1.2 La Chute/The Fall, 15/09/10-27/09/10

Abaissé re-reads the novel in its entirety! All welcome, no matter whether you're reading in French or some other translation. Discussion topics for each step along the way.

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1.2 La Chute/The Fall, 15/09/10-27/09/10

Postby Frédérique » Wed Sep 15, 2010 6:18 pm

Volume 1: Fantine, book 2: The Fall

Chapters:

1. Le soir d'un jour de marche/The evening of a day spent walking
2. La prudence conseillée à la sagesse/Wisdom giving counsel to prudence
3. Héroïsme de l'obéissance passive/The heroism of passive obedience
4. Détails sur les fromageries de Pontarlier/Details on the cheese-dairies of Pontarlier
5. Tranquillité/Tranquility
6. Jean Valjean/Jean Valjean
7. Le dedans du désespoir/The interior of despair
8. L'onde et l'ombre/The wave and the shadow
9. Nouveaux griefs/New grievances
10. L'homme réveillé/The man awakened
11. Ce qu'il fait/What he does
12. L'évêque travaille/The bishop works
13. Petit-Gervais/Little Gervais

You can find the French text of this book (and indeed the whole of Volume 1) here and, for quick reference/quotation, the Hapgood English translation here.

In which Hugo introduces Jean Valjean, the primary protagonist of what will remain the overarching narrative for the rest of the book. Having lately been released from the bagno at Toulon after absolving a nineteen year sentence that grew out of the initial offence of stealing a loaf of bread, he passes through Digne, where an encounter with Bishop Myriel will forever change the way he sees himself in relation to other humans - even if it's hardly mutual.
Apart from showing the Bishop and his household in action once more, the book also contains a lengthy reflection on THE ABYSS into which a man is cast (thereby shortly becoming himself AN ABYSS) once fallen (likely pushed) through the cracks of society.

In other words, IT'S ROLLING! PROPERLY! Prepare to be plunged into the ABYSS action!

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Re: 1.2 La Chute/The Fall, 15/09/10-28/09/10

Postby Ulkis » Wed Sep 15, 2010 9:06 pm

Prepare to be plunged into the ABYSS action!


Hee.

Oh, Norman Denny, why do you call this book "The Outcast"?

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Re: 1.2 La Chute/The Fall, 15/09/10-28/09/10

Postby collectingbees » Wed Sep 15, 2010 9:58 pm

Yay! This part of the Brick! I really have to say, after it gets passed the 60 pages of what feels like the Never-ending Story of Bishop, the story really kick-starts and becomes to engrossing.

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Re: 1.2 La Chute/The Fall, 15/09/10-28/09/10

Postby MmeBahorel » Thu Sep 16, 2010 2:42 am

Notes! Uhm, the translation in Note 15 is a little funky as I can't tell if Rosa is talking about novelistic conventions entirely, novelistic conventions of the period, or conventions of the Romantic movement because French is unhelpful like that. Anyone who can clarify, please feel free.

Chapter I
Note 1 (Book title): Après la sainteté adamique de Mgr Bievenu – son jardin est un Éden - , ce titre assimile le livre à une Bible et l'aventure de Jean Valjean à une Histoire Sainte.
After the Adamic holiness of Mgr Bievenu – his garden is an Eden – this title compares the book with a Bible and the adventure of Jean Valjean with a Bible story.

Note 2 (October 1815): Avec le motif biblique se tisse le motif napoléonien. En cet automne 1815, Jean valjean recommence à l'envers le << vol de l'aigle >> : les hôtes empressés de l'Empereur rejettent le bagnard et l'évêque dissident l'accueille.
With the biblical motif is woven the Napoleonic motif. In this autumn 1815, Jean Valjean reverses the “flight of the Eagle”: the attentive hosts of the Emperor reject the convict and the dissident bishop welcomes him.

