La Fin de la Nuit Pour L’Enfant

From Les Misérables, Part I, Book 1, chapter 10, by Victor Hugo

L’Eveque en Présence d’une Lumière

A transfiguration at a deathbed that leads the bishop to be a good and holy disciple. 

“Le Conventional,

-Quant á Louis XVI j’ai dit non . . . .

J’ai voté la fin du tyran.  C’est à dire la fin de la prostitution pour la femme, la fin de l’esclavage pour l’homme, la fin de la nuit pour l’enfant.  En votant la république, j’ai voté la fraternité, la concorde, l’aurore! . . .”

These stirring words are recalled to us at a moment later in in the story about the progress that this light has brought to the world through the conversion of Jean Valjean.

“-. . . .  Dans dix ans, j’aurai gagné dix millions, je les répands dans le pays, je n’ai rien à moi, qu’est-ce que cela me fait?  Ce n’est pas pour moi ce que je fais!  La prospérité de tous va croissant, les industries s’éveillent et s’excitent, Les manufactures et les usines se multiplient, Les familles, cent familles, milles families! sont heureuses; la contrée se peuple; . . . .  la misère disparaît, et avec la misère disparaissent la débauche, la prostitution, le vol, le meurtre, tous les vices, tous les crimes!  Et cette pauvre mère élève son enfant! et voilà un pays riche et honnete!”

Jean Valjean has done well and helped the region to go from strength to strength.  But unfortunately he has a personal test with Fantine, just such a person he was hoping to give support to in his factory, but she was sacked because of tittle tattle and fell into destitution.  As a single mother in times when you could be jailed for life for the theft of an apple, she has been harangued and harassed, abused and assaulted.  So he now has to prioritise a personal clash with his own past in the form of Javert, the Inspector of Police, and Fantine’s pleading for her child to be rescued and brought back to her. 

Perhaps I shouldn’t be reading this in a pandemic as it is relentless in its depictions of the depressing ways people can behave to one another.  There are many hopeful moments though and the story is well-known and loved by me.  In fact the French reads fairly smoothly to me and I am really loving the extra story twists and turns and the philosophising in the original book.

It will be a long read though, so if you are tackling this yourself or have read it, or are going to soon then please let me know in the comments below. 

Published by simplyme841

How I got through it I really don't know, but I did a vow of silence for learning disabilities for a year a couple of years ago. I had wanted to do it for three or four years beforehand, after finding out about an Australian who did it for the animals. But the timing was never right. It was difficult but during the silence I learnt about John Francis, the environmentalist and author, who did it for seventeen years whilst walking barefoot across America playing the banjo. I had to make sure I drank enough fluids and had plenty of exercise so that my respiratory system didn't collapse, and learnt new things and read difficult books to keep my mind alert. It is very tough again during lockdown too, but immensely difficult for those with learning disabilities. I began writing my poetry last spring in the first Covid pandemic lockdown, and it poured out of me. But as you can tell from my readings my voice is still weak.

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