Les Misérables  

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"L’œuvre du dix-huitième siècle est saine et bonne. Les encyclopédistes, Diderot en tête, les physiocrates, Turgot en tête, les philosophes, Voltaire en tête, les utopistes, Rousseau en tête, ce sont là quatre légions sacrées. L’immense avance de l’humanité vers la lumière leur est due. Ce sont les quatre avant-gardes du genre humain allant aux quatre points cardinaux du progrès, Diderot vers le beau, Turgot vers l’utile, Voltaire vers le vrai, Rousseau" [1]

"Let us pause a moment. Whom are we accusing here? Is it the eighteenth century? Is it philosophy? Certainly not. The work of the eighteenth century is healthy and good and wholesome. The encyclopedists, Diderot at their head; the physiocrates, Turgot at their head; the philosophers, Voltaire at their head; the Utopians, Rousseau at their head,—these are four sacred legions. Humanity's immense advance towards the light is due to them. They are the four vanguards of the human race, marching towards the four cardinal points of progress. Diderot towards the beautiful, Turgot towards the useful, Voltaire towards the true, Rousseau towards the just. But by the side of and above the philosophers, there were the sophists, a venomous vegetation mingled with a healthy growth, hemlock in the virgin forest. While the executioner was burning the great books of the liberators of the century on the grand staircase of the court-house, writers now forgotten were publishing, with the King's sanction, no one knows what strangely disorganizing writings, which were eagerly read by the unfortunate. Some of these publications, odd to say, which were patronized by a prince, are to be found in the Secret Library. These facts, significant but unknown, were imperceptible on the surface. Sometimes, in the very obscurity of a fact lurks its danger. It is obscure because it is underhand. Of all these writers, the one who probably then excavated in the masses the most unhealthy gallery was Restif de La Bretonne."

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Les Misérables (translated variously from French as The Miserable Ones, The Wretched, The Poor Ones, The Wretched Poor, The Victims) (1862) is a novel by French author Victor Hugo, and among the best-known novels of the 19th century. It follows the lives and interactions of several French characters over a twenty year period in the early 19th century that includes the Napoleonic wars and subsequent decades. Principally focusing on the struggles of the protagonist—ex-convict Jean Valjean—who seeks to redeem himself, the novel also examines the impact of Valjean's actions for the sake of social commentary. It examines the nature of good, evil, and the law, in a sweeping story that expounds upon the history of France, architecture of Paris, politics, moral philosophy, law, justice, religion, and the types and nature of romantic and familial love. Hugo was inspired by the real-life criminal/policeman François Eugène Vidocq, and split his personalities into the two main characters in his novel. Les Misérables is known to many through its numerous stage and screen adaptations, of which the most famous is the stage musical of the same name, commonly known as "Les Mis" or "Les Miz"

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