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Product Description

It has been said that Victor Hugo has a street named after him in virtually every town in France. A major reason for the singular celebrity of this most popular and versatile of the great French writers is Les Misérables (1862). In this story of the trials of the peasant Jean Valjean—a man unjustly imprisoned, baffled by destiny, and hounded by his nemesis, the magnificently realized, ambiguously malevolent police detective Javert—Hugo achieves the sort of rare imaginative resonance that allows a work of art to transcend its genre.

Les Misérables
is at once a tense thriller that contains one of the most compelling chase scenes in all literature, an epic portrayal of the nineteenth-century French citizenry, and a vital drama—highly particularized and poetic in its rendition but universal in its implications—of the redemption of one human being.

From Library Journal

Geoffrey Rush, this edition offers a quality hardcover at a reasonable price.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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

 

"It was Tolstoy who vindicated [Hugo''s] early ambition by judging Les Misérables one of the world''s great novels, if not the greatest… [His] ability to present the extremes of experience ''as they are'' is, in the end, Hugo''s great gift." —From the Introduction by Peter Washington

From the Inside Flap

Sensational, dramatic, packed with rich excitement and filled with the sweep and violence of human passions, LES MISERABLES is not only superb adventure but a powerful social document. The story of how the convict Jean-Valjean struggled to escape his past and reaffirm his humanity, in a world brutalized by poverty and ignorance, became the gospel of the poor and the oppressed.

"From the Paperback edition.

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.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

