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The tragic barricades so dramatically shown in the musical and in the book’s pages sprung up around the Paris that Victor Hugo witnessed first-hand.
While often confused with the earlier French Revolution, the insurgent events depicted in are the June Rebellion of 1832, a brief and failed attempt to overturn the monarchy that was harshly put down by the National Guard.
I think about Javert’s revelation all the time, and wish I could make it requisite reading. This sceptic’s name was Grantaire, and he was in the habit of signing himself with this rebus: R. The “new” Amis are often rendered in fic and fanart in a rainbow of ethnicities and sexualities, and cosplayers embody them in new shapes and situations.
Or, for another and nearly opposite view of the human condition, gaze upon Hugo’s description of the cynical, alcoholic Grantaire, attached to the revolutionary Friends of l’ABC only by the force of his affection: Among all these glowing hearts and thoroughly convinced minds, there was one sceptic. Grantaire was a man who took good care not to believe in anything. To read and love is not only a profound act, but it can become a lifestyle.
It is addressed to England as well as to Spain, to Italy as well as to France, to Germany as well as to Ireland, to Republics which have slaves as well as to Empires which have serfs. The sores of the human race, those great sores which cover the globe, do not halt at the red or blue lines traced upon the map.
In every place where man is ignorant and despairing, in every place where woman is sold for bread, wherever the child suffers for lack of the book which should instruct him and of the hearth which should warm him, the book of certainly isn’t light reading, though Hugo is also a highly skilled humorist who never saw a pun he did not like. Grantaire, in whom writhed doubt, loved to watch faith soar in Enjolras. That chaste, healthy, firm, upright, hard, candid nature charmed him, without his being clearly aware of it, and without the idea of explaining it to himself having occurred to him. His soft, yielding, dislocated, sickly, shapeless ideas attached themselves to Enjolras as to a spinal column. Grantaire in the presence of Enjolras became some one once more.