The Novel of the Century by David Bellos
The Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables

82%

6 Critic Reviews

...in telling the engrossing story of the book and its author’s journey from staunch defender of the government to exile in Guernsey after Napoleon III’s 1851 coup d’état, Bellos also makes a powerful case for the novel’s enduring relevance.
-Financial Times

Synopsis

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

Les Misérables is among the most popular and enduring novels ever written. Like Inspector Javert’s dogged pursuit of Jean Valjean, its appeal has never waned, but only grown broader in its one-hundred-and-fifty-year life. Whether we encounter Victor Hugo’s story on the page, onstage, or on-screen, Les Misérables continues to captivate while also, perhaps unexpectedly, speaking to contemporary concerns. In The Novel of the Century, the acclaimed scholar and translator David Bellos tells us why.

This enchanting biography of a classic of world literature is written for “Les Mis” fanatics and novices alike. Casting decades of scholarship into accessible narrative form, Bellos brings to life the extraordinary story of how Victor Hugo managed to write his novel of the downtrodden despite a revolution, a coup d’état, and political exile; how he pulled off a pathbreaking deal to get it published; and how his approach to the “social question” would define his era’s moral imagination. More than an ode to Hugo’s masterpiece, The Novel of the Century also shows that what Les Misérables has to say about poverty, history, and revolution is full of meaning today.

 

About David Bellos

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David Bellos is a professor of French and Comparative Literature at Princeton where he is also director of the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication. He won the Prix Goncourt de la Biographie for George Perec: A Life in Words. He also won the IBM-France prize for his translated W or The Memory of Childhood, Things: A Story of the Sixties and 53 Days, all major works by George Perec. In 2005 he won the Man Booker International translator's award for his translations of several works by the Albanian novelist Ismail Kadare.
 
Published March 21, 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 336 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Biographies & Memoirs. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Novel of the Century
All: 6 | Positive: 6 | Negative: 0

Kirkus

Excellent
on Dec 08 2016

Anyone who loves Hugo, France, and the French language will revel in this delightful book that explains all the intimacies of 19th-century French life.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Aug 24 2017

...the story of how Victor Hugo’s classic novel came to life is a challenging, complex, and utterly engrossing epic all its own.

Read Full Review of The Novel of the Century: The... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

NPR

Above average
Reviewed by Liza Graham on Mar 28 2017

...even if you limit yourself to a chapter a day, you could easily read the entire book in a year. If you do, The Novel of the Century will be an engaging and enlightening companion in a year well spent.

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The Economist

Good
on Feb 23 2017

In the musical Hugo’s hero intones—in a song loved by television talent-show contestants—“Bring Him Home”. Mr Bellos does just that, as he restores “Les Mis” to its maker and his times.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Tobias Grey on Mar 31 2017

Bellos’s book also doubles as a fascinating partial biography of Hugo’s life. Here we have a writer who had the courage of his convictions.

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Financial Times

Above average
Reviewed by Lucy Watson on Jan 20 2017

...in telling the engrossing story of the book and its author’s journey from staunch defender of the government to exile in Guernsey after Napoleon III’s 1851 coup d’état, Bellos also makes a powerful case for the novel’s enduring relevance.

Read Full Review of The Novel of the Century: The... | See more reviews from Financial Times

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85%

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