Victor Hugo

Dazzling 19th-Century French Book Advertisements

A popular figure in France’s social scene, and a successful poet and playwright, Victor Hugo spent nearly 20 years planning and composing Les Misérables. It received lukewarm reviews, but the book became a commercial success after its first printing in 1862.

The excitement the novel generated leading up to its publication was unprecedented. Advertisements displayed around the city of Paris introduced passersby to the characters struggling to start anew amid the 1832 June Rebellion in the City of Light. It was a bona fide media frenzy well before the age of the Internet. … Read More

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50 Works of Fiction in Translation That Every English Speaker Should Read

There’s an entire world of literature out there if you just look beyond what was written in your native tongue. Major works in other languages are being translated into English all the time, meaning that there’s no time like the present for you to enjoy books from places like Russia, Egypt, Mexico, and other nations around the globe. So if you’re looking to get your literary passport stamped, here are 50 destinations to start you… Read More

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10 of the Best “Makeovers” in Literature

Yesterday, Emma Straub’s excellent debut novel Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures waltzed onto bookshelves everywhere. We loved the book, which follows a young girl’s rise to stardom in Old Hollywood, as she transforms from a sunny country bumpkin to a savvy brunette bombshell to something else entirely. Inspired by the novel, which is full of many transformations, both literal and somewhat more metaphorical, we’ve put together a few of our favorite makeovers in literature — from the kind achieved with a little spit and polish to the sort that requires a vast internal sea change. Click through to see which we picked, and let us know if we missed your favorite in the comments. … Read More

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The Stories of 10 Famous Literary Exiles

“J’Accuse!” Writer Émile Zola fled France today 114 years ago to escape imprisonment after being convicted for libel. He defended the innocence of a Jewish artillery captain in the French army, Alfred Dreyfus. The L’Assommoir author directed his letter — published in newspaper L’Aurore — at France’s President Félix Faure and the government, citing anti-Semitism and judicial corruption in the unlawful jailing of Dreyfus for espionage. Zola quickly took off to London and later returned to see Dreyfus pardoned.

History has proven that honest, intellectual, and creative freethinkers can be deemed dangerous — demonized and ostracized by their own societies. Many have been banished, but some have left their native countries of their own accord. Oddly enough, the experience has been a catalyst for some of literature’s finest work. See what famous figures made our list of literary exiles below. … Read More

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An Essential French Lit Reading List for Bastille Day

Tomorrow is Bastille Day, or as the French call it, la Fête Nationale or le quatorze juillet, the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789, the flashpoint of the French Revolution that symbolizes the birth of the modern nation. So basically the French version of the fourth of July, only slightly bloodier and with more presidential garden parties. In honor of the French’s national holiday, we’ve put together a list of essential French literature to get anyone in the spirit. And obviously, there’s no way to distill the literature of an entire country into a ten point list, so these are just some of our favorites — chime in with your own in the comments. Vive la révolution! … Read More

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Famous Authors’ Unlikely Obsessions

We tend to put our favorite authors on a pedestal, and in some ways when we do that, we turn them into characters themselves, figures whose every action, whim, and interest should fit into the tidy package of our understanding. However, authors are real people (thank goodness) and sometimes they can surprise us by being into something that seems a little off-kilter for them — or just in general. With all the recent hubbub on book blogs about Martin Amis’s resurfaced video game guide (so it’s okay to write about Space Invaders, but penning children’s books is totally lame?), we got to thinking about other authors and their obsessions, from the literary to the musical to the, um, extra-terrestrial. Click through to check out our list of famous authors’ unlikely obsessions, and try not to be alarmed at what you may find. … Read More

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Utah Judge Orders Felons to Read Victor Hugo’s ‘Les Misérables’

Now here’s some hard labor we can get behind. Judge Thomas Willmore of 1st District Court in Logan, Utah, says that he sometimes orders convicted defendants to read Victor Hugo’s 19th-century novel, Les Misérables (and write him a short book report about the work, no less) as part of their sentence. In the novel,… Read More

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Literary Characters Who Died Too Soon

Last week, we were struck by the news that J.K. Rowling had considered offing our favorite grumbling redhead Ron Weasley in one of the Harry Potter books. And why? For “sheer spite,” she says. Though we have to admit that we’re overwhelmingly glad that Rowling left Ron well enough alone, the news got us to thinking about literary characters that were killed off by their authors, especially those that passed a little too soon for our liking. Authors kill beloved characters for many reasons — to advance the plot, to evoke an emotional response, or just to prove that they’re Not Kidding Around — and though we understand all of these, we can’t help but have an emotional reaction every once and a while that is akin to a child being relieved of its favorite toy. Read our list of literary characters who, at least in our estimation, died way too soon after the jump, and be sure to chime in with your own favorite characters that you wish had stuck around a little longer. But be warned: as with any post about character deaths, spoilers abound ahead. … Read More

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See What Was On Samuel Beckett’s Nightstand

As befits an obsessive writer, Beckett read everything he could get his hands on, and of course had opinions on everything. The Letters of Samuel Beckett, Vol. 2, recently published by Cambridge University Press, sheds light on Beckett’s correspondence from 1941 – 1956, and is, of course, fascinating. To whet your appetite (if you don’t have a copy of the book yet), CUP has published a partial list of books mentioned by Beckett in his personal letters, some even with a few choice words of derision or approval, so we can get an idea of what he was reading in those fifteen years. Click through to see Beckett’s reading list, and then make sure to pick up a copy of the book for even more. … Read More

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Big Brother Book Club: From Victor Hugo to David Sedaris

Occasionally when we’re on the 1 scoping out all of your reads, there’s a title that we just can’t see no matter how much we squint or how long we wait for a page turn, or train lurch that shifts the book ever so slightly. We’re intrigued and we cra buy generic viagra

ne our necks (as inconspicuously as possible) in hopes of seeing it. We wonder if people are starting to notice.

This morning, there was a particularly frustrating lady sitting diagonally from us with a behemoth of a library book between her hands. There was a dead white guy on the cover. MARK TWAIN? No. EDGAR ALLAN POE? No. Blast! We didn’t recognize the face, and wow was the protective, plastic covering reflective, making it even harder to make out what the tiny black font said.

As the train screeched to a stop at 18th Street, and the lady closed the book and stood up to take her leave, we managed to catch the fine print as she walked past and waited for the door to open. VICTOR HUGO! Mystery solved. A quick Amazon search confirmed that the cover was in fact that of Modern Library’s LES MISERABLES. We hope you appreciate our dedicated detective work. … Read More

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