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BR & BOTM Archives > BR (#1) - Alexw ~ Badassbookworm ~ Jatin ----> 1st December

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message 1: by Ipshita (new)

Ipshita (miss_romanceaholic) | 2701 comments Mod
Here you go team #1. Happy Reading :)

message 2: by Alexw (new)

Alexw | 81 comments Thank you and to my other two teammates- I am reading the Signet Classic complete and unabridged paperback edition of Les Miserables published March 1987.

message 3: by Jatin (new)

Jatin | 91 comments Hi Alex, I have started reading the book ... but I realize that it's .. really long and has multiple complex characters :) Since I have other commitments, I am afraid I am going to be rather slow, so will only give slow updates and likely not finish this within a month or two. I think this is more of a six month project for me. So you might be disappointed!

message 4: by Jatin (last edited Dec 04, 2018 11:41AM) (new)

Jatin | 91 comments Okay maybe not literally six months, but yeah at least two to three months. Often I can read fast, especially with books with lot of filler sentences, but here it seems that's not gonna happen. The writing is rather rich and careful, and this sort of thing needs to be savored line by line. How fast is your reading pace ?

message 5: by Alexw (new)

Alexw | 81 comments Goodreads means never having to say you are disappointed- read at your pace- do NOT make this a chore.

And yes- the philosophy in the first part of the book is the author's and is rich in meaning so savor away !!

my reading pace is your reading pace.

message 6: by Jatin (last edited Dec 04, 2018 01:08PM) (new)

Jatin | 91 comments Thanks :) So right now I am reading about the Bishop. Frankly, the very detailed description of the Bishop's ways is a story in it's own. The tale of his lifestyle feels timeless, even today, the ideas are relevant. The Bishop seems not to be a slow charity giver, but a brilliant man. I found a few things particularly striking. One is the following quote apparently from St. Augustine :

"Place your expectations on him to whom there is no succession!"

Essentially this says to expect the best from men who will be self-made. Now, this is of course, a regular principle which we all espouse, the superiority of the 'self-made' man. However, the Bishop goes a step further. The point is this - when we speak of a self-made man, we assume that the man in question will actually be able to obtain the resources necessary for the 'making' despite not inheriting them, will be able to rise above the inevitable tides of losses inspite of not having a legacy to fall back on. How do we give the self-made man these resources ? We again appeal to the Bishop's method - a strong and well-oiled community, note how the Bishop preaches examples of towns self-sufficient by means of an honest brotherhood of providing for each other. This is a remarkable consistency in the Bishop's method, and the mark of an intelligent man.

Consider in particular the Bishop's treatment of the town where the Mayor gets rid of all the red-tape of bureaucracy and takes the town's issues to a fast resolution. This is a thoughtful take on societal organization. In today's time, if someone proposed such an arrangement, the counter-point would be 'what if the Mayor is corrupt or biased' ? How can we trust in a fallible human being ? It is precisely because of our lack of belief in fellow humans that we have resorted to algorithmic systems for society instead of human judgement. This has led to a situation where we presume that every human acts for their own selfish interest, and seek to devise mechanisms that achieve social good under such circumstances. Given how carelessly and with how much jingoism such mechanisms are devised, they must necessarily be inefficient, and so is the plight of the people in the town in the book where they are hampered by red-tape.

A third point is the Bishop's thoughts on how men used death to display their titles. The Bishop comments on the hardihood of men who use the tomb to feed their vanity. I find this to be a striking quote, because of the apposition with the Bishop's treatment of the condemned man about to be executed. When the man to be executed stares into the terrible abyss of death, he is completely unnerved. Note how the Bishop's focus is the man's self-reconciliation rather than the spectacle of his life. This is what the Bishop refers to as foolhardy, how men use such an unnerving thing as death for their vanity, instead of their self-reconciliation, as all titles fall to dust in the face of death.

A fourth point is the Bishop's words on the story of the clever advocate who manages to trick the woman into turning witness for prosecution against her lover. The Bishop asks where the advocate is to be tried for orchestrating such a fraud, for tearing apart the woman's heart and for helping administer a justice in the name of God which is fully man's and has not the stamp of the divine on it. When we look around us, we see judgements being passed via such dubious mechanisms, and we have become so ensconced in the system that we have lost awareness of our duplicity.

