Les Misérables by Victor Hugo were written in 1862, and were considered the best-known novel of 19th century. This book-monument follows lives of several characters in a twenty-year period at the beginning of 19th century, which includes a turbulent Napoleonic era and even more uncertain decades thereafter. The central figure, a sort of epoch mirror, is Jean Valjean, who simultaneously escapes and takes part in history, trying to get away and redeem himself. But, Les Misérables are not only the history of their characters. As if he was dragging the whole bunch of history and recording everything that hooked onto the story, Hugo depicted in this novel a genuine small geography of Paris, the largest European city of 19th century. He also offered a gallery of peripheral heroes, out of whom everyone and each, to the last beggar, fortune-teller or Parisian prostitute, became alive before the eyes of the reader. And when the description is completed, a writer of Victor Hugo type begins to fantasize and contemplate. It is not said in vain that Hugo the novel writer is never as big as when he stops „creating the novel “. At that moment, his vigorous social engagement becomes evident, and the novel starts to investigate the nature of good and evil, but also to deal with politics, ethics, law, religion, and even with the debates on sorts and nature of romantic and family love.
The novel Les Misérables originates from the life story of a real person – an ex-convict and a famous policeman Eugène François Vidocq, whose character is divided into two main characters, but on this basis he created the work that was considered classic even during his life. Les Misérables were not only read, but were also retold, Hugo’s thoughts from the novel were repeated in every day’s life as sayings, and when the writer was exiled to the island of Jersey, many of his words and sentences got the power of combat slogans, like those in the next, 20th century. It is quite obvious that such a novel, popular even during the life of its author, will continue to live even more intensively its artistic life after his death, too. Already in 19th century, Les Misérables were translated into all important European languages, and then, in 20th century, practically into all world languages.
Victor Hugo: To die is nothing; but it is terrible not to live...