This is why I love Les Misérables. It is one of the few books that really influenced the way I think about humanity and goodness. I believe, in the same way that Hugo has predicted, that as long as poverty and social iniquity prevails to debase man, this literature will never cease to be relevant.  The world could use more Jean Valjeans.


In June 1832, a group of students, immigrants and insurrectionists took to the streets of Paris, demanding change. The fervor of the French Revolution had withered amid vast economic inequality, food shortages and a cholera outbreak. The rebels occupied half the city using makeshift barricades: trembling stacks of stolen saplings and planks. While the insurgency ended overnight, it lasted long enough for novelist Victor Hugo to be caught in its crosshairs, pinned to a wall as bullets flew.

The events would inspire Hugo’s master-piece, Les Misérables—which, 118 years later, inspired Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s musical. Since its Paris premiere in 1980, the star-crossed epic of good vs. evil has won eight Tonys, been translated into 21 languages, been seen by more than 60 million people in 42 countries and launched untold thousands of high school productions. It’s largely responsible for Glee. It’s almost entirely to blame for Susan…

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