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“Les Misérables”
outdoor spectacle at Montreuil

The 'Victor Hugo' character in the annual spectacular outdoor presentation of "Les Misérables" at Montreuil.

Son-et Lumière and guided tours
In recent summers, the community of Montreuil has mounted a spectacular outdoor event in the Citadelle, recreating Victor Hugo's epic best-selling story, the first half of which is set in Montreuil in the years 1815-23.

If you miss that event in July - August, you can join one of the local Tourist Office's guided tours of places around the town that are depicted in the novel - “in the steps of Victor Hugo”.
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The Story of "Les Misérables"
The title means "the wretched" or "the outcasts". The story starts in the days of the Napoleonic Empire.

Jean Valjean, the main figure, steals a loaf of bread when hungry, and is sentenced to 19 years of harsh forced labour in Toulon prison. In 1815, he escapes, travels north, and arrives in Montreuil.
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Stranger in town
There is a fire in the Town Hall, and he rescues the children of the town's chief of police constable from the blaze. No-one knows who he is. Using a process taught him by a fellow convict, he sets up a workshop making jade buttons, and becomes a successful industrialist.
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Five years later he has made the town prosperous, and gained a reputaion for kind and fair treatment of his workers. Because of his reputation, the King appoints him Mayor of Montreuil in 1820.
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The Mayor arouses the suspicion of a new police inspector, Javert, when he saves the life of a poor carter trapped under his cart. Javert suspects that a man so strong as to lift a loaded cart could be the missing convict.

The Mayor risks further suspicion by helping Fantine, one of his poor workers, to find her lost daughter Cosette. Fantine was dying with TB, and had to board her daughter with an inn-keeper, the crooked Thénardier.
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Thénardier had been a sergeant in the Napoleonic army. While looting the corpses after the battle of Waterloo in 1815, he had happened to save the life of an officer who lay badly injured amongst the corpses. The officer's son, Marius, appears later in the story.

Fantinee turns to prostitution and begging to pay for her daughter's keep, but is arrested for causing a disturbance. The Mayor helps her see her daughter before she dies, then adopts the young girl - unusual concern for one of the lower orders in those days.
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Hugo then presents the Mayor with another moral dilemna - a young man arrested for stealing apples is "identified" as the escaped convict "Jean Valjean". What should he do? Save the thief from being sent to the galleys, or carry on being the respected Mayor who feeds the poor and givers work to the town. The mayor decides to go to the court in Arras and reveal all.
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The plot leaves Montreuil
He is sent back to the galleys in 1823, and again escapes, by falling overboard and is presumed drowned. He tries to find his adopted daughter Cosette, and they end up hiding in a convent amid the underworld of the Paris slums, on the eve of the 1830 revolution. By then, the suspicious police inspector Javert has been promoted to Paris.
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Love in Paris
Meanwhile Marius is in Paris looking for the sergeant who saved his father. Thénardier's daughter, Eponine, falls in love with Marius, but Marius meets and falls in love with Cosette. Learning from Thénardier that the wanted convict is in Paris, Marius informs the police. Javert renews his obsessive stalking of Jean Valjean.
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In 1830 revolution breaks out in Paris, the mobs build barricades in the streets. All the main characters meet in one climactic scene: Javert is taken prisoner by the rebels; soldiers firing on the mob kill Eponine, while she tries to save Marius. Jean Valjean releases the policeman, who has been his persecutor for so long. Badly injured himself, Jean Valjean carries the wounded Marius (who unwittingly betrayed him) to safety through the Paris sewers. Jean Valjean dies, but Marius lives to marry Cosette.

The novel is a mixture of detective story and historical romance, with larger-than-life characters and a plot that explores the theme of man's ceaseless combat with evil.
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Background information
Victor Hugo - the life of the great author

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Location: The Citadelle, MONTREUIL-SUR-MER
Take Montreuil junction off A16 motorway.
Information/ reservations:
Office de Tourisme, 21 rue Carnot BP13, 62170 MONTREUIL-SUR-MER
Tel: 00 33 3 21 - 06 04 27 - Fax: -06 57 85




Montreuil's fortifications © Copyright 2000 Invicta Media. Last updated 5th April 2000