Note 3 (46 or 48 years old): Le héros est donc né entre 1769 – naissance de Napoléon – et 1772 – naissance de Sophie Trébuchet, mère de V. Hugo. L'incertitude sera levée à la fin de I, 2, 3. Sur toutes les questions de chronologie – personnelle et historique – voir l'étude de Y. Gohin, << Une histoire qui date >>, Lire Les Misérables, J. Corti, 1985.
The hero is thus born between 1769 – birth of Napoleon – and 1772 – birth of Sophie Trébuchet, V. Hugo's mother. The uncertainty will be resolved at the end of I, 2, 3. On all questions of chronology – personal and historical – see the study by Y. Gohin, “A history that stands out”, To Read Les Misérables, J. Corti, 1985. (the essay title is a pun, I think - “dater” can mean “to assign a date”, “to date from” (dater de), also “to stand out”.)

Note 4 (Napoleon going from Cannes to Paris): Ici se confirme le parallélisme inverse des trajets de Napoléon Ier et de Jean Valjean.
Here is confirmed the inverse parallel of the trajectories of Napoleon I and Jean Valjean.

Chapter II
Note 5 (a great work on the Devoirs [Duty]): On sait qu'en 1832, Hugo avait reçu d'un inconnu un Sommaire de l'exposition de la doctrine renfermée dans les Saintes Écritures, définie par les Concile, expliquée par les Saint Pères (Les Misérables, édition de l'Imprimerie nationale, << Historique >>, t. II, p. 594). C'est dans ce Sommaire que V. Hugo a coché et repris les titres et les références du traité du Mgr Bienvenu.
We know that in 1832, Hugo had received from someone unknown a Summary of the Exposition of the Withdrawn Doctrine of the Holy Scriptures, Defined by the Councils, Explained by the Holy Fathers (Les Misérables, Imprimerie Nationale edition, “Historique”, II, p. 594). It's in this Summary that V. Hugo checked off and picked up again the titles and references to Mgr Bienvenu's treatise.

Note 6 (to virgins in Epistle to the Corinthians): Voir Rom., XIII, 1-7 ; I Pierre, II, 13 ; III, 7 ; Eph. V, 21 ; VI, 9 ; Hébr., XII, 14 ; XIII, 17 ; I Cor., VII, 25-35.
See Romans 13:1-7; I Peter 2:13, 3:7; Ephesians 5:21, 6:9; Hebrews 12:14, 13:17; I Corinthians 7:25-35.

Chapter III
Note 7 (Chapter title): Peu avant le coup d'État de 1851, une circulaire avait défini l'obéissance passive exigée de l'armée. Un poème de Châtiments intitulé À l'obéissance passive stigmatise la chose et le mot, entendu ici par antiphrase.
A little before the 1851 coup d'etat, a circular had defined the passive obedience demanded of the army. A poem in Les Châtiments titled “A l'obéissance passive” stigmatises the thing and the word, heard here by antiphrasis.

Note 8 (old wine of Mauves): Mauves en Vivarais, canton de Tournon (Ardèche), non loin du clos de l'Hermitage.
Mauves in Vivarais, canton of Tournon (Ardèche), not far from the Clos de l'Hermitage. (Clos de l'Hermitage seems to produce a decent, not expensive Côtes du Rhône these days. There is a Côtes du Vivarais AOC, so you can at least get some of the same terroir even though all the grape plantings are post-phylloxera.)

Chapter IV
Note 9 (M. de Lucenet): Ce nom rappelle celui du village de Lucenay, traversé par Hugo et les Nodier lors du voyage aux Alpes de l'été 1825, où les touristes ne trouvèrent à dévorer qu'une miniscule omelette restée légendaire dans la famille. Voir Victor Hugo raconté par Adèle Hugo, ouv. Cit., p. 398.
This name recalls that of the village of Lucenay, passed through by Hugo and the Nodier family during their trip to the Alps in the summer of 1825, where the tourists could only manage to find a miniscule omelette to devour, remained a legend in the family. See Victor Hugo Recounted by Adele Hugo, p. 398.

