Saturday, May 23, 2009

Les Miserables

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, an Epic tale of social injustice, politics, heroism and love, is setup in the early 19th(1800s) century French backdrop.The commercial success of this novel is etched in history that could be best explained by an anecdote. while on his vacation during the publishing of this novel, Hugo telegraphed the publishers a single "?" to know the outcome and for that the publishers replied with a single "!"

I read the abridged English translation by Norman Denny original version being in French. The protagonist of the story Jean Valjean steals a loaf of bread in his early years and then spends many years trying to escape his reputation as a criminal.Though he is a changed man and rises socially, he is not allowed to forget his past by the sadistic policemen Javert who is determined to expose him. Jean Valjean thus runs from city to city with his adopted daughter Cosette escaping the clutches of Javert and the vile designs of the villian Thenardier.Many characters chip in and add their part making it more interesting and gripping.

The narration is simply superb with vivid descriptions and the love between Cosette and Marius is best described. For something similar to the "Annalum Nokkinal avalum nokkinal" scene here goes the excerpt
"Thus for the first year Marius saw them(Cosette and her father) almost daily in the same place at the same time. He liked the look of the Man but took no interest in the girl.

For some six months he did not setfoot in the alleyway.Then one day he went back and there was the same couple,seated on the same bench. But as he drew near them he was struck by a change. The man was the same , but the girl was not. What he now saw was a tall and beautiful creature,soft chestnut hair flecked with gold, a forehead of marble, cheeks like rose petals, a pale sensitive skin, an exquisite mouth.


She was no longer a schoolgirl in a plush hat and woollen dress.She acquired taste as well as beauty and now dressed with simple, unpretentious elegance.

Marius went by their bench. the girl looked up at him and their eyes met. What message was to be read in her eyes? Marius could not have said. nothing and yet everything. A spark had passed between them.

What he had encountered was not the frank innocent gaze of a child.
There comes a day when every girl has this look in her eyes, and woe to him who encounters it! She looked steadily at him with a soft pensive glance that caused him to tremble from head to foot.Marius was in the first violent and entranced throes of a grand passion.
A single look had done it."
The beauty of Cosette is best described from this excerpt
"One day when Cosette was in the garden she heard old Toussaint say:'Has monsieur noticed how pretty Mademoiselle is growing?' She did not hear her father's reply, but Toussiant's words filled her with amazement. She ran up to her bedroom and looked hard at herself in the glass.

She uttered a cry,delighted by what she saw.
She was beautiful as well as pretty.Her figure had filled out, her skin was finer and there was a new splendour in her blue eyes.

In less than a month she was not merely one of the prettiest women in Paris, which is saying a great deal,but one of the best dressed, which is saying even more."

I found the following lines pretty amusing and quite true too!!
"Cosette for her part,was giving away nothing.without knowing precisely what was happening to her,she knew that something had happened to her and it must be kept secret.

There is a law applying to those youthful years of agitation and turmoil, those frantic struggles of first love against first impediments: it is that the girl never falls into any trap and the young man falls into all of them."

Compared to the vulgar description of the intimate relationship that most modern writers are ept at, Victor Hugo has handled that scene with a single sentence, but the meanings' conveyed(such are the powers of the contemporary writer!!!)
"The day after the wedding is one of solitude. We respect the privacy of the newly-weds and perhaps their late arising."

Les Miserables is a good book to savour and read...


குமார் said...

//similar to the "Annalum Nokkinal avalum nokkinal" scene//

Anything can not beat this by Amarar Kalki

Praveen Krishnamoorthy said...

Yeah, Many have told me about the same, I am yet to read this.