Les Miserables by Victor Hugo is one of my favorite novels. The characters of Jean
Valjean and Javert are inspired by Eugene Francoise Vidocq, a convict turned
cop and the creator of the Surete de France. He was also the main character in The Black Tower by Louis
Bayard. Valjean’s life has been brutal; convicted of stealing a loaf of
bread to feed his family he sent to prison coming out many years later a hardened,
bitter, dangerous man. Valjean is redeemed by the kindness of a good
man. Javert is a police inspector of considerable cunning, his
determination making him a feared hunter of men. Their paths will cross.
Set during a turbulent period in French history, the story begins in 1815, the
year Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo and goes on to the Paris Uprising
of1832. Blending historical fact with a masterful work of fiction, it is
a story brimming with good and evil, destiny and despair, cruelty and
mercy. There is passion, suspense, and grandeur in this timeless story.
In this major new rendition by the acclaimed translator Julie Rose, Victor Hugo’s tour de force, Les Misérables, is revealed in its full unabridged glory. A favorite of readers for nearly 150 years, and the basis for one of the most beloved stage musicals ever, this stirring tale of crime, punishment, justice, and redemption pulses with life and energy. Hugo sweeps readers from the French provinces to the back alleys of Paris, and from the battlefield of Waterloo to the bloody ramparts of Paris during the uprising of 1832.
First published in 1862, this sprawling novel is an extravagant historical epic that is teeming with harrowing adventures and unforgettable characters. In the protagonist, Jean Valjean, a quintessential prisoner of conscience who languished for years in prison for stealing bread to feed his starving family, Les Misérables depicts one of the grand themes in literature–that of the hunted man. Woven into the narrative are the prevalent social issues of Hugo’s day: injustice, authoritarian rule, social inequality, civic unrest. And this new translation brings astonishing vivacity and depth to Hugo’s immortal dramatis personae–the relentless police detective Javert, the saintly bishop Myriel, the tragic prostitute Fantine and her innocent daughter, Cosette, the dashing lover Marius, and many others whom Jean Valjean encounters on his path to sublime sacrifice.
Featuring an Introduction by the award-winning journalist and author Adam Gopnik, this Modern Library edition is an outstanding, authoritative translation of a masterpiece, a literary high-wire act that continues to astonish, stimulate, enlighten, and entertain readers around the world.
About the Author
Victor Hugo (1802-85), novelist, poet, playwright, and French national icon, is best known for two of today’s most popular world classics: Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, as well as other works, including The Toilers of the Sea and The Man Who Laughs. Hugo was elected to the Académie Française in 1841. As a statesman, he was named a Peer of France in 1845. He served in France’s National Assemblies in the Second Republic formed after the 1848 revolution, and in 1851 went into self-imposed exile upon the ascendance of Napoleon III, who restored France’s government to authoritarian rule. Hugo returned to France in 1870 after the proclamation of the Third Republic.
Julie Rose’s acclaimed translations include Alexandre Dumas’s The Knight of Maison-Rouge and Racine’s Phèdre, as well as works by Paul Virilio, Jacques Rancière, Chantal Thomas, and many others. She is a recipient of the PEN medallion for translation and the New South Wales Premier’s Translation Prize.
Adam Gopnik is the author of Paris to the Moon and Through the Children’s Gate, and editor of the Library of America anthology Americans in Paris. He writes on various subjects for The New Yorker and has written introductions to works by Maupassant, Balzac, Proust, and Alain-Fournier.
“Rich and gorgeous. This is the [translation] to read… and if you are flying, just carry it under your arm as you board, or better still, rebook your holiday and go by train, slowly, page by page.”—Jeanette Winterson, The Times (London)
“[A] magnificent story… marvelously captured in this new unabridged translation by Julie Rose.”—The Denver Post
“A new translation by Julie Rose of Hugo’s behemoth classic that is as racy and current and utterly arresting as it should be.”—Buffalo News (editor’s choice)
“Vibrant and readable, idiomatic and well suited to a long narrative, [Julie Rose’s new translation of Les Miserables] is closer to the captivating tone Hugo would have struck for his own contemporaries.”—Diane Johnson
“A lively, dramatic, and wonderfully readable translation of one of the greatest 19th-century novels.”—Alison Lurie
“Some of us may have read Les Miserables back in the day, but… between Gopnik and Rose, you’ll get two introductions that will offer you all the pleasures of your college instruction with none of the pain.”—The Agony Column