Re-Reading Les Misérables

Thoughts and commentary on Victor Hugo’s masterpiece.


The eerie scene of the convent garden at midnight, with its desolation and mist and wind and unseen voices and a mysterious figure with a rope around it’s neck, would be great for Halloween, but it’s late winter, not late fall.

There’s a surprising amount of deadpan snark in the description of the convent. And quite a bit of wit in Fauchelevent’s interactions with the mother superior, and humor in the buried alive sequence.

The convent school sorts the girls into four houses. Well, they sort themselves based on what corner of the room they sit in at mealtime, but hey, it’s still a step up from Cosette’s cupboard under the stairs back at the inn.

As far as convents in general, well…

We ourselves respect the past in certain instances and in all cases grant it clemency, provided it consents to being dead. If it insists on being alive, we attack and try to kill it.

– Victor Hugo on social attitudes and practices once commonplace, but now seen as harmful.

A more succinct translation might be: “Let the past die. Kill it if you have to.”

Whew! After two months of lunch-hour reading (yeah, I’m posting this late to the blog), I’ve finished the first two parts of the book.

Valjean and Cosette are safe as assistant gardener and schoolgirl at the convent, and we’re ready for a time skip!