A final point about the care taken by the author - note how the author initially says that the picture painted by him of the Bishop is not the Bishop, but a likeness of the Bishop. This almost mathematical care of the difference between a picture and the object is remarkable.

message 7: by Jatin (new)

Jatin | 91 comments This is a side comment, but my vote for Best Memoir, Tara Westover's Educated (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3...) has won the Goodreads' Choice Awards. Yay for small wins.

message 8: by Jatin (new)

Jatin | 91 comments "The beautiful as useful as the useful. Perhaps more so!" How I wish the author could have had the word space to belay this point.

message 9: by Jatin (new)

Jatin | 91 comments "Ask not the name of him who asks you for a bed." This is a principle which still mystifies me. It's such a simple thing, but we have all stopped pondering over it. It's the test case of the capitalism vs socialism debate. In our lives, we offer to the one who needs the minimum (or at least I do). In practice, I would rather help out a friend at the same level as you, than a homeless who has less. This widely accepted practice is such a dubious thing.

message 10: by Jatin (new)

Jatin | 91 comments "There is a bravery for the priest as well as a bravery for the colonel of dragoons." How I wish I could retreat from the world around me, and into the world of Victor Hugo. Only the most brilliant of men understand the bravery of the priest. I am barely twenty pages in, and the work is already of such fine class that I am afraid the rest will not live up to the expectations this book has succeeded into (notice the reference!?:P)

message 11: by Jatin (new)

Jatin | 91 comments The philosophy espoused by the Count to the Bishop is the anti-thesis of the Bishop's philosophy. The Count's philosophy is the lazy mechanistic capitalism. Nothing really new to the Count's philosophy except that note the Bishop's reaction to it. The Bishop does not denounce the Count's philosophy but instead says curiously 'when one has it [materalism], he is a dupe no more' as if admitting that the Bishop's own philosophy is but a defence in the situation where the men in question cannot avail themselves of materialism, rather than an absolute principle in itself. It is this point, most of all, that shows the Bishop's depth of thought and his awareness.

message 12: by Jatin (new)

Jatin | 91 comments I am now at the part where the debates about the French Revolution are brought to the forefront. I am having a hard time with this part, for instance the notions of the conventionist, due to my lack of historical knowledge. Do you know much about the French Revolution ?

message 13: by Alexw (new)

Alexw | 81 comments Not really other than was a tremendously chaotic time with Napoleon coming to power on several occasions. The royal family (Marie Antoinette) was beheaded and riots wee commonplace. The author of Les Miserables was banned once from France as he backed the wrong ruler.

message 14: by Alexw (new)

Alexw | 81 comments WOW an WOW -you comments show real intelligence- this will be FUN !!
Your quotes and comments are spot on and all ready (am on p 36) have enjoyed the discussion of this book more than other buddy read book , I have done- thanks !!
p 27- Prejudices are the real robbers, vices the real murderers"
and Chapter 8(after dinner philosophy) discussion says more in those few pages than most books ever say !!

message 15: by BADASSBOOKWORM (new)

BADASSBOOKWORM (bookwormbadass) | 32 comments Hi guys, I will be getting the book in two weeks as it bnb is not available currently

message 16: by BADASSBOOKWORM (new)

BADASSBOOKWORM (bookwormbadass) | 32 comments At my libary

message 17: by BADASSBOOKWORM (new)

BADASSBOOKWORM (bookwormbadass) | 32 comments So sorry if I am slow paced!

message 18: by Alexw (new)

Alexw | 81 comments NO problem Bad ass-just enjoy the magic of reading with you two buddies at your own pace

message 19: by Jatin (new)

Jatin | 91 comments "A prison is not a tavern: get yourself arrested and we will open."

This is a witty turn of phrase that captures the horror of prisons. It's as if Jean Valjean is being told that his old life was better than his life after release! It's a mockery, telling the prisoner - hey you, what do you want to get out of here for ? This isn't a place where you came to serve punishment, this is a place where you came to be dehumanized.

message 20: by Jatin (new)

Jatin | 91 comments "hugging the cat to keep himself warm ..." never have seen such a humane description of being cold. When writers usually describe someone who is cold, they often mistakenly slip into the error of treating the cold person as someone cold not only in temperature, but also in spirit, someone who by virtue of being cold gets disconnected from the fire of life. Or rather, there seem to be degrees of coldness. When a person is midly cold, they hug a human, When they are severely cold, they are offered a rag or disheveled roofing, as if severe coldness makes them unhuggable. Victor Hugo here bridges this mistake by humanizing severe coldness.

