Why Les Misérables and Victor Hugo still matter


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The Independent Online

Many of you guys will have read Andy West on "Les Misery of Les Misérables", in which he candidly confessed he was unable to review 40 per cent of the film because during that time he was asleep. If for some bonkers reason you haven't read it, you really should. In the Washington Post today, the marvellous Michael Gerson has a rather different take on the film, which he saw on Christmas Day, and which made him cry.

For Gerson, Les Misérables resonates because Hugo's "great book is a vivid description of the workings of grace". Hugo may not have been a conventional Christian, or indeed a conventional thinker of any kind, but his deep concern was to give meaning to our current lives through a notion of transcendence. That is generally what religion tries to do, and in grappling with many of the chief concerns of religion - our obligations to the poor; the meaning of death; the nature of love - Hugo has produced a treatise that is religious without being explicitly so.

For those of you who haven't yet seen the film, it might be an idea to read both West and Gerson and work out who you think the more persuasive?