From the Introduction by Peter Washington- Victor Hugo might be regarded as the Mr Toad of French literature: vain, arrogrant, pompous, selfish, cold and stingy; a windbag, a humbug and a fraud, absurdly puffed up with the immensity of his own greatness. But unlike Mr Toad, he was also an astute and energetic promoter of hisown image as a Great Man. The process began early. Writing in Hugo''s lifetime, Virginie Ancelot recalls the reception the young poet received in literary drawing-rooms when he arrived to read his latest ode. "...There was a few moments'' silence; then someone rose and approached him with visible emotion, took his hand and raised their eyes to heaven.The multitude listened. A single word was heard, to the great surprise of the uninitiated. And this word, which echoed in every corner of the salon, was:''Cathedral!''Then the orator returned to his place; another rose and cried out: ''Ogive!''A third looked round him and ventured:''Egyptian Pyramid!''The assembly applauded, and then it was lost in profound reflection." To the Anglo-Saxon mind - and, it should be said, to many Frenchmen - this is Parisian literary life at its worst: the posturing, the pretension, the self-regard, masquerading under the name of art. Yet Hugo is the man who wrote a handful of the most exquisite lyrics - ''Victor Hugo, helas!''said Gide when someone asked him to name the finest French poet - and at least one novel judged to be supreme. In his person, he sums up all that is most monsterous in writerly vanity; in his best work he transcended his failings. How did he do it? How did a monster come to write the masterpiece that is Les Miserables? * In an early essay on Scott, Hugo prophesies that"After the picturesque but prosaic novel of Walter Scott, there will still be another novel to create ... It is the novel which is at once drama and epic, picturesque and poetic, real and ieal, true and great, the novel which will enshrine Walter Scott in Homer."These words were written in 1823, just after the publication of his own first novel, Han d''Islande, and there is no doubt that Hugo had himself in mind as the man who could ''enshrine Walter Scott as Homer''. Anyone who can still get through this book may take a rather different view. Set in seventeeth-century Norway and dripping with gore on every page, Han d''Islande is nearer to the Gothic horror tradition than to Scott. For the man who really succeeded in reconciling the genres of epic and historic fiction we have to look further afield, to Hugo''s own admirerer, Tolstoy. Yet it was Tolstoy who vindicated the French novelist''s early ambition by judging Les Miserables one of the world''s great novels, if not the greates, and acknowledged its effect on his own work. Les Miserables was completed in 1862, shortly before the Russian novelist began War and Peace. The two novels are set in the same period. It cannot be said that Hugo had much to teach his junior about structure or characterization; like all his attempts at epic, in prose and verse, Les Miserables rambles, there are huge digressions and absurdities of plot, the characters are often thin, the action melodramatic. But in spacious, vigorous story-telling, in the use of an historical framework, in the relating of human events to a larger philosophical and spiritual context, in the deployment of fiction as a social and political weapon, in the exalatation of ''the people'' as a supreme authority, in the treatment of suffering as a dominant theme - in all these matters, Hugo exerted a profound influence on Tolstoy. Without his example, War and Peace might have been a very different novel. Perhaps the most extraordinary point of contact between them concerns Napoleon. One might expect the emperor to intrigue European writers in the early nineteenth century, as he intrigues Byron, Balzac and Stendhal, among others, but by the 1860s almost half a century had passed since Waterloo, yet Hugo and Tolstoy are still trying to unravel the mystery of one whose shadow falls across the entire century. For Tolstoy, Napoleon is pre-eminently a human being - an extraordinary man, certainly, the instrument of destiny, but still a man. For Hugo he is more like a superman, a mysterious brooding presence with almost divine powers. The point is made by an ironic comparison between Napoleon and Wellington. Hugo''s argument seems to be that Napoleon ought to have won Waterloo by sheer force of genius - indeed, that he did win it, when judged according to the rules of natural justice - but that Wellington achieved a victory on points by taking more care to spy out the lay of the battlefield and to estimate the balance of forces. Calculation is everything to the mundane Englishman, imagination nothing. When lightning flashes round the emperor''s head, the duke looks like a very ordinary man. While Napoleon surveys the heavens, Wellington consults his watch. Clearly, the image of general as genius was vital to Hugo''s own project of himself as a literary Napoleon, but there is more to it than that. Commentators have often lamented the digression on Waterloo which is quite unnecessary to the plot and, coming early in the book, throws it decisively out of its narrative stride. But Hugo, though careless of structural refinement, does have a more serious purpose here - a purpose from which Tolstoy must have learnt much, and not only in his description of Borodino. For Hugo, who in turn learnt so much from Scott, grasped the fact that by imprinting the significance of a decisive historical moment on the minds of his readers he could hugely enlarge the scope of his novel. Precisely because Les Miserables is about little people, the history of a great man is one means of linking their petty lives with the Infinite. (The link is made touchingly explicit in the chapter called ''In Which Little Gavroche Takes Advantage of Napoleon the Great''.) Even events as great as Waterloo, we are told, can hinge on details: the location of a ditch, the arrival of a platoon. Conversely, the most trivial life may exemplify a great truth - and in that sense, all lives are equally significant, for every existence embodies these truths. At the same time, Hugo''s treatment of Waterloo makes it clear that realities and appearances diverge as much in everyday life as they do in historical interpretation - and that the two divergences are linked. What a post-Waterloo Frenchman thinks of Napoleon helps to shape what he thinks of himself. Sometimes we try to envision history in our own image; sometimes we use it to understand ourselves; at all times we are formed by it without our knowledge. One function of fiction is to help us achieve that knowledge. Les Miserables is, among other things, an attempt to explain the people of the mid-nineteenth century to themselves. Jean Valjean finds himself in a certain situation because he is a poor Frenchman at a particular time. This is one version of Fate - the sociological and political explanation of things. But Valjean is like Waterloo: his life also has a deeper purpose, a hidden meaning. Hugo has a number of names for this meaning - Fate, Destiny, God, the Infinite. But whatever he calls it, we observe a complex dialogue throughout the book between the surface causes of Valjean''s predicament - poverty and ignorance - and their deeper meaning, to which he penetrates through suffering.

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Bookworm
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Hauntingly good – a must read
Reviewed in the United States on January 26, 2016
I am by no means a scholar . I cannot compare translations as this is the first book by Victor Hugo that I''ve read. After seeing the musical I decided to read the book. I''m glad that I did it in this order. Having seen the musical I did not get lost in the book''s twists and... See more
I am by no means a scholar . I cannot compare translations as this is the first book by Victor Hugo that I''ve read. After seeing the musical I decided to read the book. I''m glad that I did it in this order. Having seen the musical I did not get lost in the book''s twists and turns and I had patience when the story went off into different avenues. Likewise I could selectively read the sections on history.

