Hugo family lawsuit rejected

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The Independent Online

The words of the French writer Victor Hugo were turned against his own descendants when a court in Paris rejected their efforts to ban a modern sequel to Les Misérables.

The novelist's descendants had complained that a sequel, entitled Cosette or The Time Of Illusions by François Cérésa , was unworthy of the original. They had protested in particular against the contemporary author's decision to resurrect a leading character called Javert, the police chief and one of the great villains of Les Misérables, who commits suicide in the original text.

In the continuation of the story, written by Mr Cérésa, Javert turns out be still alive and, actually, is a good man after all. For this and other reasons, the Hugo family argued, the sequel was a desecration of the Hugo novel, which is the most read work of fiction in the French language and has been converted into a successful stage play and film.

The court, in refusing to accept the relatives' suit, pointed out that Hugo was an ardent defender of freedom of speech and believed that all literature should be in the public domain, after a writer's death.

The novelist had once written, the court recalled, that "blood descendants are not necessarily descendants of the mind." In these circumstances, the court decided, the suit brought by the Hugo family against the sequel, published in June, had no legal standing and should be rejected without a full court hearing.

They had asked for £450,000 in damages and £5,000 for each day the book was on sale.

A further episode in the Les Misérables story, also penned by Mr Cérésa, is due to appear later this month.

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