The Temptation of the Impossible

Meta related to characters, plots, or other elements introduced by Victor Hugo in Les Misérables.
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sophiedegrouchy
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The Temptation of the Impossible

Postby sophiedegrouchy » Sat Jul 03, 2010 4:32 am

Okay, so I've been bringing up some of Mario Vargas Llosa's* ideas about Hugo for ages now, and it just hit me: why not just make a thread devoted to discussing his lengthy work of lit crit about Les Mis, The Temptation of the Impossible. There's certainly plenty to chew over in it. My particular points of interest include:
-His identification of Hugo with the sea.
-Dirty old man Hugo versus his chaste character ideals. (Also, Vautrin is neither chaste nor asexual; you're cool, MVL, but please pull your head out of your machismo and accept the gay.)
-His ideas about Hugo's conception of history, and how that plays into sacrifice, revolution, etc.
-His rather irritating criticisms of how Hugo depicted the revolution's aims.
-His fascinating, and somewhat unsettling, claims about the fundamental lack of communication between characters.
-Marius. I love what he has to say about Marius.

So...anyone? If there aren't enough people familiar with the work for discussion, I can post some passages that could yield some good things.

*I guess a few words about Vargas Llosa would be in order. He was, in his youth, as big a fanboy as anyone here, reading Les Mis to escape from the realities of military school. All grown up and recognized as one of Latin America's foremost authors, he spent a few years doing research on Hugo and published "The Temptation of the Impossible" from a lecture series that he gave on his findings. I'm currently working my way through some of his fiction and at least I think that the Hugolian influence is quite clear. And his books are incredible.

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sophiedegrouchy
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Re: The Temptation of the Impossible

Postby sophiedegrouchy » Sat Jul 03, 2010 6:17 am

On second thought, this might fit better in Brick Meta. Feel free to move it if necessary, mods.

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Col.Despard
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Re: The Temptation of the Impossible

Postby Col.Despard » Mon Jul 05, 2010 2:50 am

Oooo...I'll have to re-read it to come up with some concrete thought and input here. I remember being dissatisfied with his characterisation of the ABC and its aims, although I thought he made a fair point about readers not getting a sense of the concrete aims of the Republicans circa 1832 from a straight and narrow textual reading (even if Enjolras does describe the Housing of the Future in explicit detail). Although that diffuse expansion of the idea to encompass a broader horizon is part of the whole Hugolian point, I notice that a lot of readers seem to walk away without a clear idea of either specific historic circumstances or the precise aims and objectives of the movement (which, I suspect, is responsible for a lot of bad fanfic among those who haven't bothered with any contextual research and have instead limited them to Hugo's discussion of the socio-political situation).

Heh. It's all TOTALLY STRAIGHT. I remember that abrupt dicussion of Grantaire's death - it was something like "got himself killed for friendship", or something along those lines. So very reductive.
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Re: The Temptation of the Impossible

Postby a_marguerite » Mon Jul 05, 2010 11:27 am

I regret to say that I have not read it and will not have any means of getting it for a while. Could you post a couple of passages, if you have the time?

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Re: The Temptation of the Impossible

Postby sophiedegrouchy » Sun Jul 11, 2010 8:22 am

Will do, when I, er, find the time and volition. Because you're very right - discussion should not be limited to those with the ability to find, purchase, and read the book.

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YoungStudentMarius
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Re: The Temptation of the Impossible

Postby YoungStudentMarius » Fri Jul 20, 2012 10:20 pm

Hey, I just read this book! I saw the title when searching "Les Misérables" in the library system, and then had to wait forever before we could get it. There's only one copy in my entire region. But, I read it, and though I got some pretty weird looks at school when they asked me what I was reading, I enjoyed it. He had a lot of interesting things to say. One quote I loved was that one that someone said about VH being crazy and brilliant at the same time, something like, "Victor Hugo was a madman who thought he was Victor Hugo." You have to read it over a couple of times, and the explanation as well, but it's so true! He thought he was great and capable of greatness, and thought he was brilliant and better, which gave hime the ability to be great and brilliant and better than others. (In his writing, of course. His personal life was somewhat disturbing, and I was rather depressed after learning about it). I liked what he said about all the characters being larger than life, too, and then Marius just kind of being normal, which is why everyone thinks he's unrealistic. The norm in LM is to be abnormal! It's like...if someone who was not a lit geek and LM fan came on this board, they would be the strange one here, even though we're the crazy ones, I guess. :wink: I was talking to my parents about wanting to read and write analytical essays about Les Mis, and my dad started laughing, and told me I was funny. I said, "What? Why?" and he just looked at me. "I guess it is kind of funny...," I said, and he responded, "Kind of!? Yeah, and the Pope's "kind of" Catholic!" So I guess we're a rare breed.
Anyone else read this book? Or can you recommend others like it?
Our chimeras are the things which most resemble us. Each of us dreams of the unknown and the impossible in accordance with his nature.

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LauraLeZunzu
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Re: The Temptation of the Impossible

Postby LauraLeZunzu » Sun Feb 09, 2014 11:57 pm

I just bought this book :D Pure casualty, actually: it was one of the few left in a library that was about to close and I saw it and was like: eh! I remember this book... yeah, they talked about it in the abaisse!
And I think that author is awesome, soo it is in my hands now :D I'll tell you what's my mind about it!
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YoungStudentMarius
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Re: The Temptation of the Impossible

Postby YoungStudentMarius » Mon Feb 10, 2014 5:34 am

Ooh, you'll have to let us know what you think!

I was just thinking about this book the other day, actually. I'd really like to go back and read it again, now, it having been over a year and a half. I think there's a lot of things I would see in a different light the second time around.
Our chimeras are the things which most resemble us. Each of us dreams of the unknown and the impossible in accordance with his nature.

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Re: The Temptation of the Impossible

Postby Alouette » Mon Feb 10, 2014 10:10 am

I'm reading it too! I've about 60 pages left. I love Vargas Llosa so I was really excited when I found out this book existed. I think it's pretty hard to find so I appropriate the original poster's offer to post some of the more interesting passages.

I liked the parts about Marius, which YoungStudentMarius has also talked about and I'm happy someone else liked them too! I especially like his point that Marius's "mediocrity" (which is actually just his being realistic and not a Manichean superhuman like most of the other characters) should in reality make the reader sympathise with him, and the only reason this doesn't happen is because of that contrast. I'm such a defender of Marius and I think he deserves a lot more credit than he seems to get so that struck a chord. I also liked his idea that LM is set in a parallel universe which serves to explain our own, hence the bizarre coincidences which couldn't happen in real life, the fictitious characters getting mixed up with non-fictitious events and the exaggerations about the legal system, which are all used to say some truths about "our" world. We don't have to believe that someone could be sent to prison for five years for breaking a window and stealing bread in order to believe what is said generally about injustice in French society.


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