I have always been moved by the story''s theme of morality based on law versus morality rooted in love. This book is unquestionably worth reading!! The development of the characters and their struggles are so rich that I found myself crying during parts of the book. While the musical is a moving and touching story , it is nothing compared to the book itself. The best compliment I can give to a book is that touched my life and that its main characters shall live on within my heart. My life is richer for having read this book. The many sections that I have highlighted I shall revisit over and over for years to come.
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Go,mom
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Great Edition
Reviewed in the United States on May 27, 2019
I am familiar with this story and have read several different translations and so this is a review of the Everyman''s Library edition and not the story or translator. The book is sturdy and not flimsy. It''s a rather thick book of course, but it opens and lays flat without... See more
I am familiar with this story and have read several different translations and so this is a review of the Everyman''s Library edition and not the story or translator. The book is sturdy and not flimsy. It''s a rather thick book of course, but it opens and lays flat without having to hold it down. The pages are silky smooth without any typo errors. Overall, I think it is a well made book of good quality and very economical.
12 people found this helpful
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Bookish Berkeley Girl
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Probably my most favorite book of all time.
Reviewed in the United States on February 5, 2021
This was my first book of the year. 2021. I found this book to be exquisite. It was characters and world driven. The writing was eloquent . and as I close the last page, I find I miss it already. This is probably my most favorite book of all time.
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Stan
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Exceptional
Reviewed in the United States on August 24, 2014
This is an exceptional book! A book of deep emotion and ineffable tenderness. I once took a music appreciation class. We discussed using minor chords, dissonance, sub themes, and lulls in the flow of a composition to make the beautiful parts more beautiful; the... See more
This is an exceptional book! A book of deep emotion and ineffable tenderness.

I once took a music appreciation class. We discussed using minor chords, dissonance, sub themes, and lulls in the flow of a composition to make the beautiful parts more beautiful; the one enhances the other. A piece of music I have become attached to over the past year is Claude Debussy''s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. The music kind of drifts through various melodies and has a certain amount of dissonance, but there is no overriding theme. Two short segments near the end are so touching and beautiful to me. They are not tied to any of the earlier melodies and, in that sense, could stand on their own, but if they were not part of this music the impact would be significantly less. It''s as if Debussy is saying: I had to put all of that other stuff in so that when I presented this you would understand how truly beautiful it is.

I feel the same way about Les Miserables. There are times when Hugo spends chapters--page after page after page--describing, defining, and providing back story--some of which has its own interesting anecdotes, metaphors, or simile, but that doesn''t seem germane to anything that came before. I found myself slogging through these sections wondering how they relate to the story, what impact they could possibly have. Then, finally, he ends up back at the story and some small thread of the tapestry he has been weaving comes to light; his comments are deep and profound. I underline them. I marvel at them. I make comments in my book about them. But when I go back later I realize his points are truly beautiful and meaningful only when I understand everything that came before. It is hard to talk about this book with someone who isn''t familiar with it because I realize they don''t have the understanding needed to appreciate the profound and beautiful, and that it is utterly impossible in a few short sentences to bring them up to speed.

I''m reading the unabridged version and would have it no other way. Sometimes reading it is hard and dismal; sometimes the vocabulary and foreign words are exasperating--thank goodness for a couple of good electronic dictionaries and Google translate; sometimes the history alluded to is unfamiliar--thank goodness for Wikipedia. But sometimes...sometimes the ideas expressed, the principles put forth, the calls to action, the feelings that come to me are absolutely sublime.
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John Welch
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
This is the Charles Wilbour translation: best Kindle translation
Reviewed in the United States on March 20, 2013
This is the straight Charles Wilbour translation, published soon after Hugo published the French original. Fahnestock and MacAfee have touched up Wilbour''s translation, but theirs is not on Kindle. I would give them five stars, so "plain Wilbour" gets four. Buy this... See more
This is the straight Charles Wilbour translation, published soon after Hugo published the French original. Fahnestock and MacAfee have touched up Wilbour''s translation, but theirs is not on Kindle. I would give them five stars, so "plain Wilbour" gets four. Buy this version, even though it has none of the great pictures in several of the Isabel Hapgood versions. Wilbour sounds like a great Victorian novelist...which is how Hugo should sound.

Don''t be frightened by the length of "the brick", as a Les Miz site calls the unabridged novel. The noivel flows like a great river...it pauses when necessary, it grabs you, it releases you, it amazes you. It gets to be a friend, and I was sorry to finish this friend.

