Bonjour mes amis et bienvenue à la cinquième (et dernière) semaine de #MiserablesMay! If you have no idea what I’m talking about, long story short: I decided reading Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables in the space of the month of May would be a good idea. (I was wrong.) If you’re curious about the intended weekly schedule and organisation of this, be sure to check out my announcement post or the post of my co-host Liz.
Recap of Volume Five: Jean Valjean
When we left the last volume Cosette had written a note to Marius to tell him the date and time of her and Valjean’s planned departure for England but Valjean had found the impression it had left on the blotter she wrote it. What did he do next? Well, obviously he loaded his musket and sought out the place where the lad was and… joined in with his revolution?? (I’m only half joking.) The fifth and final volume is entitled ‘Jean Valjean’ which is a pretty telling sign – it probably means he’s likely to be dead by the end of it. Considering we’ve been following his life for some 1000 pages it wouldn’t be unreasonable that the reasonably aged man would now be on his way to meet his maker; he’s been through a lot of shit (quite literally by the end of this volume) so if there’s anyone who deserves a peaceful death surrounded by his loved ones, it’s Valjean. Obviously though, this is Victor Hugo, so he can’t just let characters chill for a minute.
What actually opens this volume, though, is a digression is typical Victor Hugo form – just related enough to not actually feel irrelevant but removed enough from the real meat of the book’s plot that you start to question whether you would lose any comprehension of the novel if you just skim-read it. This time it’s a piece about barricades, but not the barricade we’re reading about, oh no, a different one entirely. (These sections mostly just make me miss university because you can bet all your money that I would be close-analysing the shit out of it, if I were writing an essay on the subject.) Thankfully, however, Hugo manages to bring it back around to the ‘present’ before I lose the will to live and compares the barricades he’s just mentioned to the current one of Enjolras and pals. He calls it barely an embryo in comparison which doesn’t exactly bode well for its longevity, especially when we’re quickly told the food is running out. As anyone who’s ever organised a sit-in protest knows there are two important considerations: access to toilet facilities and adequate provisions of food and water.