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Les Misérables (usually /leɪ ˌmɪzəˈrɑːb/; French pronunciation: [le mizeʁabl(ə)]) is a French historical novel by Victor Hugo, first published in 1862, that is considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century. In the English-speaking world, the novel is usually referred to by its original French title, which has not been successfully translated from French (attempts ranging from The Miserable, The Wretched, The Miserable Ones, The Poor Ones, The Wretched Poor and The Victims, to The Dispossessed). Beginning in 1815 and culminating in the 1832 June Rebellion in Paris, the novel follows the lives and interactions of several characters, focusing on the struggles of ex-convict Jean Valjean and his experience of redemption.
Examining the nature of law and grace, the novel elaborates upon the history of France, the architecture and urban design of Paris, politics, moral philosophy, antimonarchism, justice, religion, and the types and nature of romantic and familial love. Les Misérables has been popularized through numerous adaptations for the stage, television, and film, including a musical and a film adaptation of that musical.
The appearance of the novel was highly anticipated and advertised. Critical reactions were diverse, but most of them were negative. Commercially, the work was a great success, not just in France, but also in the rest of Europe and the world.