'Never mind those self-help manuals urging that some classic novel may change your life; in this sparkling study of the birth, growth and afterlife of Hugo's evergreen blockbuster, David Bellos argues that Les Miserables already has' Boyd Tonkin, Economist
'Any reader who hasn't yet embarked on Hugo's book might be converted to the idea by this one' Daniel Hahn, Spectator
The extraordinary story of how a simple tale of love and revolution, the poor and the downtrodden - Victor Hugo's beloved classic Les Miserables - conquered the world.
There has never been a book like it. It is the most widely read and frequently adapted story of all time, on stage and on film. But why is Les Miserables the novel of the century? David Bellos's remarkable new book brings to life the extraordinary story of how Hugo managed to write his epic novel despite a revolution, a coup d'etat and political exile; how he pulled off the deal of the century to get it published, and set it on course to become the novel that epitomizes the grand sweep of history in the nineteenth century. Packed full of information about the background and design of Les Miserables, this biography of a masterpiece nonetheless insists that the moral and social message of Hugo's ever-popular novel is just as important for our century as it was for its own. The Novel of the Century is a book as rich, remarkable and long-lasting as the novel at its heart.
Les Miserables is available as a Penguin Classic, in an acclaimed new translation by Christine Donougher, with an introduction by Robert Tombs.
David Bellos is Meredith Howland Pyne Professor of French Literature at Princeton University, where he also teaches Comparative Literature. He is the author of many books and articles on nineteenth-century fiction, alongside biographies of three icons of French culture in the twentieth century: Georges Perec, Jacques Tati and Romain Gary. He is also a well-known translator and the author of Is That a Fish in Your Ear? The Amazing Adventure of Translation. David Bellos was recently awarded the rank of officier in the Ordre National des Arts et des Lettres for his services to French culture.