. From 1815 to 1818 he began to write tragedies and poetry, and translated Virgil, his first collection of poems, was "Odes Et Poesies Diverses". In 1823 Victor Hugo published his first novel "Han D'Islande", which appeared first anonymously. In 1831 he published one of the most famous works, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and brought him an instant success.  In his later life Hugo became involved in politics as a supporter of the republican form of government.  In 1862 he wrote Les Misérables the novel that we are talking about. Hugo died in Paris on May 22, 1885 and more than two million people joined his funeral procession in Paris.


Jean Valjean -  Cosette’s adopted father. Valjean is an ex-convict who leaves behind a life of hatred and deceit and makes his fortune with his innovative industrial techniques. He finds fulfillment in loving his adopted daughter and helping people who are in difficult situations, even when it means risking his own life and welfare. Valjean adopts pseudonyms to evade the police and combines a convict’s street smarts with his newfound idealism and compassion. His whole life is a quest for redemption, and he ultimately finds bliss on his deathbed.

Cosette -  Fantine’s daughter, who lives as Valjean’s adopted daughter after her mother dies. Cosette spends her childhood as a servant for the Thénardiers in Montfermeil, but even this awful experience does not make her hardened or cynical. Under the care of Valjean and the nuns of Petit-Picpus, Cosette ultimately blossoms into a beautiful, educated young woman. She finds fulfillment in her love for Marius. Cosette is innocent and docile, but her participation in Valjean’s many escapes from the law show that she also possesses intelligence and bravery.

Javert - A police inspector who strictly believes in law and order and will stop at nothing to enforce France’s harsh penal codes. Javert is incapable of compassion or pity, and performs his work with such passion that he takes on a nearly animal quality when he is on the chase. He nurses an especially strong desire to recapture Valjean, whose escapes and prosperity he sees as an affront to justice. Ultimately, Javert is unable to say with certainty that Valjean deserves to be punished. This ambiguity undermines the system of belief on which Javert bases his life and forces him to choose between hypocrisy and honor.

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