Thursday, 24 December 2015

Les Misérables Read-Through #14: III.viii.21 - IV.ii.2

'Tis the merry week of Christmas and hence I haven't had the amount of free time I could've wished for. Hence I'm only covering 10 chapters this week, rather than the 20 I've started doing. I'm more than halfway through Les Misérables now and I'm starting to realize that not only am I reading an intriguing story, I'm also earning about the history of France. There's a lot to be said for a book that can give you both of those, considering there are plenty of books that give you neither!

Plot Summary:
The first two chapters covered the play-out of what happened last week. Javert storm into Thenardier's little get-together to blackmail Jean Valjean and tries to arrest everyone. Before he can get to identifying Valjean, however, that athlete has already taken a jump out of the window. Marius witnesses all of this through a hole in the wall and, despite being the one who alerted the police to the crime occuring at his neighbour's, moves out the next day.

Hugo then goes on one of his lovely digressions. This might be one of my favourite ones although I found it incredibly hard to read. I will have to read it again but in it Hugo describes the mood of the July Revolution, what happened after and the difficulties of being socialist. Then we return to the Friends of ABC for a while before seeing Marius suffer from a broken heart. The second book is called 'Eponine' and I am really looking forward to learning more about her.

Feel of the Chapters:
Whenever Hugo starts on a digression the mood of the novel generally tends to get really dense. He crams so much information and conviction into a small portion of text (relatively to the book) that it's almost overwhelming. I definitely felt overwhelmed at times during these chapters, few as they were, because some of Hugo's sentences of socialism stretched across half a page. The conviction that the chapters are suffused with, though, is absolutely beautiful. It bring something to the book that makes it stand out from other classics. Hugo is such a passionate author that you can't help but feel for his characters and their state, as long as he does.

General Thoughts:
  • I'm worried about myself loving Eponine a little too much. I've hardly seen her but I already feel bad for her and considering what I know already will happen, Hugo's actual narrative will only make it ten times worse.
  • Javert has been a very active/passive character so far, by which I mean that on the one hand he's crucial to driving the plot, i.e. Valjean, forward, but on the other hand he does nothing.
  • Hugo's prose is astounding at times. I'm not quite sure basic grammar or scribal decency apply to this man. He doesn't care that you're breath might run out, he will continue this thought and sentence until he can be asked to finish it.
  • I am wondering why it seems that Hugo's male characters tend to torture themselves while it is his female characters who suffer the most from outside influences. It's an interesting dynamic I can't quite justify or explain yet.
Something Interesting:
Bourbon Coat of Arms
This week I'll be introducing you to the Bourbon Restoration. A Restoration is a historical period in which a king is reinstituted to a throne previously emptied, usually by a revolution. In the case of the French, the family of the Bourbons took to the French throne for 16 years between the fall of Napoleon in 1814 and the July Revolution in 1830. The Bourbons didn't really manage to make an impact, unfortunately, but they form an interesting part of France's history. And Hugo wasn't actually completely negative about them.

During their short reign they had to cope with the '100 Days', which is the name for Napoleon's sudden return from his banishment on Elba and his march to Paris. This, of course, concluded in the Battle of Waterloo, which Hugo also dedicated a significant digression to.

There's three quotes for you today!
'Revolutions spring not from an accident, but from necessity. A revolution is a return from the fictitious to the real. It is because it mut be that it is.' p.1421
I love this quote because I whole-heartedly believe that revolutions do indeed spring from necessity. Look at the Arab Spring, it was highly necessary for those countries to start to free themselves from their own oppressors.
'And the world will allow to die and fall al that is merely selfishness, all that does not represent for the human race either a virtue or an idea.' p.1426
Well isn't this just beautiful? Although I don't believe in karma, per se, I do believe that the world finds a way of punishing that which is pointless and that's either by letting it disappear or by making it infamous.
'They were savages, yes; but the savages of civilization.' p.1445
I would love to be a civilized savage, fighting for that which is high and cultural. This is what Hugo does to me!

Have you heard of the Bourbons before?

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