The Novel of The Century by David Bellos
I received my copy today. I have only skimmed through the book but looks to be a great read. It examines, and often answers, such questions as why did did Hugo write Les Misérables? How did he come up with the names of his characters and who are the people that inspired them (did you know Hugo had a friend called Joly?), what kind of revisions did Hugo make to his work? How does Les Misérables compare to other great novels of the Nineteenth Century? What about the similarities between the novel and Sue's The Mysteries of Paris? What kind of revisions did Hugo make to his work? How much money did Hugo make from the novel? Why was the publishing deal one of the most talked about of the Century? How realistic is the novel? Who translated the first English editions of the novels and how much was edited or left out? What about Chinese translations?
As well as discussing the novel, Bellos also explores the various stage and screen adaptations including the famous musical.
The book is really full of interesting facts and insights. If you wanted to know what kind of bread Jean Valjean was likely to have stolen then Bellos will gladly inform you. In fact this is one of you rare books that you can open at a totally random page and read something very interesting that you were probably not aware of.
Bellos novel is full of insights which are ripe for further exploration. He correctly points out that the first British translation of Les Misérables was too expensive for the common people. How was Hugo's story kept alive in the popular imagination? I would argue it was through the much maligned melodramatic stage plays performed in the various London and provincial theaters of Great Britain. Clarance Holt's The Barricade for instance was a huge success and was likely people's first introduction to the story.
So far I have only spotted a few inaccuracies. Bellos states that no unabridged translation of the novel appeared in England until 2008. However the complete Wilbour translation was widely available by the 1890s. Also he states Valjean by Harry Seymour was a London play when it was in fact American. Bellos novel is primary concerned with the writing of the novel rather than adaptations so I can understand why these small mistakes happen. I was the one who researched and created the "Adaptations of Les Misérables" Wikipedia page. I hope Bellos found it useful and the references to some of the more obscure stage versions out there pleased me.
Much of the information presented here already exists in French scholarly works about the novel but this is the first time such research has been presented in English. There is no one better qualified than Bellos, a Professor of French literature and expert on the Nineteenth century, to take on the task of explaining how Hugo managed to craft "The Novel of the Century".
This is the ideal companion to Christine Donougher's splendid translation of the novel.https://www.amazon.co.uk/Novel-Century- ... 846144701/