Monday, October 26, 2009

Banned, Censored, Challenged: Les Miserables

Les Miserables(1862) is the 19th century work of French author Victor Hugo. Every one of Victor Hugo's books were banned in 1850 by Tsar Nicholas I, since Hugo's depiction of royalty were considered...less than flattering, shall we say? His works were also listed on the infamous Index Librorum Prohibitorum which was the Catholic Church's list of books forbidden to members of the faith.
Les Miserables made the Index in 1864 and according to Banned Books: Literature Suppressed on Political Grounds, stayed there until 1959. Books were usually placed there for being critical of the clergy or the papacy. In 1904, it was banned from a Philadelphia school because it contained a French word associated with prostitution (grisette- a working class woman, "good-time girl").

Les Miserables is the story of Jean Valjean, a former criminal who finds redemption. It's about compassion and was a commentary on French society. Miserables refers to the wretchedly poor in France.


Michele Emrath said...

And yet it is one of the most beautifully written books in history. Thank you for writing this post! It is more than a play, and our generation needs to know that! Honestly, I'm embarassed I didn't know it was banned at one time - and so recently! I learn so much on this site. Good work.


lilly said...

Les Miserables is my all time favorite. The only book I've read several times in two different language (neither is French sadly) and I am absolutely in love with it, not to mention I weep every time.
I'm surprised (I guess my ignorance shows)that it's on a banned books list. Crazy, makes me love it even more :)