Wednesday, November 9, 2011

On Reading Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

I was first introduced to Les Miserables through a cartoon show that I chanced upon as a kid of ten in Hong Kong. I didn't know what it was all about, it was dubbed into Cantonese. All I remember was a scene of an old man holding the hand of a little girl with a pretty doll on her other arm. That was it and I had concluded that it was a good film to watch. Les Miserables was stuck with me ever since. Whenever I heard of it, I would say, "Someday, I would watch the Broadway Show or maybe find that cartoon or read the book and I would finally know the story of this childhood favorite." In time, I managed to buy a copy of the book that I would finally discover in my stash just a few months ago, still untouched and unread. I was resolved to read it when I had the time. I grew concerned that I never seemed to have enough (time) and although I was excited to read about the next few pages, I would find myself putting the book down due to something like sleep, exhaustion or work time.

Last, last Monday was an extraordinary day. I finally finished reading the book and learned something about myself as well. The urge for closure was particularly strong on this day because I think I have waited long enough. I asked myself, "If there was something I wanted to do so bad today, what would it be?" It was to lose myself and finish my childhood book and give myself, my child self, some closure without having time or everything else limit me. I finished close to 400 pages in a few hours of reading. I was so engulfed by the liveliness of the characters in my head and I didn't know what came next so I just kept on reading. Heartwarming love was there and it wasn't even a romantic novel. It was love from all walks of life and in different forms.

Now I know the story of Les Miserables and it doesn't end there. It just puts to rest decades of wondering what it was all about and when I would finally create time to find out. Today, I'm excited to see and appreciate it newly in the movies, on television, on Broadway or in any way possible. From this experience, I also got that even in Hugo's time, love and passion for anything or anyone can transform people. When you have done all you can and loved as I had done with Les Miserables until there's nothing left, I found myself full and realized that as Jean Valjean said, "It is nothing to die, it is frightful not to live."

This post is a very timely reminder for my writing.

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