Sunday, 28 October 2018

Les Misérables - catching up May to June, in October

For some unaccountable reason I put Les Mis aside back in May, and didn't pick it up again until very recently. I really can't explain why. I have been in quite a reading slump this year, and for some time I haven't been "reading" as such, but predominantly listening to audiobooks. I've enjoyed these immensely but still couldn't find an urge to actually read. Anything. Even Les Mis. Then the October Dewey's Readathon was coming up and I knew that if I didn't somehow pick up Les Mis again that weekend I wouldn't finish it this year, and maybe I would never finish it at all. Ever. And I really want to finish it. 

I had been stalled at the start of V2B8C2 Fauchelevent Faces Difficulty. So I went back to the start of Book 8 and got reading. And what do you know? I loved it all over again. I read 53 pages of Les Mis in that 24 hours, not that much in reality, but still significant progress when I had made absolutely none since May and so I was happy. Since the readathon I've read another 88 pages and have now caught up to where I should have been on June 30. Yes, I'm  finally halfway through!

Here I'll post some musings from V2B8C1 toV3B4C6. Which covers quite a bit of territory. 

V2B8 has Jean Valjean and Cosette inside the convent but needing to get out so they can return legitimately through the front door. Much hilarity ensues in the cemetery with drunk gravediggers, and a close call for Jean Valjean. 
It is frightening to see a dead body, it is almost as frightening to see a resurrection. 
V2B8C10 Cloistered features a lengthy section, three pages of Hugo brilliance comparing the lives of prisoners and nuns. "Now, after the prison hulks, he saw the cloister."
These human beings, too, lived with their heads shorn, their eyes downcast, their voices lowered, not in disgrace but amid the world's jeering, not with their backs bruised by the rod but with their shoulders lacerated by self-mortification. Their names, too, had died among men. They now existed only under an austere nomenclature. They never ate meat and they never drank wine. They often went without food until evening. They were dressed not in red tunics but in black woollen shrouds, heavy in summer, light in winter, unable to take anything off or to put on anything extra, without even the possibility, according to season, of thinner clothing or a woollen overcoat. 
Two places of slavery, but in the first, the possibility of being freed, a legal term always in sight, and even escape; in the second place a life sentence to be served, the only hope in the far distant future that glimmer of freedom men call death. 
In the first the enslaved were fettered only by chains, in the other they were fettered by their faith.  
I'm so thrilled to get to Book 3 Marius. As A) I've finally made it out of Book 2 after being stalled there for so many months and into Book 3. And B) I get to learn much more about Marius (and Gavroche it seems). A lot of this detail and plot line doesn't make it into the movie and stage versions, so I'm not familiar with it. Firstly we meet Marius' grandfather, and then his father, and discover the terrible relationship forced on them by Monsieur Gillenormand. 
Twice a year, on the first of January and on St George's Day, Marius wrote dutiful letters to his father, dictated by his aunt, that read as if they had been copied from some primer. This was all that Monsieur Gillenormand would allow. And the father replied with very loving letters that the grandfather stuffed into his pocket unread. 
Of course Marius discovers the truth, but all too late, just after his father has died. This leads to an undoing of a relationship between Grandfather and Grandson, not so coincidentally the name of Volume 3 Book 3. Marius is thrown out of the house, never to be spoken of again. Although Monsieur Gillenormand tells his daughter to send Marius six hundred francs every six months, so he is not quite cast adrift financially. 

I particularly enjoyed V3B4C1 A Group That Came Close to Becoming Historic. Here we are formally introduced to Marius' friends. Enjolras. Combeferre. Jean Prouvaire. Feuilly. Courfeyrac. Bahorel. Lesgle (Bossuet). Joly. Grantaire. Of these the only names that I have picked up from the stage shows and movie are Enjolras and Combeferre, but I certainly don't have any significant understanding of either. We are treated to more lovely imagery from Hugo. 
Enjolras was a leader, Combeferre was a guide. You would have wanted to fight with one and march with the other. It is not that Combeferre was not capable of fighting. He not unwilling to grapple with any obstacle and tackle it by direct force and explosive power. But making the human race gradually conform to its destiny through the teaching of basic principles and the implementation of practical laws was more to his liking. And between the two types of brightness he was inclined to favour illumination over conflagration. A fire can certainly create a glow, but why not wait for daybreak? A volcano gives light, but dawn gives even better light. 
I do wish that I could grasp even 1/5 of his references. Historical, classical, any of it. How much it would add to my reading. 
There are men who seemingly are born to be the verso, the inverse, the reverse. They are Pollux, Patroclus, Nisus, Eudamidas, Hephaestion, Pechméja.
How much better informed, read and educated the 19th century French reader must have been. Early on, before I stalled in May, I was looking up each and every unknown name or reference in the Notes at the back. Now I need to read quicker, to try and catch up so am skimming over these clues laid for the reader by Victor Hugo. 

V3B4C4 The Back Room of Café Musain contains the drunken ramblings of Grantaire. I was fascinated to learn that "Charles II knighted a Sir Loin". Sirloin. Really? Although it seems that this has been attributed to most British monarchs at some stage or other. And of course any brief mention of Charles II brings me back such happy memories. 

And now I've really made it to June 30! I'm halfway!!! Onward and upward into July.

I tweeted a few quotes back during readathon. And now I've worked out how to put a tweet in a post! It's a technological breakthrough for me.



Brona said...

OMG! You've worked out how to insert a tweet into a post!! How do you do that??
Is it similar to embedding a youtube video?

Brona said...

Oh & congrats for reaching the halfway mark!
I'm struggling to read my chapter-a-day again now that we've hit the barricades - I'm finding it duller than most people found the Waterloo scenes (but then I was one of the odd-bods who enjoyed the Waterloo diversion!)

Louise said...

Thanks Brona, I've really been enjoying reading it again. And it feels like I'm making significant progress now. Funny how you're finding the barricades difficult. I enjoyed the Waterloo section too.

Embedding the tweet is actually quite easy. On twitter there is a down arrow in the top right corner of each tweet, that says More when you move the mouse over it. The second option is Embed Tweet. That gives you a (very long) link that you just cut and paste into your blog draft. Too easy!

Marg said...

You are much more technologically advanced than I. I didn't even know that this was a thing I didn't know how to do!

Well done on reaching half way.