Sunday 7 January 2018

#LesMisReadalong Week One

I do not believe by any stretch of the imagination that I will complete 52 weekly Les Mis updates this year, but I will at least start the year with good intentions and unrealistic resolutions!

I've started off my Les Mis experience by trying to pull one or two significant quotes from each chapter. Google images helped with the rest. If you've been following along on Twitter, you will have already seen most of these chapter samplers already.

I'm also taking notes in an attempt to keep track of characters, places and themes.

I had planned to write much more about my first week with Les Mis and getting to know Monsigneur Charles-Fran├žois-Bienvenu Myriel, but a HUGE weekend away has put a hold on that for now.

Nick has provided a Les Mis structure and history post to get us all started off on the right foot. He has also provided a week one twitter update post here. We've certainly rocked the twitter chat so far with the #LesMisReadalong. A supportive, encouraging community has evolved and I've met some new-to-me bloggers and tweeters. I hope we can maintain the enthusiasm.

Vol 1 Book 1 Ch 1 - Monseigneur Myriel 

"What is reported of men, whether it be true or false, may play as large a part of their lives, and above all in their destiny, as the things they do."
FRENCH SCHOOL, 19th Century, follower of Michel Martin Drolling
Portrait of Monsignor Myriel, Bishop of Digne, France (1754-1817)

Vol 1 Book 1 Ch 2 - Monseigneur Myriel becomes Monseigneur Bienvenu

"We do not claim that the portrait we are making is the whole truth, only that it is a resemblance."

Vol 1 Book 1 Ch 3 - A Hard Office for a Good Bishop

"Digne was a rugged diocese, with very little flat land, many mountains and, as we have seen, very few roads."

Vol 1 Book 1 Ch 4 - Works Matching Words

There are in France thirteen hundred and twenty thousand peasant cottages which have only three outlets, eighteen hundred and seventeen thousand which have only two, a door & 1 window, & three hundred and forty-six thousand which have only a door. This is due to something known as the tax on doors & windows. Consider the fate of the poor families, old women and young children, living in these hovels, the fevers and the maladies. God gives air to mankind & the law sells it.

**So I learnt something new in Ch 4. The reason why many old homes in France (and England) had bricked up windows (or huge walls with no windows at all) was to avoid the window tax. This tax was not repealed in France until 1926.

**I was wondering how long it would take for the guillotine to make an appearance in Les Mis. Turns out I only had to wait four chapters.

As for the bishop himself, the spectacle of the guillotine caused him a shock from which he was slow to recover.A scaffold, when it is erected and prepared, has indeed a profoundly disturbing effect. We may remain more or less open-minded on the subject of the death penalty, indisposed to commit ourselves, so long as we have not seen a guillotine with our own eyes. But to do so is to be so shaken that we are obliged to take our stand for or against.

Vol 1 Book 1 Ch 5

**Reveals the conundrums and nuances of translation that many of us are facing with this readalong...

"...including an essay on a line in Genesis - 'And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.' He contrasts this with three other versions: the Arabic, 'The winds of God blew'; that of Flavius Josephus, 'A wind from on high descended upon earth'; and finally the Chaldean version of the Rabbi Onkelos, 'A wind from God blew upon the the face of the waters.' 

Vol 1 Book 1 Ch 6 - The Guardian of his House

The fireplace, its wooden surround painted to resemble marble, was normally without a fire; it contained instead two ornamental fire-dogs, a form of episcopal luxury, embellished with flower vases and foliations that had once been silver-gilt.

**One of my favourite quotes to date....

'The beautiful is as useful as the useful.' Then after a pause, he added: 'More so perhaps.'

Vol 1 Book 1 Ch 7 - Cravatte



  1. Hmm... you've almost made me want to read now...

    1. Go on! Do it! Do it!
      I've even got a couple of my regular customers at work on board :-)

  2. I'm happy that you began, Brona, and no matter how far you go, your contributions to the conversation will be appreciated. Already in the first week you have enriched our reading, and I hope we have your insights for many chapters to come.

    1. Thanks Nick, I'm counting on your extensive Les Mis knowledge and long-lived enthusiasm to keep me going during the slower patches though :-)

  3. Brona,I love to see what parts of the book make an impression on individual readers.
    It gives a insight into the impact the book has on people. I'm surprised in that this book is written in a more 'friendly' tone than Zola's books. Each day I'm eager to read some wonderful quote that I can take with me all day. Zola was more 'gloomy' looking for the cracks in characters psyche. You have brought many readers to this challenge through your post (very early!) and you should be thanked by all! Of course BIG thanks to Nick @nsenger for hosting and guiding us throught the book!

    1. I've enjoyed the leisurely read a lot so far. It's giving me time to reflect on each chapter and find the quote or image that has the most and longest impact on me. And I'm really enjoying the search for images to go with each quote.

      Chapter 8 has had some latin phrases that I had to google translate, but the Marxist philosophy espoused by the Comte has me more intrigued.

    2. I'm still reading ch side tracked, again!

  4. Oh wow, you've set the week in review bar very high. I'm hoping to review each chapter- that's the plan at this stage anyway. I was very excited that Monseigneur Bienvenu was real when I saw the portrait of him. He is fictional it seems, wiki say modelled on the real Bishop of Digne at the time. I've been wondering about where the line between reality and fiction blurred, clearly some of the characters are real, Napoleon for instance, I'd wondered about the men who came to dinner, and had their names etched on the table in gilt, if they were real. Perhaps I'll try to find out.


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