No, you won''t need an introduction or notes or context or a list of characters, because Hugo gives all of that and more. A tour of the Waterloo battlefield, a precise description of the Paris sewer system, a "back-story" of a bishop, a discussion of slang, and a description of the social economy of capitalizing France. The book has it all.
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Paul Frandano
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A Few Personal Observations
Reviewed in the United States on November 9, 2016
Victor Hugo will simply not shut up. Or, not until he tells you everything he knows about his topic at hand. His chapter- and book-long digressions on the streets of Paris, their denizens (and particularly the street urchins of the city, the gamin), or the sewers of Paris,... See more
Victor Hugo will simply not shut up. Or, not until he tells you everything he knows about his topic at hand. His chapter- and book-long digressions on the streets of Paris, their denizens (and particularly the street urchins of the city, the gamin), or the sewers of Paris, their construction, expansion, and functioning, or the differences between insurrections and riots, or the long, shambling, somewhat accurate account of Waterloo, or so much else have exasperated readers for nearly two centuries now, even when they grant him a foreshadowing - deep, deep foreshadowing - method to his particular mad narrative style.

But he is a thrilling writer of timeless stories and memorable characters - even though, for all those words, descriptions, interior monologues, most of these strike me (with the exception of Frollo in Notre-Dame de Paris) as only a centimeter deep - and recalls for me two favorite 19th century writers, Dickens and Tolstoy, in his ability to elevate soap opera into art that stirs the heart.

There''s not much I can add to the many fine notices of Les Misérables here from Amazon reviewers. It has been on my bucket list for decades, and I''m happy to have finally got to it, in the Wilbour translation, which I specifically chose from the many options. I''ve come, grudgingly, to the view that 19th century novels not written in English are best read in 19th century translations. These are often criticized for their stuffiness and 19th century idioms. I''m going to surmise that, in the original languages, these novels seem stuffy and old-fashioned to contemporary readers of those languages. But I like Wilbour (and, for the great Russians, Constance Garnett). What I wish for the Wilbour translation, though, is that the Everyman and Modern Library editions would annotate the the long passages of untranslated French verse, inscriptions, songs, and scholarly rederences with footnoted translations and explain some of the more obscure references that only specialists will understand. Hugo loves to put his erudition on display and is a relentless name dropper, and his mid-19th century French readership probably caught most of his references. For 21sr century English-speaking readers, not so much. The meticulously annotated Modern Library Classic edition of Notre-Dame de Paris is exceptional for resolving in an endnote every question raised in Hugo''s text. I find it interesting that Wilbour left in the text so much of the original French. At the same time I recognize that educated English speakers of the 1860s will almost certainly have had some French. But I''d love a fully annotated Wilbour. If anyone who reads these words might direct me to such an edition, I''d be gratefully delighted.

And I''d also like to applaud Frederick Davidson, known also as David Case (which is, I believe, his true name) and a few other pseudonyms, for his brilliant narration of Hugo. I walk for an hour or so a day, listening to a book. When I''m at home, I sit down with the book itself and pick up at the point I left off in the audiobook. Case is so compelling an interpreter that he makes you want to listen non-stop to the radio play that is a well-narrated novel. Very often, I did, speeding up the audio to reading speed while following along in the text. To audiobookophiles, Case is a well-known, beloved voice (his narration of War and Peace is dazzling) of more than 700 titles, great and obscure. If you''ve found Les Miz (or War and Peace, for that matter) forbidding for its length, download the audio from your local library and try it as an audiobook. (I''d add, check the book out from the library as well.) Yes, it''s a very different experience than simply reading the text silently, but it''s similarly wonderful in its ability to expose layers of a book or highlight nuances of meaning that fast readers might miss.

