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Julie Rose’s new translation of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables is terrific. On Saturdays, I am sharing some quotes worth pondering (see first and second collections here):

“We chip away as best we can at the mysterious block of marble our lives are made of – in vain; the black vein of destiny always reappears.” (171)

“A white lie, a little white lie, does such a thing really exist? To lie is the absolute of evil. To lie a little is not possible; one who lies, lies wholly; the lie is the very face of the devil.” (179)

“There is a spectacle greater than the sea, and that is the sky; there is a spectacle greater than the sky, and that is the human soul.” (184)

“To write the poem of the human conscience, were it only that of a single man, were it only that of the most insignificant man, would be to meld all epics into one superior epic, the epic to end all.” (184)

“You can’t stop your mind returning to an idea nay more than you can stop the sea returning to shore. For the sailor, it is known as the tide; for the person with a guilty conscience, it is know as remorse. God lifts the soul as well as the ocean.” (189)

“To travel is to be born and to die at every instant. … Everything in life is constantly fleeing in a headlong rush ahead of us. Things cloud over and clear as part and parcel of the same process: first dazzlement, then eclipse; you look, you rush around, you hold out your hands to seize what is passing; every event is a bend in the road; and then, all of a sudden, you’re old.” (208)

“No human feeling ever manages to be quite as appalling as gloating joy.” (243)

“The violent jolts of fate have this peculiar feature, which is that, however perfectly controlled or detached we may be, they drag human nature out of the depths of our entrails and force it to reappear on the surface.” (249)

“A hundred years – that is young for a church and old for a house. It seems that man’s abode partakes of his own brief existence and God’s abode of His eternal life.” (359)

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2 thoughts on “Les Misérables: Quotes to Ponder (3)”

  1. Allan says:

    what’s the advantage of this translation versus say the Dover Thrift Edition?

  2. Trevin Wax says:


    I’ve read both editions, and I would highly recommend you get this translation. It’s a little more money, but given the amount of time you will spend reading the book, it’s worth it.

    The difference is like going from a black & white TV to color.

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Trevin Wax

​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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