Thursday, February 9, 2012

Les Miserables and Beethoven

As you know, I am doing the Les Miserables readalong with a fellow book blogger named Kate at (I am still having trouble putting hot links into my posts. If anyone know how and they have time to comment, PLEASE do. It is easier to get to her site if you click the Les Mis button to the right.)

I am about 30 or so pages in and I have another Literature and Music Pairing (see my previous postings on this). I like to listen to classical music that "goes with" whatever I am reading so that I can really immerse myself in the experience. I call these literature/music combinations "pairings," like food/wine pairings.

So, I figure that Les Miserables and Beethoven's 3rd Symphony "go together." They are from the same time and place. Beethoven's Third is a great, great piece of music. It is often credited with kicking off the "Romantic Period" in classical music - between 1825 and the First World War.

Les Miserables and Beethoven's Third are both masterpieces from the early 1800's. Both are loosely related to and impacted by the French Revolution and Napoleon (though Les Mis is not directly about these subjects).

Here is what Wiki says about the connection between Beethoven's Third and Napoleon:

According to Beethoven's pupil and assistant, Ferdinand Ries, when Napoleon proclaimed himself Emperor of the French in May 1804, Beethoven became disgusted and went to the table where the completed score lay. He took hold of the title-page and tore it up in rage. This is the account of the scene as told by Ries:

“ In writing this symphony Beethoven had been thinking of Buonaparte, but Buonaparte while he was First Consul. At that time Beethoven had the highest esteem for him and compared him to the greatest consuls of ancient Rome. Not only I, but many of Beethoven's closer friends, saw this symphony on his table, beautifully copied in manuscript, with the word "Buonaparte" inscribed at the very top of the title-page and "Ludwig van Beethoven" at the very bottom. …I was the first to tell him the news that Buonaparte had declared himself Emperor, whereupon he broke into a rage and exclaimed, "So he is no more than a common mortal! Now, too, he will tread under foot all the rights of man, indulge only his ambition; now he will think himself superior to all men, become a tyrant!" Beethoven went to the table, seized the top of the title-page, tore it in half and threw it on the floor. The page had to be re-copied and it was only now that the symphony received the title "Sinfonia eroica."[4]


  1. Hi Libby
    I assume by hot links you mean a link that opens up onto the page intended?
    If so, when you're writing up a new post, there is a tab at the top of the box that says 'link' - click that, copy and paste the url and in the text box write the word or phrase you want to 'hot' up. Also check the box that says open this page up in a new window so people don't navigate away from your page! Happy reading

  2. Hi Libby
    Thought I'd return the favour and drop by! I love Les Mis the show, but am a lightweight and have never tried the book - maybe I should! How are you finding it?
    Jooley :)

  3. Hey Jooley- Welcome to my blog! If I knew you were coming I would have picked up the place! Ok- Les Mis. I'm almost exactly halfway done. A good way to look at it is this..Les Mis is made up of five books within th main book. So that is fewer than 300 pages per book. It's like 5 medium books stuck together! The first book is called Fantine. That is a girl's name and part of the action is about her. The Fantine section of Les Mis is pretty light reading. The second section is called Cosette. That is Fantine's daughter. It starts off...well...pretty rough! There is a really long section about the Battle of Waterloo that does not seem to be too related to the rest of the book! When you get to the end of that part and they are, to put it indelicately, cleaning up the bodies, something happens that a IS related to the plot. But no one will blame you if you speed read through the Battle of Waterloo! I think that it is worth it. It's a good story. It's well written except that Waterloo nonsense! Plus you get a sense of accomplishment. Also I am learning a lot...I feel like reading challenging things makes me better educated. Not this weekend but next weekend if I can I am making a fish and wine dish from Les Mis for the Weekend Cooking meme. There. Now I'VE written a 1400 word novel!!

  4. I am reading Les Mis and like Jooley, I was daunted by the page count. While I haven't yet reached Waterloo, the book is not a difficult read once you get used to Hugo's style of writing. BTW, where can I get that 1,400 word novel? I'll knock that baby off in no time! :)

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