New book about Les Misérables

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humanracer
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New book about Les Misérables

Postby humanracer » Fri Jan 27, 2017 11:53 pm

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/

Ursula_F
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Re: New book about Les Misérables

Postby Ursula_F » Sat Jan 28, 2017 5:43 pm

That sounds like a fascinating book! Thanks for sharing!

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CC21106
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Re: New book about Les Misérables

Postby CC21106 » Sat Jan 28, 2017 7:32 pm

Used doesn't look too expensive but I bet the shipping is a killer - UK to US.
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Ursula_F
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Re: New book about Les Misérables

Postby Ursula_F » Sat Jan 28, 2017 8:52 pm

Amazon has it for pre-order; it seems that it's being released in the U.S. in March. Amazon has free shipping if you order $50 or more.

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CC21106
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Re: New book about Les Misérables

Postby CC21106 » Thu Feb 02, 2017 3:27 am

Ursula_F wrote:Amazon has it for pre-order; it seems that it's being released in the U.S. in March. Amazon has free shipping if you order $50 or more.

Coool. I have to see about that. I'm not going to order $50 worth of junk just to get free shipping though.
Don't mess with Texas! We mess up enough by ourselves.
I have actually made bullets like they're doing in my avatar. Then loaded the gun with a ramrod, and shot it. But I'm not feeling real good about guns right now (10-3-17)

Ursula_F
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Re: New book about Les Misérables

Postby Ursula_F » Sat Feb 04, 2017 5:26 pm

The book itself is $27, so it would only be $23 worth of junk, LOL.

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CC21106
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Re: New book about Les Misérables

Postby CC21106 » Sat Feb 04, 2017 5:49 pm

Ursula_F wrote:The book itself is $27, so it would only be $23 worth of junk, LOL.
Hah, you're right. But I'm going to get the Kindle version. Half the price and no shipping.
Don't mess with Texas! We mess up enough by ourselves.
I have actually made bullets like they're doing in my avatar. Then loaded the gun with a ramrod, and shot it. But I'm not feeling real good about guns right now (10-3-17)

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Re: New book about Les Misérables

Postby Olivia_y » Mon Feb 06, 2017 12:51 pm

I downloaded the sample of this on Kindle, it sounds promising enough, but there was a small inaccuracy (he says Marius fired off a warning shot in the Gorbeau House scene) which isn't really substantial on its own but does make me wonder abut the overall reliability of facts.

It's £17.99 for the Kindle edition and £20 for the hardcover (haven't seen it in paperback) in my local bookstore. I like having books in hardcopy but it's a pretty hefty volume so I'm trying to decide whether it's worth it.

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CC21106
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Re: New book about Les Misérables

Postby CC21106 » Wed Feb 08, 2017 2:58 pm

Olivia_y wrote:...there was a small inaccuracy (he says Marius fired off a warning shot in the Gorbeau House scene) which isn't really substantial on its own but does make me wonder abut the overall reliability of facts.

Well, this community will have to fact-check it then. (Sounds of knives sharpening)
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I have actually made bullets like they're doing in my avatar. Then loaded the gun with a ramrod, and shot it. But I'm not feeling real good about guns right now (10-3-17)

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deHavilland
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Re: New book about Les Misérables

Postby deHavilland » Wed Feb 08, 2017 4:07 pm

Olivia_y wrote:I downloaded the sample of this on Kindle, it sounds promising enough, but there was a small inaccuracy (he says Marius fired off a warning shot in the Gorbeau House scene) which isn't really substantial on its own but does make me wonder abut the overall reliability of facts.


There seem to be a couple of these that have been caught so far, and it makes me terribly wary. I basically want to read it more so I can point out the inaccuracies than learn anything from it.
"Quand vous aurez besoin de Bahorel, capitaine, Bahorel est là! Je sais faire trébucher tous les chevaux du garde-corps avec une ficelle... Rien qu'une petite ficelle. Enfin, pensez à Bahorel du Café Musain!"

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CC21106
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Re: New book about Les Misérables

Postby CC21106 » Wed Feb 08, 2017 5:21 pm

deHavilland wrote:....
There seem to be a couple of these that have been caught so far, and it makes me terribly wary. I basically want to read it more so I can point out the inaccuracies than learn anything from it.

Hm, not so good, but I'm going to get it anyway. I'll be very interested to see what you find in it, deHavilland. Maybe he can come out with a second edition when you get through with it. :D
Don't mess with Texas! We mess up enough by ourselves.
I have actually made bullets like they're doing in my avatar. Then loaded the gun with a ramrod, and shot it. But I'm not feeling real good about guns right now (10-3-17)

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Olivia_y
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Re: New book about Les Misérables

Postby Olivia_y » Wed Mar 01, 2017 11:30 am

Okay I've been reading this in bits and pieces, and here's a passage that was interesting:

"It is true that in the eighteenth century convicts sentenced to hard labour were branded with the letters GAL before being chained and dispatched to Toulon - but no less true that this humiliating ritual was one among many of the barbarous practices of the old regime that was abolished by the revolutionary government in 1789. Valjean was convicted in 1796. he did not have a brand.'

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deHavilland
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Re: New book about Les Misérables

Postby deHavilland » Wed Mar 01, 2017 1:47 pm

Hugo has a problem with accurate dates -- but he's actually not as far off as this suggests. On 23 floréal, year X in the revolutionary calendar (or May 13, 1802), branding was reintroduced.

In 1810, the practice was even included in Napoléon's Code Pénal, where it remained until 1867 - after Les Mis had been published.

Bellos is not just wrong there, though, branding actually wasn't abolished officially until the new revolutionary penal code was adopted in 1791. Therefore in Valjean's lifetime, branding was only not-a-thing between 1791 and 1802, and for Hugo writing about it fifty odd years later (before the advent of Google) messing that fact up is understandable.

For David Bellos (for whom Google does exist and for whom I am holding in contempt because this book sounds less and less well researched every time someone mentions its contents) I sentence 5 years hard labor.
"Quand vous aurez besoin de Bahorel, capitaine, Bahorel est là! Je sais faire trébucher tous les chevaux du garde-corps avec une ficelle... Rien qu'une petite ficelle. Enfin, pensez à Bahorel du Café Musain!"


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