The Novel of the Century : The Extraordinary Adventure of Les Miserables
by David Bellos


Overview -

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
Winner of the American Library in Paris Book Award, 2017

Les Mis rables is among the most popular and enduring novels ever written. Like Inspector Javert's dogged pursuit of Jean Valjean, its appeal has never waned, but only grown broader in its one-hundred-and-fifty-year life.  Read more...


 
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More About The Novel of the Century by David Bellos
 
 
 
Overview

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
Winner of the American Library in Paris Book Award, 2017

Les Mis rables is among the most popular and enduring novels ever written. Like Inspector Javert's dogged pursuit of Jean Valjean, its appeal has never waned, but only grown broader in its one-hundred-and-fifty-year life. Whether we encounter Victor Hugo's story on the page, onstage, or on-screen, Les Mis rables continues to captivate while also, perhaps unexpectedly, speaking to contemporary concerns. In The Novel of the Century, the acclaimed scholar and translator David Bellos tells us why.

This enchanting biography of a classic of world literature is written for "Les Mis" fanatics and novices alike. Casting decades of scholarship into accessible narrative form, Bellos brings to life the extraordinary story of how Victor Hugo managed to write his novel of the downtrodden despite a revolution, a coup d' tat, and political exile; how he pulled off a pathbreaking deal to get it published; and how his approach to the "social question" would define his era's moral imagination. More than an ode to Hugo's masterpiece, The Novel of the Century also shows that what Les Mis rables has to say about poverty, history, and revolution is full of meaning today.


 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780374223236
  • ISBN-10: 0374223238
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux
  • Publish Date: March 2017
  • Page Count: 307
  • Dimensions: 1.25 x 6.25 x 9.25 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Literary Criticism > European - French

 
BookPage Reviews

The untold story of a classic

You made it through the 1,000-plus pages of the epic historical novel Les Misérables by Victor Hugo? Congratulations—and in celebration, treat yourself to this enjoyable guide to how it was written, published and received.

Without a sprawling plot or a cast of characters best kept track of by writing the names on a large wall banner, The Novel of the Century: The Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables checks in at a more modest 300-plus pages. But author David Bellos’ feat is worthy of admiration, too, whether you’re a serious Francophile or just crave a good read peppered with cocktail party-ready factoids.

Does the book live up to the hype of the title? Well, consider that Hugo wrote his quintessentially French novel (which inspired the eponymous musical) while in exile on the Channel Island of Guernsey, or that its publication in Brussels meant that printers were at the whim of unreliable thrice-weekly boat service ferrying Hugo’s dispatches, constantly worrying that pirated (figuratively if not literally) versions would be leaked to the public and spoil the novel’s much-hyped release. As for the publishing deal that led to the book, Bellos makes the case that after 155 years it remains the biggest in history (at 240,000 francs cash, or about $3.8 million today) because of its limited eight-year term.

While Hugo famously had his “digressions” in Les Misérables, with all you ever wanted to know about the Paris sewer system and more, Bellos has his "Interludes": chapters on how the characters got their names, or the history behind France’s various revolutions, uprisings and insurrections. And yes, he’d still have a book if they were cut out, but it wouldn’t be as good.

Bellos has impeccable academic credentials, but he never talks down to the reader. From manuscript to musical, The Novel of the Century delivers on its promise.

 

This article was originally published in the March 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
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