Note 10 (a patriarchal industry): Le socialiste Fourier avait donné les fromageries de Pontarlier comme modèle des associations ouvrières de l'avenir. Hugo en fait un exemple d'industrie << patriarcale >>, considérant depuis longtemps les propositions des socialistes utopiques comme régressives.
The socialist Fourier had given the cheese producers of Pontarlier as a model of workers associations of the future. Hugo makes of them an example of “antediluvian” industry, considering for a long time the propositions of utopian socialists regressive. (“patriarcal” is really “of the patriarchs”, as in “Old Testament patriarchs”, not “of the patriarchy”.)

Note 11 (a buckskin of the Black Forest): Cette peau a existé. Victor l'avait achetée à Tüttlingen et offert à Juliette lors de leur voyage en Forêt-Noire, en octobre 1840. << Je suis ravie de votre idée, mon Toto, de mettre votre peau de chevreuil sur le lit. Je tiens à conserver le souvenir de notre charmant petit voyage à travers la Forêt-Noire. >> (Lettres de Juliette, Har Po, 1985).
This skin existed. Victor had bought it at Tuttlingen and offered it to Juliette during their travels in the Black Forest in October 1840. “I am delighted with your idea, my Toto, to put your buckskin on the bed. I like to keep the souvenir of our charming little trip across the Black Forest.” (Letters to Juliette, Har Po, 1985).

Chapter VI
Note 12 (with seven small children): Comme dans le conte de Petit Poucet. Ces sept petits enfants, abandonnés et perdus eux aussi, se retrouvent dans le Victor Hugo raconté par Adèle Hugo (ouv. cit., p. 124) pour caractériser cette fois l'abandon des enfants Hugo par leur père, en Italie : << Un soir, comme le petit Poucet entendant la détermination de ses parents de le perdre lui et ses frères, ils avaient entendu leur père, causant d'eux, exiger de leur mère qu'on mît Abel, son aîné, dans un lycée et les deux plus petits dans une école. >>
As in the story of Hop o' My Thumb. These seven small children, abandoned and lost themselves too, meet again in Victor Hugo Recounted by Adele Hugo (p. 124) to characterise this time the abandonment of the Hugo children by their father in Italy: “One evening, like Hop o'My Thumb hearing the determination of his parents to lose him and his brothers, they had heard their father, chatting about them, demand of their mother that they put Abel, his eldest, in a lycée and the two younger ones in a school.”

Note 13 (a poor street near Saint-Sulpice, rue du Geindre): Actuelle rue Madame. C'est le quartier de Paris où Hugo a passé sa jeunesse, notamment rue Mézières, aboutissement de la rue du Geindre. Le nom de cette rue désigne métonymiquement la souffrance du petit. A cause du cri étouffé qui accompagne l'effort du pétrin, on nommait enfin << geindre >> un apprenti boulanger.
Actual rue Madame. This is the neighbourhood of Paris where Hugo passed his youth, notably rue Mézières, where the rue de Geindre ends. The name of this street metonymically designates the suffering of the little one. Because of the stifled cry that accompanies the effort of the kneading-trough, an apprentice baker was in the end called “geindre”.

Note 14 (Claude Gueux): Héros-titre de la nouvelle de Hugo publiée en 1834 – voir le volume Roman I.
Titular hero of Hugo's novel published in 1834 – see the volume Novel I. (Also, Claude Gueux actually existed and the real issue had to do with a prison affair that Hugo cleaned up to appear a father/son relationship instead of lovers.)

