Victor Hugo is, in my opinion, a wonderful, wonderful man, writer, and thinker. I am more than halfway through Les Misérables, of which I have been enjoying an almost two-month long infatuation with. I am almost ashamed to admit that I was never very interested in reading novels from the nineteenth century (I loved the stories, but didn't quite want to read them), believing the language would be so different, difficult, stiff, unimaginative, and dull. How wrong I was! Victor Hugo's Les Misérables is exciting, incredible, beautiful - I could rave for pages about it. And when I am reading and suddenly it's time to go to work, or go to bed, or go wherever, I do have a hard time forcing myself to put the book down.
I have a small, wrinkled little receipt that I have been using as a bookmark and which is now filled with page numbers. There are phrases from the novel that are so beautiful that I need to write down the page number so that I can reflect later. But alas, where to put this little collection of mine? Since I now am maintaining a blog, I figured it would be fun to create a little series called Victor Hugo-isms. It is my hope that Les Misérables fans will stumble across them and enjoy them and perhaps it will encourage those fans of the musical who have never read the book to give it a try. It is my hope that non-Les Misérables fans will find something special in them, as well. And if that is not the case, I have them here for me to look back on and cherish, always.
And so without any further ado, I begin this series, below.
#1: "He believed that faith gives health. He sought to counsel and calm the despairing by pointing out the Man of Resignation, and to transform the grief that contemplates the grave by showing it the grief that looks up to the stars."
Where: Page 17.
What's Happening: Monsieur Myriel, otherwise known in the show as the Bishop of Digne who gives Jean Valjean shelter, freedom, and a chance to become an honest man, goes to comfort those who are dying and those who have lost loved ones.
What I Learned: When I read this quote, I think I literally gasped out loud/smacked a hand to my chest in awe/had an epihany/let the air know how pleased I was. I learned that perspective is important. When we lose a loved one, we can deal with it in two entirely ways. We can be shriveled by grief, staring down into a deep hole in the ground, bitterly wondering where everybody ends up, wallowing in pity and fear and despair, and letting death conquer our thoughts. Or we can use grief to reach a higher place and instead stare up at the sky, at the eternal stars, using hope as medicine, and conquering the thought of death with faith. Or, I suppose, you could think of it this way: one can believe that everybody dies and ends up in a hole in the ground only, or one can believe that everybody dies and gets the chance to soar through the sky. The bottom line is that Monsieur Myriel was an extremely positive man who gave his fellow men the gift of faith and hope and comfort and I, personally, would rather look up than down.