Ex Libris Kirkland

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Translator Charles E. Wilbour
First Written 1862
Genre Fiction
Origin France
Publisher Modern Library
ISBN-10 0375403175
ISBN-13 978-0375403170
My Copy big fat hardback with dustcover (also a hand-rebound paperback, divided into two volumes)
First Read June 01, 2011

Les Miserables

I always tell people that finishing a book is no big deal. You don't owe the author anything, there's no shame in stopping halfway through, and there's no glory in reading big books. If you don't want to finish a book, don't finish it.

Now, I liked Les Mis, and I wanted to finish it - but I still felt a sense of accomplishment when I finished the book. Boom! 1200 pages! Do I get a medal or something?

Noted on June 14, 2011

OK: midway through Les Mis and it's clear: this is the best French novel I've ever read. But its Frenchness is killing me. Stuff like this:
"Youth, if we may be allowed the phrase, was on the move. Attitutes were changing, almost unconsciously, in accordance with the changing times. .. Everyone was preparing for a forward step. ... It was like a rising tide complicated by a thousand eddies."

I know Dickens (whom I love) does the same sort of thing, but his natural cleverness helps him pull it off, whereas Hugo's stuff is just irritating.

Noted on April 4, 2011

I've put off reading Les Mis forever, based on my bias against French novels. But a few serious recommendations (Dad, and Chad) pushed me over the edge - and I'm loving it so far. Maybe I should declare a free pass for any novel written between 1840-1870, that strange golden age of Dostoevsky and Dickens.

Noted on March 8, 2011

When he had so unexpectedly met Jean Valjean upon the beach of the Seine, there had been in him something of the wolf, which seizes his prey again, and of the dog which he again finds his master.

Quoted on June 14, 2011

We have tamed the hydra, and he is called the steamer; we have tamed the dragon, and he is called the locomotive; we are on the point of taming the griffin, we have him already, and he is called the balloon. The day when this promethean work shall be finished, and when man shall have definitively harnessed to his will the triple chimera of the ancients, the hydra, the dragon, and the griffin, he will be the master of the water, the fire, and the air, and he will be to the rest of the animated creation what the ancients gods were formerly to him. Courage, and forward! Citizens, whither are we tending?

Quoted on June 14, 2011

Knowing that she was beautiful, she was thoroughly conscious, though in an indistinct fashion, that she possessed a weapon. Women play with their beauty as children do with a knife. They wound themselves.

Quoted on June 14, 2011

Nothing is truly small, as anyone knows who has peered into the secrets of Nature. Though philosophy may reach no final conclusion as to original cause or ultimate extent, the contemplative mind is moved to ecstasy by this merging of forces into unity. Everything works upon everything else. "The science of mathematics applies to the clouds; the radiance of starlight nourishes the rose; no thinker will dare to say that the scent of hawthorn is valueless to the constellations. Who can predict the course of a molecule? How do we know that the creation of worlds is not determined by the fall of grains of sand? Who can measure the actions and counter-action between the infinitely great and the infinitely small, the play of causes in the depths of being, the cataclysms of creation? The cheese-mite [a dollar to anyone who knows what a cheese-mite is] has its worth; the smallest is large and the largest is small; everything balances within the laws of necessity, a terrifying vision for the mind. Between living things and objects there is miraculous relationship; within that inexhaustible compass, from the sun ot the grub, there is no room for disdain; each thing needs every other thing. Light does not carry the scents of earth into the upper air without knowing what it is doing with them; darkness confers the essence of the stars upon the sleeping flowers. Every bird that flies carries a shred of the infinite in its claws. The process of birth is the shedding of a meteorite or the oeck of a hatching swallow on the shell of its egg; it is the coming of an earthworm or of Socrates, both equally important to the scheme of things. Where the telescope ends the microscope begins, and which has the wider vision? You may choose. A patch of mould is a galaxy of blossom; a nebula is an antheap of stars. There is the same affinity, if still more inconceivable, between the things of the mind and material things. Elements and principles are intermingled; they combine and marry and each increases and completes the other, so that the material and the moral world both are finally manifest. The phenomenon perpetually folds in upon iteself. In the vast cosmic changes universal life comes and goes in unknown quantities, borne by the mysterious flow of invisible currents, making use of everything, wasting not a single sleeper's dream, sowing an animalcule here and shattering a star there, swaying and writhing, turning light into a force and thought into an element; disseminated yet indivisible, dissolving all things except that geometrical point, the self, reducing all things to the core which is the soul, and causing all things to flower into God; all activities from the highest to the humblest - harnessing the movements of the earth and the flight of an insect - to the secret workings if an illimitable mechanism; perhaps - who can say? - governing, if only by the universality of the law, the evolution of a comet in the heavens by the circling of infusoria in a drop of water. A machine made of spirit. A huge meshing of gears of which the first motive forve is the gnat and the largest wheel the zodiac.

Quoted on June 14, 2011

They are les miserables – the outcasts, the underdogs. And who is to blame? Is it not the most fallen who have most need of charity?

Quoted on June 14, 2011

All held their peace, and Enjolras bowed his head. Silence always produces somewhat the effect of acquiescence, of the enemy being driven to the wall.

Quoted on June 14, 2011

Skepticism, that dry-rot of the intellect, had left him without a whole thought in his head.

Quoted on April 4, 2011

He was indulgent towards women, and towards the poor, upon whom the weight of society falls most heavily; and said: "The faults of women, children, and servants, of the feeble, the indigent and the ignorant, are the faults of their husbands, fathers, and masters, of the strong, the rich, and the wise." At other times, he said, "Teach the ignorant as much as you can; society is culpable in not providing instruction for all, and it must answer for the night which it produces. If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness."

As we see, he had a strange and peculiar way of judging things. I suspect that he acquired it from the Gospel.

Quoted on March 15, 2011

What is most innocent is sometimes most calculating. These things happen.
...and then...
There is a way of running which resembles pursuit. And so it happened.

Quoted on March 8, 2011

Mere lack of scruple does not ensure prosperity. The tavern was doing badly.

Quoted on March 8, 2011

Curiosity is a form of gluttony; to see is to devour.

Quoted on March 8, 2011

The angel had won, and what caused her to tremble from head to foot was teh fact that this rescuing angel was the man she abhorred, the abominable mayor whom for so long she had regarded as the author of her troubles. He had saved her after she had most outrageously insulted him! Could she have been wrong? Must she now change her very heart? ... She did not know and stood trembling...

Quoted on March 8, 2011

Monsieur Madeleine was in the habit of calling at three o'clock, and since punctuality is part of kindness he was always punctual.

Quoted on March 8, 2011

Ex Libris Kirkland is a super-self-absorbed reading journal made by Matt Kirkland. Copyright © 2001 - .
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