Note 15 (have hunger as the immediate cause): En totale infraction aux lois du genre romanesque, cette intervention direct de l'écrivain, opposant brutalement la vérité numérique à la vraisemblance et au grief de redit ou de lieu commun, dénonce l'un par l'autre le savoir romanesque – truqué – et le savoire sociologique – abstrait : qui s'est jamais ému d'une statistique ? Le texte est désigné comme le moyen nécessaire d'une connaissance véridique : exact et efficace.
In complete offense of the laws of the novelistic (or Romantic) genre, this direct intervention of the writer, brutally opposing statistical truth to plausibility and to grievance of repetition or common place, denounces one with the other novelistic (or Romantic) knowledge – fixed (rigged?) - and sociological knowledge – abstract: who was ever moved by a statistic? The text is designated as the necessary means of truthful (genuine?) consciousness: exact and effective.

Chapter IX
Note 16 (he considered himself robbed): La conduite de l'entreprenuer de Grasse inverse la parabole des ouvriers de la dernière heure (Matthieu, XX, 1-16).
The conduct of the contractor of Grasse reverses the parable of the workers of the last hour (Matthew 20:1-16).

Chapter X
Note 17 (a miner's drill): Ce chandelier sera au chapitre 12 métamorphosé en chandelier de l'argent, mais retrouvera sa vocation primitive dans Les mines et les mineurs (III, 7, 1).
This “candlestick” will be in Chapter 12 transformed into a candlestick of silver, but will rediscover its primitive vocation in Mines and Miners (III, 7, 1).

Chapter XIII
Note 18 (shard of old blue faience): Ce tesson bleu, en rappelant La Conscience (La Légende des siècles, Première série, I, 2) évoque un oeil ouvert, avant que la pièce de quarante sous ne devienne explicitement << un oeil ouvert fixé sur lui >> et ne rende la vue à Jean Valjean aveugle.
This blue shard, in recalling the Conscience (The Legend of the Centuries, First Series, I, 2) evokes an open eye, before the 40 sous piece becomes explicitly “an open eye fixed on him” and renders sight to blind Jean Valjean.

Note 19 (blinded by virtue): Singulier jeu avec le mythe de la caverne – que suffit à désigner la chouette emblématique. Car Hugo conclut tout au contraire de Platon : au lieu de l'éclairissement progressif des prisonniers philosophiques, Jean Valjean ne retrouve la vue qu'au terme des commotions alternées de la nuit noire et de l'éblouissement.
Singular play on the myth of the cave – that suffices to designate the owl emblematic. Because Hugo concludes to the contrary of Plato: instead of progressive enlightenment of the philosophical prisoners, Jean Valjean recovers sight only in terms of alternate shocks of black night and dazzling light.
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard

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Re: 1.2 La Chute/The Fall, 15/09/10-28/09/10

Postby Lara » Fri Sep 17, 2010 5:10 am

You guys make me really want to take up French again, just so that I can one day read The Brick in its original text.

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Re: 1.2 La Chute/The Fall, 15/09/10-28/09/10

Postby goodythreeshoes » Sat Sep 18, 2010 10:31 pm

Sorry guys, I totally didn't participate in the last chapter. I was soooo busy, school started, GCSE panic came in, loads of crap. I promise to properly read this one though!
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Re: 1.2 La Chute/The Fall, 15/09/10-28/09/10

Postby MmeBahorel » Mon Sep 20, 2010 6:00 pm

a few observations from this book:

Chapter VI:
The paragraph where Hugo asserts that things went badly for Valjean because of a prejudice against poachers. Hugo goes on to talk about the difference between men of the country and men of the city in what is I think the first foreshadowing of Patron-Minette. My observation is this: if Valjean is able to be saved because he is not of the city, what does that mean not only for the novel itself but for Hugo's political and social philosophy as a whole? It's probably derived from the nineteenth century belief in the innocence of nature (and is Valjean then a white version of the "noble savage" in that he cannot be truly evil, coming from nature, though he had turned his back on God?), but it sits strangely with Hugo's insistence on education, particularly in Valjean's life. If civilisation is inherently corrupting, to the point that the men of the cities have a vastly reduced potential for salvation even when compared to a hardened convict simply because the latter has come from the country and is closer to nature, then what is the purpose of education? The purpose for Valjean is to harden his beliefs, it is a comfort and a weapon against the oppressors. The students see it as a weapon against the oppressors, too - education brings the light to the people the ruling classes would rather keep in the dark. But if Valjean's salvation is characterised as largely a result of his proximity to nature, then education is more corruptive than not, being a production of civilisation.

