Two days ago, I decided to tackle Les Miserables’ 2435 pages of, well, misery.
I had avoided the book before, thinking it was strictly a right of passage for theater kids, but when I realized it was written by Victor Hugo (author of one of my favorite books, The Hunchback of Notre Dame), my opinion changed.
There are many reasons to love Victor Hugo’s writing, but my favorite element of his books is his philosophy, peppered across his story. Hugo doesn’t just preach big ideas, he presents an elegant view of subjects that other writers simply glance over.
I have already filled two notebook pages with Hugo excerpts (and I’m only on page 404!). Of those, I have decided to share the passage below because of the implications it makes about being a writer:
It is certain that people do talk to themselves; there is no living being who has not done it. It may even be said that the word is never a more magnificent mystery than when it goes from thought to conscience within a man, and when it returns from conscience to thought; it is in this sense only that the words so often employed in this chapter, he said, he exclaimed, must be understood; one speaks to one’s self, talks to one’s self, exclaims to one’s self without breaking the external silence; there is a great tumult; everything about us talks except the mouth. The realities of the soul are none the less realities because they are not visible and palpable.
Now, Hugo asserts that “the word is never a more magnificent mystery” than when it flies between thought and conscience–in other words, when you are arguing with yourself.
Personally, I would argue that “the word is never a more magnificent mystery” than when it constructs a new world and populates that world with fantasy characters, when words begin to fly between theses fantasy characters, although neither the characters nor even the subject of their conversation is moored in reality…
But then, as Hugo points out, “the realities of the soul are none the less realities because they are not visible and palpable.”