message 21: by Jatin (new)

Jatin | 91 comments The Bishop sketches a manner in which a person with a stricken past ought to be healed. His idea is to treat with the part of the person that is not stricken, so that that part may grow. Instead of 'poor you', the Bishop challenges the person 'what can we do now', as if the poor part of the soul does not deserve time to consolidate. In this manner the person receives the signal that the structure his life has gotten into isn't permanent, and the winds of destiny haven't stopped blowing away the sands that have covered his life, if only he would release them.

message 22: by Jatin (new)

Jatin | 91 comments Have any of you read Ayn Rand ?

message 23: by Jatin (new)

Jatin | 91 comments "So the passport was right which described Jean Valjean as a very dangerous man." The final stamp, the self-fulfilling prophecy! It's as if by describing him as dangerous, he became dangerous. The more Jean sought to dissociate himself from society, the more he fit into the place which society had created for him.

message 24: by Jatin (new)

Jatin | 91 comments "Forget not, never forget that you have promised me to use this silver to become an honest man." said to the man who had made no such promise. And here we stand today! We lay our claim to particularities of wordings, to mechanistic expressions, to defend our lack of fidelity. And here stands the Bishop invoking a code of magic, a promise that is purchased through action.

message 25: by Jatin (new)

Jatin | 91 comments I wonder. I feel like I am going mad. I don't feel like myself anymore. I feel like I have become Jean Valjean. I feel a command, a frenzy, a feverish dream envelope me. And I feel like the Bishop has extracted a promise from me.

message 26: by Jatin (new)

Jatin | 91 comments "If thereafter, he should not be the best of men, he would be the worst, that he must now, so to speak, mount higher than the Bishop, or fall lower than the galley slave." We read, we are told, of compromise, of deal-making, with ourselves. A little spark within us protests, and it whispers to us, what was whispered to Jean Valjean. And we ignore it, and we make the deal, and since nature permits no middle ground, we fall and we exchange the radiant moment of life for the life of dark moments.

message 27: by Jatin (last edited Dec 06, 2018 01:16PM) (new)

Jatin | 91 comments "Nevertheless, these details, which are wrongly called little-there are neither little facts in humanity nor little leaves in vegetation-are useful." It is in details that victories, defeats and economies are written. Surely it was the victory or the economic law that swept the historical swathe, but what force chose victory over defeat, or communism over capitalism ? That was the force of human details. Of letters. Of newspapers. Of preachers. Of science and math. Of gossip. Of wages. Of taxes. Of distribution of resources.

message 28: by Jatin (new)

Jatin | 91 comments "He doubted everything with an air of superiority- a great power in the eyes of the weak." Funny isn't it. We say 'question everything'. We seek superiority in doubt, in skepticism. It's as if by counter-posing a notion, we seek to conquer the notion. And by doing so, we weaken ourselves, as we refuse to open ourselves to the vulnerability of risky choice, the only chance of strength.

message 29: by Jatin (new)

Jatin | 91 comments I read about the joy of the four loves, and I feel a foreboding, like hell is about to befall them, most of all Fantine. Or maybe I'm too miserable :(

message 30: by Alexw (new)

Alexw | 81 comments Read Ayn Rand -The Fountainhead-deep book too-stick to your ideals-no matter what.
Message 25- Yes I too become part of the book when I read it- like I am absorbing though osmosis the pages to transform me into the narrator.
am on p 60 and on p 39- Hugo's justification for the French Revolution which starts with "justice has it anger.' Hugo appears to be talking to himself and discussing both sides of the argument-is debating himself- a brilliant paragraph.
What page is Jatin on and are you reading the same translation as I am ( the 1459 page Signet classic)??

message 31: by Jatin (new)

Jatin | 91 comments Oh yes. The debating both sides! It's a rare quality in a book.

message 32: by Jatin (new)

Jatin | 91 comments I'm likely using a different translation .. mine is about two hundred pages shorter. I'm at the part where the lovers surprise their mistresses.

message 33: by Jatin (new)

Jatin | 91 comments "singularly enough, she had a
lolling air which she had gained from novel-reading"