I also get stuck in the linguistic issue - Valjean comes from Brie, which today is split between the departments of Seine-et-Marne and Marne. It is very close to Paris and was probably French-speaking at the time (parsing the Wikipedia entry, it's a langue d'oïl variant close enough to Parisian French to be considered a simple "deformation" of academic French, as opposed to dialects from further out). I'm wondering how widespread French was at this point and/or if Valjean had learned quite a bit of Provençal when in Toulon, because he has no issues at all speaking with the artisan or the innkeepers. Is this Hugo completely ignoring a linguistic issue that he acknowledged in the previous book (the Bishop speaks multiple dialects) or is it a novelistic convenience?

(and now that I've proven I am a nerd . . .)

Chapter VIII: The whole drowning sequence. The whole thing is obviously focused around Léopoldine's death and is really creepy to read with that context. Also, you can tell I made the notes in my copy when I was fifteen because I marked out "The sea is the inexorable night where the penal code casts its victims. The sea is measureless misery." I now think "Dear god, Victor, we got the picture without you stating it for us." But more importantly, Victor is throwing me into circles because he describes the men still aboard ship as unfeeling, as deliberately ignoring the loss of their comrade in order to get to their destination on time, what sounds like a human being trampled under the dictates of commerce. But in the next paragraph, the ship is in the midst of a storm (in French, "ouragan", which can mean "hurricane" but can also be a lesser storm and used metaphorically - M/F use "gale" in their translation). The ship literally cannot stop for the drowning man, his fellows may not notice the moment he is gone - the cry of "Man overboard" that begins the chapter is not dialogue; it comes from our voice of god narrator. The ship, if the sailors cease their work even for a moment, would be overcome by the storm. So what we have here is not society oblivious to the suffering of the individual but unable to do anything about the suffering of the individual without losing the whole. And I feel like that isn't what Hugo really intended to say. We are focused on the dying man and asked to accept that he has been thrown into the sea by the "justice" of the penal code, which implies that the society of the ship has, like society in general, deliberately ignored his misery. But that isn't the situation he set up the moment he said there was a storm. What is the real meaning here, then?

Chapter IX: I marked out "Liberation is not deliverance" - which again proves that Victor can come out and sometimes very succinctly say what he means after all his metaphorical noodling. This one drives me less nuts than in the previous chapter, but it's also a good marker of what I thought beautiful and awesome passages when I was fifteen.
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard

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Re: 1.2 La Chute/The Fall, 15/09/10-28/09/10

Postby Lisette » Thu Sep 23, 2010 2:24 pm

MmeBahorel wrote:So what we have here is not society oblivious to the suffering of the individual but unable to do anything about the suffering of the individual without losing the whole. And I feel like that isn't what Hugo really intended to say. We are focused on the dying man and asked to accept that he has been thrown into the sea by the "justice" of the penal code, which implies that the society of the ship has, like society in general, deliberately ignored his misery. But that isn't the situation he set up the moment he said there was a storm. What is the real meaning here, then?


I don't believe he was saying that society is unable to do anything about the suffering of the individual, but is unwilling. And if it is not unwilling, it is nevertheless restrained from helping the suffering individual by laws and morals/social laws. Even more, the individual, or a group of oppressed individuals, is often invisible to society. The ship is still visible on the horizon: he can see society, but cannot reach it, while society cannot even see him.

Hopefully that was coherent. My brain doesn't seem to be functioning well this morning. I blame lack of sleep due to studying French so I can re-read this book to begin with!

