Set largely in Paris during the politically explosive 1820s and 1830s, Victor Hugo's epic follows the life of the former criminal Jean Valjean, an outcast of society, Valjean has repented his crimes, but is nevertheless pursued by the implacable detective Javert. In scenes of powerful drama and suspense, Valjean is chased through the sewers of Paris, while the July Revolution rages on overhead, and men and women are fighting--and dying--for political freedom.
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A magnificent achievement. It reads easily, sometimes racily, and Hugo's narrative power is never let down ... An almost flawless translation, which brings the full flavour of one of the greatest novels of the nineteenth century to new readers in the twenty-first ( The Times Literary Supplement)
The year's most interesting publication from Penguin Classics was actually The Wretched [...] a new translation by Christine Donougher of the novel we all know as Les Misérables. You may think that 1,300 pages is a huge investment of time when the story is so familiar, but no adaptation can convey the addictive pleasure afforded by Victor Hugo's narrative voice: by turns chatty, crotchety, buoyant and savagely ironical, it's made to seem so contemporary and fresh in Donougher's rendering that the book has all the resonance of the most topical state-of-the-nation novel ( Telegraph)
Christine Donougher's seamless and very modern translation of Les Misérables has an astonishing effect in that it reminds readers that Hugo was going further than any Dickensian lament about social conditions ... The Wretched touches the soul ( Herald Scotland)
Victor Hugo was born in Besançon, France in 1802. In 1822 he published his first collection of poetry and in the same year, he married his childhood friend, Adèle Foucher. In 1831 he published his most famous youthful novel, Notre-Dame de Paris. A royalist and conservative as a young man, Hugo later became a committed social democrat and was exiled from France as a result of his political activities. In 1862, he wrote his longest and greatest novel, Les Misérables. After his death in 1885, his body lay in state under the Arc de Triomphe before being buried in the Panthéon.
Christine Donougher is a freelance translator and editor. She has translated numerous books from French and Italian, and won the 1992 Scott Moncrieff Translation Prize for her translation of Sylvie Germain's The Book of Nights.
Robert Tombs is Professor of History at St John's College, Cambridge. His most recent book is That Sweet Enemy: The French and the British from the Sun King to the Present, co-written with Isabelle Tombs.
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