I have just finished reading the first two chapters of the unabridged version of Les Miserables. I read the abridged version my sophomore year of high school, acted in the play as the good bishop my junior year, and have seen the play at the pantages my freshman year of college. The play has had a huge impact on my view of theology, and I constantly refer to it when talking about the gospel. I have begun reading the unabridged version and I am going to blog on it here and there as I have a chance.
The first part of the book deals solely with the bishop that plays only a minor–albeit important–part of the play and the movie. Victor Hugo starts off the story of the bishop in an interesting way:
“True or false, that which is said of men often occupies as important a place in their lives, and above all in their destinies, as that which they do. M. Myriel [the Bishop] was the son of a councillor of the Parliament of Aix; hence he belonged to the nobility of the bar.”
Hugo does something that many authors have lost. He is creating a whole world in his writing. Even minor facts about the bishop are included in the book and characters that do not further the plot at all are mentioned to make the world seem more believable. J.K. Rowling has done this to a certain extent in her books, but not to the extremity which Hugo goes. Some have found such writing verbose, but I find it interesting and helpful in understand the world of which Hugo wanted me to envision.
Hugo also does not maintain the absolute integrity of the narrator. Hugo notes that: “Although this detail has no connection whatever with the real substance of what we are about to relate, it will not be superfluous, if merely for the sake of exactness in all points, to mention here the various rumors and remarks which had been in circulation about him from the very moment when he arrived in the diocese.” Such a view of the world is an interesting way to read the book. We are not sure if we can trust the narrator or if even the narrator knows everything–almost like real life.