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Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Have you ever read an outstanding piece of literature and just wanted to share it with everyone? That's certainly what I found when I read Les Miserables.

The translation I own is the Penguin Classics copy, by Norman Denny, and these are some of my favorite phrases and passages from the story.

The Bishop of Digne.

Now, everyone likes this character. After all, he's the bloke that turned our beloved Valjean into a good guy. Hugo's characters often represent a human quality beyond just their basic personality, and most Misfits seem to agree that the Bishop of Digne represents goodness and generosity. The Bishop sacrificed all the benefits of being a bishop in order to help the poor and less fortunate. When he rode into town on a donkey one afternoon, having given up his carriage, and the citizens were shocked, the Bishop says, "I know what has outraged you. You find it arrogant in a simple priest that he should be mounted like Jesus Christ. Let me assure you that I do it from necessity, not from vanity."

One of my favorite descriptions of this man is when Hugo describes him as being able to "expound great matters in the simplest terms, and speaking all tongues could find his way to all hearts." Awww!

Another facet of the Bishop's intelligence is his wisdom regarding human error. "To sin as little as possible is the law for men; to sin not at all is a dream for angels."

Also wise is the quote, "Teach the ignorant as much as you can. Society is to blame for not giving free education; it is responsible for the darkness it creates. The soul in darkness sins, but the real sinner is he who caused the darkness."

The bishop "knew that faith gives health" and his job was "to transform the grief which sees only a pit into the grief which sees a star." This quote is strikingly similar to the following words from Oscar Wilde: "We all live in the gutter, but some of us look to the stars."

But the Bishop was human, and like all of us he had flaws. For instance, when he sits by the bed of a dying rebel and the man referred to him as Monsieur rather than Monseigneur, "he who laughed so readily when addressed as Your Greatness was a little shocked at not being addressed as Monseigneur."

The Students

Grantaire is my favorite student - the drunk. A lot of Misfits prefer Enjolras, but to me Enjy's strong loyalty comes a close second to Grantaire's hilarious philosophies. My favorite exerpt from the book is Grantaire's first speech, and because I think you are a fantastic person, I would like to share some of it with you. Just the highlights.

"I have a dream, brothers - that the great wine-tun of Heidelberg is seized with apoplexy and I am one of the leeches attached to it. I want to drink. I want to forget life. Life is the disgusting invention of God-knows-who. It doesn't last and it isn't worth anything. We twist our necks trying to stay alive. Life is a stage setting in which almost nothing is real...Our so-called honours and dignities, and even true dignity and honour, are generally an empty shell. Kings make a mock of human pride. Caligula made his horse a consul, Charles II knighted a sirloin of beef. Thus we must array ourselves between the Consul Incitatus and the most excellent Sir Sirloin...It is a pity I am ignorant, I would tell you countless things if only I knew them. I have always had brains, but when I was at school I spent my time robbing orchards instead of poring over my books. So much for me...Gentlemen of the human race, I say to hell with the lot of you."

Much more to come, so keep your eyes peeled!


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