Les Miserables – BANNED

October 3, 2012 at 7:56 pm (Events, Reviews) (, , , , , , )

The practice of banning books is beyond  a bit baffling, it is also fascinating.  The first ‘official’ censorship, of course, began with the Catholic Church in 1559, an extensive list of forbidden books tasked to be made by Pope Paul IV.  Since then, the practice of banning books hasn’t been limited to the religious, but been taken on by governments, schools, libraries, and organizations both public and private all around the world.  Some make the mistake of assuming these books simply ‘must be bad’ if they are restricted so often, but the reality is that somebody somewhere will always feel threatened or offended by the thoughts of another and people of power will always try to enforce their thoughts and opinions on those who are subject to them.  “The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world,” said Karl Marx.  Well, I say: The one that chooses the books, rules the world, unless of course you allow them to choose for themselves and then you have to rise up and be a better leader.

I am currently reading Part IV: Saint Denis

Les Miserables, one of the most impassioned and well-written novels in all of history was often a threat to poor leaders.  It is a beautiful story of familial love, sacrifice, tragedy, the history surrounding the French Revolution, and his personal views on the church and government.  Hugo doesn’t pull punches, however, when describing these beautiful and tragic things, he doesn’t leave out a bit wretchedness, he presents the world as it he saw it, and in doing so was punished for it.  Hugo was banished from France for life by Napoleon III for criticizing his government and all of Hugo’s works were banned in Russia by Nicholas I for the unpleasant way which royalty was portrayed in his novels.  Not only that, the Catholic Church added everything Hugo had written to the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (often referred to as The Pauline Index) for “sensual, libidinous or lascivious.”

These challenges did not merely last Hugo’s life time.  His works weren’t removed from the Index until 1959.  This essential piece of literature has been considered threatening for portraying prostitution, murder, the church as unimportant, and glorifying the French Revolution.  1959, such a time of the past… but the fight is never over.  In 2007, Hugo’s grandson and an emerging author battled in the French courts over whether or not a sequel to Les Miserables could be published.  This time, instead of contesting Hugo’s work, his grandson is fighting to protect “the spirit” of his work, claiming that Les Miserables should all be considered intellectual property.  Valid perhaps, but what would Hugo say about his grandson banning an author?

Hugo was part of the original literacy war in Paris in 1830.  In addition to his books being banned, his plays were also challenged.  Authors and artists paid professionals to sit in audiences and applaud their plays in order to counter those trying to shut them down.  Duels were fought, defending the right to write, one young man even died for the sake of Hugo’s Hernani.  Protect the spirit of Les Miserables? Yes, please.  Ban literature? No, thanks. It is up to the individual reader/fan to protect the spirit of an author’s work, though, choose NOT to read it. The government should not be able to authorize the restriction.

This coming Saturday, October 6th, Half Price Books Humble will be hosting a Read Out from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm.  Come hang out with fellow book lovers and read a line or two from your favorite and most cherished banned or challenged book.

Additional blogs and articles of interest:
Dangerous Pages
Index Liborum Prohibitorum (About)
Index Libroum Prohibitorum (List)
About Hugo
 Les Miserables II
More on Les Miserables II

My post on St. Denis.


  1. rfdiaz said,

    Reblogged this on rfdiaz.

  2. biblioglobal said,

    That’s a fascinating history. It’s interesting that the Catholic Church banned Les Miserables when the whole first section is dedicated to describing the amazing goodness of a bishop. (As a side-note, Les Miserables is not actually about the French Revolution, but rather a smaller rebellion: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/June_Rebellion)

    • Anakalian Whims said,

      I meant to say the aftermath of the French Revolution. Thanks for the correction. I love how much history Hugo dives into and the great lengths he takes to describe Bonaparte, all the politics, and then in Saint Denis the June Rebellion (as you’ve mentioned). What’s your favorite part of the book?

      • biblioglobal said,

        I have to admit to sometimes being annoyed with the quantity of historical description, especially the battle section. I do like the description of Saint Denis and the rebellion though. Along with generally enjoying the plot, I do actually have a particular fondness for the description of the bishop at the very beginning of the book. I enjoy how Hugo somehow manages to describe this nearly perfectly good and generous person without making him annoying in his goodness.

      • Anakalian Whims said,

        I also love the Bishop and the entire opening of the novel. I have to admit, I look forward to all the history bits!

  3. Marius « Anakalian Whims said,

    […] my next post. Share this:TwitterFacebookPinterestLike this:Like3 bloggers like […]

  4. Jamie said,

    I knew about Librorum Prohibitorum, about the banning of most of the scientific books that are base for everyday life nowadays, but I didn’t knew about Hugo, also it doesn’t surprise me. It’s kind of ironic and hypocritical to ban a book, that depicts things (both good and bad) that are no secret, things you can see with “naked eye” every day.

  5. Les Miserables – BANNED « johndwmacdonald said,

    […] Les Miserables – BANNED. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. Tagged: Catholic Church, Censorship, Comment, freedom, History, Truth Speaking!, victor Hugo Posted in: Art/Music, Politics, Religion, Social Commentary, Tributes ← Struggling Artists and Pain by Cristian Mihai Be the first to start a conversation […]

  6. Les Miserables Blog Hop « Anakalian Whims said,

    […] I read Saint Denis during Banned Books Awareness Week, read about it  here. […]

  7. Kathy said,

    Stupid is as stupid does… I am so glad I am not Catholic..The only this they can read is a Bible that they rewrite.

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