Reading novels gives you a lolling (dictionary : lazy, relaxed) air ..! He is right you know, even if it's hard to admit. It's too easy to read fine books and imagine that this has turned you into a fine person, giving you a lolling air.

message 34: by Jatin (new)

Jatin | 91 comments It is remarkable how the gossip abounds even in the case of a universally good man such as Father Madeleine. This is one of the parts of the human condition even today - there's literally nothing you can do without inviting unfair criticism.

message 35: by Alexw (new)

Alexw | 81 comments I am on Chapter 13- Petit Gervais-am not sure where you are and do not want to spoil a chapter if you are not on same chapter so what chapter is Jatin on??

message 36: by Jatin (new)

Jatin | 91 comments Hi I have finished book six. Which book are you on ?

message 37: by Alexw (new)

Alexw | 81 comments hey-chapter 13-but reading slow and savoring like a fine wine

message 38: by Jatin (new)

Jatin | 91 comments http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/135 - badassbookworm, you can also get the book for free here in digital format.

message 39: by Jatin (new)

Jatin | 91 comments I am at the part where Jean Valjean is at his agonizing decision in book seven. And I'm stunned at how brilliantly the author has described his thought process. It makes me think that there is a Jean Valjean in all of us. And similar tempests rage in all our brains, only there's no witness or historian for them.

message 40: by Jatin (new)

Jatin | 91 comments In a single masterstroke, the author captures the horror of the personal hell in which every human must live in his own head, and the hitherto unexamined implications of the forever debate between soulfulness and smart worldly productivity.

message 41: by Jatin (new)

Jatin | 91 comments The reason I mentioned Ayn Rand is because Rand philosophizes about a rigid creed of action, a black and white notion of right and wrong. This contrasts with Victor Hugo. Take for instance Jean Valjean's pivotal decision. It is impossible to say whether he decided right or wrong! And Victor Hugo himself makes no implicit judgement, at least not until this point. All we know is what he decided, and what that led to. What would have happened if he had decided otherwise ? No one may know. Such is the curse of being alive. And blessed are those, who like Jean Valjean, wear this curse on their forehead and do not flinch from it, carving their place in the sands of literature.

message 42: by Jatin (new)

Jatin | 91 comments I find myself drawing within as I read this book. I find myself losing interest in the culture of the world around me. I feel a cowardice in their shirking away from the pain of examining their condition holistically. I find the music I listen to, to be little more than provocative, to be either shying away from the horror or covering its cowardice with aggression. How I long for the honesty of Victor Hugo in the world around me.

message 43: by Jatin (new)

Jatin | 91 comments So today I found myself acting like my old self despite having decided firmly to change. And I thought of Petit Gervais.

message 44: by Jatin (new)

Jatin | 91 comments Again, I hope I have been sufficiently vague to have given away no spoilers. The decision I spoke of above, is from book seven, the Champmathieu affair.

message 45: by Jatin (new)

Jatin | 91 comments I guess Pink Floyd is the exception!

message 46: by BADASSBOOKWORM (new)

BADASSBOOKWORM (bookwormbadass) | 32 comments which editon are you reding

message 47: by Jatin (new)

Jatin | 91 comments The Gutenberg free digital copy :)

message 48: by Alexw (new)

Alexw | 81 comments Am on Double Quartet chapter-Jean Valjean is FASCINATING-as Hugo describes his emotions so vividly from why he stole the bread, how he became so angry in prison and to why he could not believe the generosity of the priest.

message 49: by Alexw (new)

Alexw | 81 comments Jatin- Your message 42 is poetic-you must be a hopeless romantic like me.
The riots in present day Paris-wow- are similar to what is going on in our book.

Am on Book 4-To Trust is Sometimes to Surrender.
See you have commented on the mistresses and Hugo's cynical quote that " All of the invasions of history have been determined by petticoats"-the mistresses were dumped hard- I wonder if we will ever hear about them later in this classic book.
Am REALLY enjoying the book and you messages have certainly added to the magic of this reading- Thanks !!

message 50: by Jatin (last edited Dec 13, 2018 09:06AM) (new)

Jatin | 91 comments "All the invasions .. petticoats." - Kim Philby, the head of M16's Soviet operation who was actually a Soviet spy and caused countless Western spy heads to roll was recruited to the Soviet cause by his wife ..

(how do you think I knew that ? ... your want-to-read notifications ..)

It's great to have you as a buddy as well, thank you for your responses:)

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