Easter is a moveable feast. It arrives late this year, so March includes almost the entirety of Lent; a word that comes to us from the Old English lencten which is also related to ‘spring’. It is a season of change and reflection, but also the optimism of new life.
March begins with the birthday of Victor Hugo, the most towering figure in French literature. Though he produced extensive poetry and prose, he is famous popularly for the novels The Hunchback of Notre Dame and his masterwork, Les Misérables – the story of Jean Valjean. His story is that of a man struggling at once with the brutality of the letter of the law and the yearning for freedom which can only be realized in grace. Victor Hugo uses imagery from the watery fate of the prophet Jonah to describe Jean Val Jean’s fall into despair. As circumstances begin to drown Jean, “he drinks in bitterness and it is all liquid hatred to him.”
This year the readers of Literary Life will be joined by author Matt Rawle as we read and discuss his beautiful book The Grace of Les Misérables. He reminds us in the introduction that
Les Misérables invites us to see what happens when grace and justice collide. Can mercy and the law exist in the same place at the same time? Are grace and justice mutually exclusive, or might these ideas be one and the same? Hugo also wants the reader to understand that our lives are intimately connected with each other. Our actions are never as independent as we might imagine. One person’s decision affects someone else’s life, sometimes in grand and dramatic ways. Through politics and love, revolution and forgiveness, Les Misérables is a story that continues to capture our imagination!
I hope you will join us, along with our friends from over 130 countries as we meet in our Facebook discussion group, which you can join by clicking HERE.
Enjoy the season my friend. With Eliot perhaps we can ‘Redeem the unread vision of the higher dream’.
Editor in Chief