Saturday, January 5, 2013

Les Mis: An Evolving Post

Ladies and gentlemen, I have determined to read, in its entirety, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. None of this abridged version nonsense. It's go big or go home time. This post will grow as I progress through the book. Mostly, it will be a place where I can record all of the outstanding gems I find in Mr. Hugo's writing. I'm already moderately in love with this book. Published by Signet Classics 1987.

From the Preface: "So long as there shall exist, by reason or law and custom, a social condemnation which, in the midst of civilization, artificially creates a hell on earth, and complicates with human fatality a destiny that is divine; so long as the three problems of the century -- the degradation of man by the exploitation of his labor, the ruin of woman by starvation, and the atrophy of childhood by physical and spiritual night -- are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a still broader point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, there should be a need for books such as this."

Pg. 52: "They confuse heaven's radiant stars with a duck's footprint left in the mud."

Page 220: "To write the poem of the human conscience, if only of one man, even the most insignificant man, would be to swallow up all epics in a superior and definitive epic. The conscience is the chaos of chimeras, lusts, and temptations, the furnace of dreams, the cave of ideas that shame us; it is the pandemonium of sophisms, the battlefield of the passions. At certain moments, penetrate the ashen face of a human being who is thinking and look at what lies behind; look into that soul, look into that obscurity. There, beneath the external silence, giants are doing battle as in Homer, melees of dragons and hydras, and clouds of phantoms as in Milton, ghostly spirals as in Dante. Such gloom enfolds that infinity which each man bears within himself and by which he measures in despair the desires of his will and the actions of his life!"

Pg. 225: "One can no more keep the mind from returning to an idea than the sea from returning to a shore. For the sailor, this is called the tide; in the case of the guilty, it is called remorse. God stirs up the soul as well as the ocean."

Pg. 226: "Certainly we talk to ourselves; there is no thinking being who has not experienced that. One could even say that the word is never a more magnificent mystery than when, within a man, it travels from his thought to his conscience and returns from his conscience to his thought...There is great tumult within; everything within us speaks, except the tongue. The realities of the soul, though not visible are palpable, and nonetheless realities."

Pg. 231: "Diamonds are found only in the dark bowels of the earth; truths are found only in the depths of thought."

Pg. 235: "And whatever he did, he always fell back onto this paradox at the core of his thought. To remain in paradise and become a demon! To re-enter hell and become an angel!"

Pg. 313: "Babylon violated diminishes Alexander; Rome enslaved diminishes Caesar; massacred Jerusalem diminishes Titus. Tyranny follows the tyrant. Woe to the man who leaves behind a shadow that bears his form."

Pg. 379: "A torn conscience leads to an unraveled life."

Pg. 382: "Finding themselves in such a world at the dawn of their existence, so young, so defenseless, what must go on in these souls fresh from God?

Pg. 439: "Oh, divine unfathomable mystery of Destiny's compensations."

Pg. 509: "This is not the place for an inordinate development of certain ideas; however, while absolutely maintaining our reservations, our restrictions, and even our indignation, we must admit, whenever we meet the Infinite in man, whether well or poorly understood, we react with respect. There is in the synagogue, in the mosque, in the pagoda, and in the wigwam, a hideous side that we detest and a sublime aspect that we adore. What a subject of meditation, and what a limitless source of reverie is the reflection of God upon the human wall!"

Pg. 514: "Superstitions, bigotries, hypocrisies, prejudices, these phantoms, phantoms though they be, cling to life; they have teeth and nails in their shadowy substance, and we must grapple with them individually and make war on them without true; for it is one of humanity's inevitabilities to be condemned to eternal struggle with phantoms. A shadow is hard to seize by the throat and dash to the ground."

Pg. 517: "At the same time, while there is an infinite outside of us, is there not an infinite within us? These two infinites (frightening plural!), do they not rest superimposed on one another? Does the second infinite not underlie the first, so to speak? Is it not the mirror, the reflection, the echo of the first, an abyss concentric with another abyss? Is this second infinite intelligent, also? Does it think? Does it love? Does it will? If the two infinites are intelligent, each one of them has a principle of will and there is a "me" in the infinite above, as there is a "me" in the infinite below. The "me" below is the soul; the "me" above is God.
"To place, by process of thought, the infinite below in contact with the infinite above is called "prayer."

Pg. 569: "Laughter is sunshine; it chases winter from the human face."

Pg. 646: "The hand that sweeps around the dial also moves among souls."

Pg. 646: "There is nothing like a dream to create the future. Utopia today, flesh and blood tomorrow.

Pg. 678-679: "For there are many great deeds done in the small struggles of life. There is a determined though unseen bravery that defends itself foot by foot in the darkness against the fatal invasions of necessity and dishonesty. Noble and mysterious triumphs that no eye sees and no fame rewards, and no flourish of triumph salutes. Life, misfortunes, isolation, abandonment, poverty, are battlefields that have their heroes; obscure heroes, sometimes are greater than the illustrious heroes.
"Strong and rare natures are created this way; misery, almost always a stepmother, is sometimes a mother; privation gives birth to power of soul and mind; distress is the nurse of self-respect; misfortunes gives good milk for great souls."

Pg. 682: "The soul helps the body, and at certain moments raises it. It is only the bird that sustains its cage."

Pg. 693: "In fact, were it given to our human eye to see into the consciences of others, we would judge a man much more surely from what he dreams than from what he thinks. There is will in the thought, there is none in the dream. Even in the gigantic and the ideal, the dream which is completely spontaneous, takes and keeps the form of our mind. Nothing springs more directly and more sincerely from our innermost souls than our unreflected and indefinite aspirations toward the splendors of destiny. In these aspirations, much more than in ideas which are structured, studied, and compared, can we find the true character of each man. Our chimeras are most like us. Each of us dreams the unknown and the impossible according to his own nature."

Pg. 711-712: "The glances of women are like certain seemingly peaceful but really formidable machines. Every day you pass them in peace, with impunity, and without suspicion of danger. There comes a moment when you forget even that they are there. You come and go, you muse, and talk, and laugh. Suddenly you feel caught up! It is all over. The wheels have you, the glance has captured you. It has caught you, no matter how or where, by some wandering of your thought, through a momentary distraction. You are lost. You will be drawn in entirely. A train of mysterious forces has gained possession of you. You struggle in vain. No human succor is possible. You will be drawn down from wheel to wheel, from anguish to anguish, from torture to torture. You, your mind, your anguish, your future, your soul; and you will not leave the awesome machine, until, depending on whether you are in the power of a malevolent creature, or a noble heart, you are disfigured by shame or transfigured by love."

Pg. 900: "There is another law of these young years of suffering and concern, of these acute struggles of first love against first obstacles, that the young girl does not allow herself to be caught in any trap, the young man falls into all of them."

Pg. 932: "Certain thoughts are prayers. There are moments when, whatever the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees."

Pg. 934: "You who suffer because you love, love still more. To die of love is to live by it."