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Re: 1.2 La Chute/The Fall, 15/09/10-28/09/10

Postby MmeBahorel » Thu Sep 23, 2010 7:00 pm

Restraint - maybe that's it. That, in his metaphor, by the time it is safe enough to go back, there is no point because the man is gone. That the very need to save the many, who are in lesser danger, is a constraint on efforts to do something for the few. And it's easy to rail against it, not just when you're the one in the drink, but also when you're aboard ship and feel paralysed to do anything, but there are constraints on your actions, and that means people fall and cannot be saved. And some of those constraints could possibly be lifted (not in the metaphor, but if we're talking social/political constraints), but they exist. And because we continue from the POV of the man in the sea, from the POV of Valjean, unable very easily converts to unwilling.

I can see that - thank you!
What kind of literature and what kind of life is the same question. - Tom Stoppard

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Re: 1.2 La Chute/The Fall, 15/09/10-28/09/10

Postby Ulkis » Mon Sep 27, 2010 12:19 am

This is one of my favorite pieces of characterization:

"Do not forget, never forget, that you have promised to use this money in becoming an honest man."

Jean Valjean, who had no recollection of ever having promised anything, remained speechless.


That just cracks me up. The Bishop does this huge thing for him, and Valjean's first thought is, "umm, I'm pretty sure I didn't say that?"

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Re: 1.2 La Chute/The Fall, 15/09/10-28/09/10

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Mon Sep 27, 2010 5:10 am

I remember gaping when I read that, and wondering if there was something I missed. Now that I think about it, it's M. Myriel just jumping the gun or assuming the best out of Valjean.

What strikes me most is how Hugo writes that Valjean's transformation isn't exactly instantaneous. He has to learn to experience actual remorse through the incident with Gervais first. What does that say perhaps about Valjean's nature?
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Re: 1.2 La Chute/The Fall, 15/09/10-28/09/10

Postby Ulkis » Mon Sep 27, 2010 4:39 pm

That he's human. I remember the petit-Gervais incident was one of the first things that shocked me, as someone who had been introduced to Les Misérables via musical. I had just grown so used to the idea of Valjean as this plaster saint.

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Re: 1.2 La Chute/The Fall, 15/09/10-27/09/10

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Fri Jun 21, 2013 1:53 pm

Thanks to a boo-boo, here are the previous two chapters:

http://www.online-literature.com/victor_hugo/les_miserables/15/

http://www.online-literature.com/victor_hugo/les_miserables/16/

And for today:

June 21, 2013

The Heroism of Passive Obedience

http://www.online-literature.com/victor_hugo/les_miserables/17/

The Bishop introduces himself as a simple priest to an ex-convict.
"...all aptitudes having equal opportunity; politically, all votes having equal weight; religiously, all consciences having equal rights."

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Re: 1.2 La Chute/The Fall, 15/09/10-27/09/10

Postby LauraLeZunzu » Fri Jun 21, 2013 11:12 pm

I hadn't realise I knew the name of "Gervais" until I saw it in this topic because in my translation it is "Gervasillo" hahaha
I find this part of the book amazing as well. I love when Hug gets inside the mind of the characters, and Valjean's is one though mind. How he describes the bishop as a light, but the hard thing that it is, it is not as simple as seeing th elight and become good; he stole Gervais. But then he becomes good, and that time, after the last fall, at all: he screams his name... The moment when he is all alone in the nature and fall desperately when he can't find Gervais... it says it all about Jean Valejan.
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Re: 1.2 La Chute/The Fall, 15/09/10-27/09/10

Postby Gervais » Fri Jun 21, 2013 11:21 pm

Hey look, it's the guy I stole my name from. Hi!
I love how the Bishop is such a calming force in this chapter. This guy bursts into his house and is basically a devil--his lighted by the fire, he's looking fierce, he even has the pointy beard--and Magloire and Baptistine panic, but then Baptistine just turns to Myriel and calms down. I guess this could be another comparison between Valjean and Éponine; first it was him being a dog, and her "the daughter of a wolf;" now he looks like a devil, it all but says the word in there, and she'll claim herself as the devil later.
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