Rewriting Les Miserables

For my eleventh or twelfth birthday, my parents gave me a cassette tape recording of the musical “Les Miserables.” One of the consequences was that I checked out Victor Hugo’s novel in English from the local library, and when I finished reading it, set about writing a sequel in which Gavroche didn’t really die, nor did Eponine, and instead these thwarted Thenardier children started an orphanage there in the slums of St. Michel, where they lived not off the crumbs of high society but on the inheritance left them by Jean Valjean. Marius ditched Cosette for Eponine and they all lived happily ever after.

Lucky for all of us, that manuscript languished on a floppy disk somewhere that has probably, by this point, been thrown away. But I am happy to find that a grown man has been similarly inspired: recently, the Hugo family tried to sue another author, Fran├žois Ceresa, who “dared” to write his own sequel to “Les Mis” called Cosette, ou, le temps des illusions. They lost. Ceresa’s lawyer won by appealing to Hugo himself, who, in a speech given on June 21st, 1878, said: “The blood heir is the heir by blood. The writer, as writer, has only one heir: that of the spirit. The human spirit is in the public domain. That is the absolute truth.”

The best part is that in his sequel, Ceresa also decided to resuscitate one of the main (doomed) characters: Javert. Come to think of it, maybe I should go looking for that floppy disk after all.


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