It has been said that Victor Hugo has a street named after him in virtually every town in France. A major reason for the singular celebrity of this most popular and versatile of the great French writers is "Les Miserables "(1862). In this story of the trials of the peasant Jean Valjean a man unjustly imprisoned, baffled by destiny, and hounded by his nemesis, the magnificently realized, ambiguously malevolent police detective Javert Hugo achieves the sort of rare imaginative resonance that allows a work of art to transcend its genre.
Les Miserables "is at once a tense thriller that contains one of the most compelling chase scenes in all literature, an epic portrayal of the nineteenth-century French citizenry, and a vital drama highly particularized and poetic in its rendition but universal in its implications of the redemption of one human being.
(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)
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"Hugo's genius was for the creation of simple and recognizable myth. The huge success of Les Misérables as a didactic work on behalf of the poor and oppressed is due to his poetic and myth-enlarged view of human nature." —V. S. Pritchett
"It was Tolstoy who vindicated [Hugo's] early ambition by judging Les Misérables one of the world's great novels, if not the greatest… [His] ability to present the extremes of experience 'as they are' is, in the end, Hugo's great gift." —From the Introduction by Peter Washington