Victor Hugo's tale of injustice, heroism and love follows the fortunes of Jean Valjean, an escaped convict determined to put his criminal past behind him. But his attempts to become a respected member of the community are constantly put under threat: by his own conscience, when, owing to a case of mistaken identity, another man is arrested in his place; and by the relentless investigations of the dogged policeman Javert. It is not simply for himself that Valjean must stay free, however, for he has sworn to protect the baby daughter of Fantine, driven to prostitution by poverty. A compelling and compassionate view of the victims of early nineteenth-century French society, Les Miserables is a novel on an epic scale, moving inexorably from the eve of the battle of Waterloo to the July Revolution of 1830.
Norman Denny's introduction to his lively English translation discusses Hugo's political and artistic aims in writing Les Miserables.
About the Author
The best-known of the French Romantic writers, Victor Hugo was a poet, novelist, dramatist, and political critic. Hugo was an avid supporter of French republicanism and advocate for social and political equality, themes that reflect most strongly in his works Les Mis?rables, Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame), and Le Dernier jour d'un condamn? (The Last Day of a Condemned Man). Hugo's literary works were successful from the outset, earning him a pension from Louis XVIII and membership in the prestigious Acad?mie fran?aise, and influencing the work of literary figures such as Albert Camus, Charles Dickens, and Fyodor Dostoevsky. Elevated to the peerage by King Louis-Philippe, Hugo played an active role in French politics through the 1848 Revolution and into the Second and Third Republics. Hugo died in 1885, revered not only for his influence on French literature, but also for his role in shaping French democracy. He is buried in the Panth?on alongside Alexandre Dumas and ?mile Zola.