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Les Misérables


  • Originally published 01/15/2013

    Charles Walton: The Missing Half of Les Mis

    Charles Walton is Associate Professor of History at Yale University.Before there were blockbuster films, there were blockbuster books. Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, published in 1862, was one of them. Thanks to a market-savvy publisher, this monument of French romanticism, which was serialized in ten installments, became an immediate bestseller across Europe and North America. Demand was so great that other authors, notably Gustave Flaubert, postponed the publications of their own books to avoid being outshined. On days when new installments went on sale in Paris, police were called in to stop impatient crowds from storming the bookstores. Some high-minded critics, not unlike those who spurn sensational Hollywood films today, found the hype distasteful. Edwin Percy Whipple, in a review for The Atlantic, referred to “the system of puffing” surrounding the book’s release in terms worthy of Ebenezer Scrooge: it was “the grossest bookselling humbug,” a spectacle “at which Barnum himself would stare amazed.”

  • Originally published 01/15/2013

    Aux armes, citoyens!

    Bruce Chadwick

    Illustration from an 1886 edition of Les Misérables. Credit: Wiki Commons.To the barricades! Les Misérables is back again, this time on the movie screen.Victor Hugo's Les Misérables is a thrilling, violent, enthralling historical story about men and women caught up in a failed political uprising that swept through France in 1832. The original novel, published in 1862, took the world by storm.This latest Les Misérables -- which has earned a tremendous amount of money in the three weeks since it premiered and last week was nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture -- has somehow turned into a debate on whether singing the music live is better or worse than the standard recorded music and whether Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway look properly movie star-ish in the close-ups that are used throughout the movie. One critic sneered that Hathaway, who plays Fantine, can’t sing and another howled that she looks anorexic. A third was ecstatic because Hathaway died off at the forty-third-minute mark.