Victor Hugo’s epic has captured and wrung the hearts of millions since its publication in the 1860s. The time period during which the story takes place was a political roller coaster for France, and Hugo is a master at exploring the implications for every level of society. (See this post.)
In honor of Les Misérables, here are ten interesting facts you probably didn’t know:
1. The unabridged book is 1,900 pages in French, and approximately 1,500 pages in English.
2. There have been over 60 film adaptations of the story.
3. Jean Valjean saves Cosette from the Thenardiers on Christmas Eve.
4. Hugo started writing Les Misérables in 1829 and it wasn’t published until 1862—that’s 33 years to write a masterpiece.
5. When the book was first published in France, Victor Hugo was in exile in England.
6. The musical production has been translated into 22 different languages, including Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Czech, Castillian, Finnish, Argentinian, Estonian, and Korean.
7. Remember Gavroche, the little boy who helps with the revolution? Bet you’ll never guess who he is—Eponine’s brother! Madame Thenardier apparently had little love for her son, which is why he ends up living on the streets.
8. The book quickly became a hit in America, because of the relevancy of the themes and political upheaval to the Civil War. Confederate soldiers who read the novel called themselves “Lee’s Miserables.”
9. In the recent 2012 film adaptation of the musical, all the singing was done live on set. The cast was forbidden to drink alcohol because of the strenuous demands of singing daily.
10. Victor Hugo’s other famous piece of literature? Notre-Dame de Paris, or The Hunchback of Notre Dame.