Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Is It Really Worth Reading a Classic Book like “Les Miserables” ?


Victor Hugo, author of Les Misérables

Victor Hugo, author of Les Misérables

I’ve been working to shorten and tighten up the stories in my new series (a fresh tale every Friday) because I also publish them on Wattpad and most of the 45 million folks over there are around 18 to 20 and read on their phones.

But, does that mean a story like Les Miserables, at 1,400 pages, is something folks just don’t or soon won’t read anymore?

I doubt it—even though some will continue to love the shortest of forms, the longer and classic stories will remain…

And, those 1,400 pages are really 5 novels of about 280 pages each; and, lots of folks love reading a series, right?

David Langness, writer and literary critic, has published, over on Paste magazine, the article, Les Miserables at a Century and a Half, that 150 years having past us by in 2012…

He begins with some interesting aspects of the book:

“365 chapters long.
“One of the ‘half-dozen greatest novels of the world’, said Upton Sinclair.
“Packed with 11 major and 40+ minor characters.
“The source of countless dramatic adaptations, including the musical, which has played in 42 countries to about a billion people.”

There are plenty of other interesting facts listed; but, I’ll only share one more and let you discover the rest:

“Still universally loved and critically panned. Flaubert didn’t like it, many reviewers called it ‘immoral’, and French literary lions the Goncourt brothers despised it. As you can tell, critical opinion doesn’t count for much.”

Here’s one of many of David’s own thoughts about this classic book:

“Reading Hugo’s work today lets you meander slowly through the forest of his mind and see what the great writer and poet and playwright saw as Europe reeled from the Renaissance and the Enlightenment into the Industrial Age. This huge change in human fortunes took a gigantic toll, and that toll justifies the monumental scope of Les Miserables and its focus on the poor people who bore the brunt of the vast social movement from monarchy to democracy through revolution and war and hunger.”

And, this fascinating remark:

“Everything Hugo writes in Les Miserables, and the key to the book’s remarkable longevity and impact, revolves around one central thesis—that a universal moral order exists, far above and beyond the day-to-day vagaries of sect, sanctimony and the secular laws of civilization. Each human being has that morality within, Hugo argues and his characters continue to exemplify. And every one of us, he insists, has the potential for charity, courage and compassion—we all possess an essential, inherent human nobility. We’re not born in sin, but in beauty…”

So…

If you’ve never read one of the Classics, Les Miserables just might be a good one to start with
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2 responses to “Is It Really Worth Reading a Classic Book like “Les Miserables” ?

  1. juliecroundblog November 22, 2016 at 9:51 am

    If the book is like the play I saw on Saturday it is complicated and confusing. I guess seeing it as a dramatic production means a lot of philosophising and political content is lost but it did not make me want to read the book.I think I preferred the Pilgrim’s Progress.

    Like

    • Alexander M Zoltai November 22, 2016 at 12:03 pm

      I read it many, many years ago and was totally enthralled and edified…

      Like

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