This is a justifiably great novel, another one that has become a thing more talked about than read. Lovers of classic literature owe it to themselves to scale its dizzying heights.
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Eric R. Rickert
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
This was a high quality audio book and much better than I expected. Well done!
Reviewed in the United States on August 14, 2018
Originally, the shipment was completely crushed in transit and unusable. Amazon replaced it quickly so that part was fine and now I have a product in perfect condition. Regarding the book, I read Les Miserables years ago and remember the basics of the story. Listening on... See more
Originally, the shipment was completely crushed in transit and unusable. Amazon replaced it quickly so that part was fine and now I have a product in perfect condition. Regarding the book, I read Les Miserables years ago and remember the basics of the story. Listening on audio was tremendous and Frederick Davidson was great as the narrator. My new normal is listening to audiobooks on the way to and from work so this one took about 3 weeks to listen to the while thing. I am very pleased!
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Stephanie Eglantina Reynoso Pimentel
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
I will always love this book!
Reviewed in the United States on February 18, 2013
This is one of my favorite books of all time! It is a masterpiece! A work of art! A must read and a beautiful addition to your collection. I cannot begin to fathom how to put into words how I feel about this author and this particular book. I cried, I laughed, I was left in... See more
This is one of my favorite books of all time! It is a masterpiece! A work of art! A must read and a beautiful addition to your collection. I cannot begin to fathom how to put into words how I feel about this author and this particular book. I cried, I laughed, I was left in suspense. I went through all the possible emotions you can go through with this book and for me a book that can play with your emotions in such a way that you are on a roller coaster ride with your feelings, in such a way that you feel a sense of empathy towards the characters is a book with which the author has been able to successfully create a connection between the reader and the characters in the story! I loved this book and I do not think it is possible for anyone to not like it. It is a classic and a must read, and if you have not read it yet, I recommend for you to get it as soon as possible.
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Top reviews from other countries

Vincent E
2.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A very difficult book to read. The print is ...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 12, 2017
A very difficult book to read. The print is tiny and has chapter after chapter of totally irrelevant details.. I tried really hard to read it all... but finally gave up after 500 pages or so.. Life''s too short!
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Hazel Bridgman
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
It is lengthy but well worth the time!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 21, 2019
Love this story
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Salah Baban
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Five Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 3, 2016
Fully satisfied
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Gabriel
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Excellent edition of this remarkable piece of literature.
Reviewed in Canada on September 15, 2021
The work itself needs no introduction, it has been praised countless times by more knowledgeable people than I. I will say that this translation is excellent, I''ve read this in it''s original french and I do think Wilbour did a great job capturing most aspects of it while...See more
The work itself needs no introduction, it has been praised countless times by more knowledgeable people than I. I will say that this translation is excellent, I''ve read this in it''s original french and I do think Wilbour did a great job capturing most aspects of it while translating to english. In terms of the quality of the actual book fabrication, it''s everyman''s library, you''re getting a book that has been made with care, Smyth sewn binding and acid free archival paper, they make books that look good and last long.
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Peter E. Bradley
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Thank you, Victor
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 6, 2012
This is an excellent reproduction of a timeless classic. The philosophy of the Bishop of Digne shines through the being of Jean Valjean. Hugo''s penchant for wandering away at times, to the fields of Waterloo and through the sewers of Paris, is, for the modern reader,...See more
This is an excellent reproduction of a timeless classic. The philosophy of the Bishop of Digne shines through the being of Jean Valjean. Hugo''s penchant for wandering away at times, to the fields of Waterloo and through the sewers of Paris, is, for the modern reader, perhaps a little off putting. But the sheer scope and canvas of the whole is "extraordinaire". My only problem was that the hardback book was not wrapped in waterproofing, and was a bit water damaged and bruised on the base of the spine. Perhaps for mailing around the world, more robust and waterproof packaging could be implemented.
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Les discount Miserables (Everyman's sale Library) outlet online sale

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Les discount Miserables (Everyman's sale Library) outlet online sale

Les discount Miserables (Everyman's sale Library) outlet online sale

Les discount Miserables (Everyman's sale Library) outlet online sale

Les discount Miserables (Everyman's sale Library) outlet online sale

Les discount Miserables (Everyman's sale Library) outlet online sale

Les discount Miserables (Everyman's sale Library) outlet online sale

Les discount Miserables (Everyman's sale Library) outlet online sale

Les discount Miserables (Everyman's sale Library) outlet online sale

Les discount Miserables (Everyman's sale Library) outlet online sale

Les discount Miserables (Everyman's sale Library) outlet online sale

Les discount Miserables (Everyman's sale Library) outlet online sale

Les discount Miserables (Everyman's sale Library) outlet online sale

Les discount Miserables (Everyman's sale Library) outlet online sale

Les discount Miserables (Everyman's sale Library) outlet online sale

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