'Les Miserables' by Victor Hugo Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

'Les Miserables' by Victor Hugo

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Civil War?
What does that mean?
Is there any foreign war?
Isn't every war fought between men, between brothers?
War is modified only by its aim. There's neither foreign war nor civil war;
there's only unjust and just war.

- Victor Hugo

Les Misérables is a novel written by Victor Hugo during his 20 year exile and published in 1862. It's a story about living in misery and yet having hope for something better. It's a story about love greater than life, a story about despair and yet salvation, a story about people doomed to death because of their principles and people dooming others to death or to life in misery - it's a story about life.

The novel is set in France a few decades before it was written. In the beginning of 19th Century a man is sentenced to prison for stealing a loaf of bread. This sentence eventually ends after 20 years and has made this kind man hostile to the society and to everything in it. He is, however, yet to change his attitude when a bishop forgives him for stealing his silverware. The man decides to start a new and honest life, but is unlikely to reach it when a law-abiding policeman keeps chasing him through the years.

The story culminates in the revolution in 1832 which actually took place in France when the real 'les misérables' tried to get the right for better life and in which everyone was eventually killed and nothing was gained. It's typical for Hugo to place the fictitious characters in actual historical environment and that way effectively bring out his opinions about the history and the current political situation. Les Misérables is not just any novel - it's a great story which is enjoyed by generation after generation.

Les Misérables has also inspired many people making movies or otherwise using the theme. The story has been filmed several times - the latest in 1998 directed by Bille August and filled with famous actors like Liam Neeson and Uma Thurman. A magnificent musical has also been made by French author Alan Boublil and composer Claude-Michel Schönberg and produced by Cameron Mackintosh. In this version of Les Misérables the themes and ideas of Hugo are very clear and accompanied by brilliant music and touching scenes, although the plot is very strongly simplified in order to make it fit better on stage. However, both the original book and any of the visions about it are likely to get anyone touched to tears when facing the world of Les Misérables.

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