Ready to celebrate Great Books Week 2012, October 7-13? This year we are honoring Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. If you’ve never read it, we invite you to join us in reading this masterwork (one of my top ten favorite books). You can find the text online at Gutenberg.org, or purchase the excellent unabridged translation by Julie Rose, with introduction by Adam Gopnik. If you write about Victor Hugo or Great Books Week, please feel free to leave a brief note and link to your post in the comments below.
In an 1862 letter to M. Daelli, his Italian publisher, Hugo wrote:
You are right, sir, when you tell me that Les Misérables is written for all nations. I do not know whether it will be read by all, but I wrote it for all. It is addressed to England as well as to Spain, to Italy as well as to France, to Germany as well as to Ireland, to Republics which have slaves as well as to Empires which have serfs. Social problems overstep frontiers. The sores of the human race, those great sores which cover the globe, do not halt at the red or blue lines traced upon the map. In every place where man is ignorant and despairing, in every place where woman is sold for bread, wherever the child suffers for lack of the book which should instruct him and of the hearth which should warm him, the book of Les Misérables knocks at the door and says: “Open to me, I come for you.”
We hope you will open Les Misérables as Hugo desired. It’s a beautiful story.
Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake. Victor Hugo
This year’s poster is based on an early multi-volume set of Les Misérables overlaid with an 1868 portrait of Victor Hugo by François Chifflart (1825-1901). You’re welcome to download and share it on your blog, website, or social media with a link back to www.GreatBooksWeek.com.
Here are a few helpful links:
General resources for Great Books Week
Links for Victor Hugo and Les Misérables
- Quotes from Les Misérables
- Guernsey site on Victor Hugo
- The France of Victor Hugo
- A remembrance of Victor Hugo by Camille Saint-Saens
- Beautiful piano rendition of Franz Liszt’s musical setting of a Victor Hugo poem
- Les Misérables on Wikipedia
- Victor Hugo on Wikipedia
- Gavroche.org quotes from Les Misérables
- Victor Hugo International Music Festival
- Study Guide for the Les Misérables musical
- Pronunciation guide for character names
Great Books Week is celebrated annually during the first full week in October. We hope you enjoy it, and will share the love of great books with others.
To love is to act. Last words in Hugo’s diary, written two weeks before his death. Quoted in Victor Hugo complete writings, Jean-Jacques Pauvert, ed. 1970.
To download the poster image, right-click on it and select “Save image as” to save it to your hard drive. Please remember to include a link to www.GreatBooksWeek.com whenever you post it.