Week Two is still all about The Bishop.
I would hate to suggest that he was wearing out his welcome (see what I did there?) but I’m wondering when we might actually meet one of the BIG name characters I’ve heard about via literary osmosis over the years. (I think I’m the only #LesMisReadalong participant who hasn’t read the book before OR seen the movie OR the musical. Everything is new and unknown to me.)
Below are some of the quotes from each chapter that caught my attention.
Vol 1 Book 1 Ch 8 A Philosopher in His Cups:
There is neither good nor evil but only growth.
The immortality of man is a daydream, a soothing promise which you may believe if you choose.
In the end, whatever you do, the grave is waiting.
The only thing to do is live.
The man who has nothing else has God.
God is for the masses.
What was Hugo’s relationship with Marxism I wonder?
Vol 1 Book 1 Ch 9 A Sister’s Account of Her Brother:
Struggling to put aside my feminist lens as I read about ‘two devoted women (who) subordinated their actions, their thoughts, even their timorous feminine instincts to his habits & purposes, without his needing to express them in words.’
And surely this was a ridiculous thing to say, even for it’s time?
‘that especial feminine genius which understands a man better than he understands himself.’
Although this attitude towards women is probably partly why Hugo was able to justify having so many extramarital affairs during his lifetime. ‘They served him as the occasion required, and if the best obedience was to vanish from his sight they did so.’
Vol 1 Book 1 Ch 10 The Bishop Confronted By a Strange Light:
‘…man is ruled by a tyrant whose name is Ignorance‘
‘Conscience is the amount of inner knowledge that we possess.‘
‘I voted for the overthrow of the tyrant – that is to say, for an end to the prostitution of women, the enslavement of men, the dark night of the child….I helped to bring about the downfall of prejudice & error.‘
‘The French Revolution was the anointing of humanity.’
The Comte also mentioned the case of Cartouche’s brother being hanged by the armpits until dead as being as ‘grievous‘ a crime as the ‘innocent child martyred in the Temple for the crime of being the grandson of Louis XV‘.
But who was Cartouche? And why was his younger brother hanged?
It turns out the Louis Dominique Garthausen, aka Bourguignon, aka Cartouche was the leader of a gang that terrorised Paris around 1719. He was eventually ‘broken on the wheel’ for his crimes in 1721.
His brother’s death sounded rather ghastly too. It was meant to be a non-fatal punishment/humiliation that involved being hanged under the armpits with the rope about his chest, for two hours. Unfortunately the weight of his body caused all the blood to run to his feet. He was cut down dead before the two hours time had passed.
It was a savage time indeed to be alive!
Vol 1 Book 1 Ch 11 A Reservation
A wealthy priest is a contradiction. A priest should be close to the poor.
Vol 1 Book 1 Ch 12 The Loneliness of Monseigneur Bienvenu:
They confound the brilliance of the firmament with the star-shaped footprints of a duck in the mud.
Vol 1 Book 1 Ch 13 What He Believed:
He believed as much as he could.
The Bishop’s days overflowed with goodness of thought and word and action.
A garden to walk in and immensity to dream in – what more could he ask? A few flowers at his feet and above him the stars.
Vol 1 Book 1 Ch 14 What He Thought:
There are men who dig for gold; he dug for compassion.
But the REAL highlight about the end of Vol 1 Book 1 was a REAL life event. After being blogging buddies for about 7 years, Louise from A Strong Belief in Wicker and I finally met face to face.
It was an incredibly windy evening to be taking our copies of Les Mis on a ferry ride on Sydney Harbour, but we all survived intact! We enjoyed a fun evening talking books, blogging and life over a bottle of fine wine accompanied by some seriously delicious food (thank you Love.fish). Here’s hoping it’s the first of many such splendid catch-ups.
Louise has written a superb end of Vol 1 Book 1 wrap up post here.
Nick’s Week One post about the Bishop is here, while his Week Two thoughts can be found here.
It’s not too late to join in this magnificent readalong. Most of the chapters are only 2-3 pages long. Sixteen days in, I’m only up to page 82. If you’ve ever thought about reading this chunkster, but thought it was too overwhelming or too difficult, then think again. This slow, leisurely read is anything but overwhelming or difficult. It’s very do-able and very enjoyable.