In one of the greatest novels of the nineteenth century, Victor Hugo introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters as they navigate the harsh and unforgiving streets of Paris through life, love and death. Hugo chronicles and criticises the political and social changes of his time through his memorable heroes, including Jean Valjean, the noble peasant unjustly incarcerated, and Fantine the prostitute, left to her own devices in a ruthless world. Les Mis, as its fans call it, has enduring appeal, and has inspired countless adaptations, including an immensely popular Broadway play and Hollywood movie.
Victor Hugo's tale of injustice, heroism and love follows the fortunes of Jean Valjean, an escaped convict determined to put his criminal past behind him. But his attempts to become a respected member of the community are constantly put under threat: by his own conscience, and by the relentless investigations of the dogged policeman Javert. It is not simply for himself that Valjean must stay free, however, for he has sworn to protect the baby daughter of Fantine, driven to prostitution by poverty.
Victor Hugo was born in Besançon, France in 1802. In 1822 he published his first collection of poetry and in the same year, he married his childhood friend, Adèle Foucher. In 1831 he published his most famous youthful novel, Notre-Dame de Paris. A royalist and conservative as a young man, Hugo later became a committed social democrat and was exiled from France as a result of his political activities. In 1862, he wrote his longest and greatest novel, The Wretched (Les Misérables). After his death in 1885, his body lay in state under the Arc de Triomphe before being buried in the Panthéon.
Christine Donougher is a freelance translator and editor. She has translated numerous books from French and Italian, and won the 1992 Scott Moncrieff Translation Prize for her translation of Sylvie Germain's The Book of Nights.
Robert Tombs is Professor of History at St John's College, Cambridge. His most recent book is That Sweet Enemy: The French and the British from the Sun King to the Present, co-written with Isabelle Tombs.