Jul 13, 201512:35 PMCulture
Fun and Culture in the Mid-State
SpoofNotes: Les Misérables
People love Les Misérables because of its emotional depth and variety of themes, but most have encountered some version of the narrative other than the original 950-page monster written by Victor Hugo. What gems does Hugo’s text contain which adaptations have tossed aside? Fortunately, I’ve done the research for you; in the spirit of American culture – our value for the “original” anything and our short attention spans – I’ve read the first and last pages, and I’m ready to answer all your questions.
The first page tells us about Bishop “M. Charles-Francois-Bienvenu Myriel” before noting that “this detail has no connection whatever with the real substance of what we are about to relate.
On the last page, Jean Valjean dies while Marius and Cosette kiss his hands, and the reader gets a description of Valjean’s humble gravestone, worn by the forces of nature and time.
The inscription on the grave? “He sleeps. Although his fate was very strange, he lived. He died when he had no longer his angel. The thing came to pass simply, of itself, as the night comes when day is gone.
That’s it. Nothing about unjust prison or grace or raising an adopted daughter. Just a “very strange” fate.
And this is all we need. Out of an irrelevant beginning, a whole story grows – one thing leads to another, there’s lots of fighting and singing and singing about fighting, Russell Crow jumps off a bridge⎯⎯⎯⎯
But you can never summarize a whole life when it’s over. All the tears, all the passion – it’s all buried with the dead. You can try your hardest to resurrect the feelings. But then you’ve just written a 950-page book.