Monday, November 12, 2012

Favorite Books 12

Book Review Les Miserables Victor Hugo The Plague La Peste Albert Camus Ha Za Ba Ra La Sukumar Ray
Book: Les Miserables
Author: Victor Hugo (French, 1802-1885)


Original Language: French
Year: 1862
Category: Drama


Summary: It all started with immense poverty. Mr. Jean Valjean was jailed for 5 years when he stole a bread for the 7 infant children of his sister. He tried to escape the jail in the 4th year, but was caught again and increased his imprisonment for 3 more years. He attempted a few more times and eventually finished his 19 years of imprisonment. When he was out, nobody gave him shelter. Hotels, houses - everyone turned away (to be true - nobody really gives shelter to a jailed convict - neither do I, nor do you - only saints). Fighting with cold, and hunger, at last Bishop Myriel gave him shelter for the night. But Jean Valjean, now torn apart by the cruelty of civilization, have rage aganist the whole mankind. He stole things from Bishop Myriel, but the Bishop later forgave him and also wished him to be a good man of God. This lit himself up. He left the city and made fortune in another city in disguise of a name 'Monsieur Madeleine'. But the fanatic police Inspector Javert didn't let him peace. He chased and chased, from this city to that city, from this year to decades later. On ther other hand, Jean Valjean ran and ran from him with his step-daughter Cosette, whose mother Fantine died in poverty and betrayal. Eventually Cosette grew up, and had wedlock with Marius. Now Jean Valjean wants to step aside from their life.

Comment: 'Les Miserable' is considered as one of the 'half dozen best novels' in the world. It's amazing that a man can write such a mind-blowing novel. This one might make Victor Hugo as your most favorite author. Just one comment from me - don't die without reading this novel. There are things that might make you feel content at the end of life. One such thing would be that you read this novel once in your lifetime. Very, very touchy.

English translated PDF ebook is made available by PlanetEbook.


Book: The Plague (Original French title 'La Peste')
Author: Albert Camus (Pronounce as 'Albore Kamu' or 'Albair Kamu', French Algerian, Pied Noir, 1913-1960) [P.S.: 'Pied Noir' in French means 'Black foot']


Original Language: French
Year: 1945
Category: Drama


Summary: The city Oran suddenly fell into a victim of plague epidemic. Dr. Bernard Rieux is the one fighting to save patients. The city is sealed - nobody can go outside. Cottard is a mysterious character who is happy with the disaster as he can make money through smuggling and other kinds of black-marketing. Jean Tarrou is a traveller who came to the city and got trapped. But he started volunteering the nursing team. Journalist Rambert is also trapped in the city, is craving to see his fiance outside. But when he comes to know that Dr. Rieux's wife is also staying outside for healthcare (and he is serving here to fight the plague), he joined the volunteers. Years after years passed by, hundreds of thousands of people died in plague. Burial became a problem - many people in one ditch followed the burial of single, then followed incinerating. Finally one day it subsided, but only for moments. It sure will come back.

Comment: This is one of the best allegoric novels, and a very powerful one. It also exercises 'existentialism' (people as individuals give meaning to them, rather than whatever meanings or sterotypes are imposed on them), though Mr. Camus denied his choice of existentialism. The chief allegory is the German invasion in France. Camus took part in the French Resistence against Nazis in WWII. He used his own experience in writing the book.

The book is based on historical cholera epidemic in Oran city that took place in 1849. The plague epidemic is allegorical to Nazi holocaust. The sentences of the book seem to have multiple meaning. There are humorous allegories like owl-faced husband, rat-faced wife (as if a rat is the prey of an owl). The benevolence of volunteers of the war is portrayed through the captaincy of Dr. Rieux, and Jean Tarrou. There is a comment on the difference between human beings and dogs. People are trying to escape, liaising with higher officials to escape (as in WWII). Corpses buring, smoke cloud in the sky (as if burning of the dead jews in incinerator), plagued people running to get hold of healthy people with a hope to get rid of the disease (as if war victims looking for help). People praying for the pity of plague (as if the pity of Hitler).

It also controverts the contemporary belief that the plague is the curse of God for sin. The giant flail swirling over housetops - like the wrath of God. The strange behavior of cottard is interesting, and his remark about plague (- if people are to live together, then sometimes the plague epidemic is necessary) is also interesting. He is the symbol of people who befriended the Nazis, and betrayed countrymen.

There are people who forget their sick relatives. Also there are people who want to volunteer in the camps to feel their dead relatives. The camps are the symbol of concentration camps where victims are thrown by the Gestapos. The book considers the after-plague effect on common people, and legislative authority (just as what happens after a war).

Mr. Cottard became mad when the epidemic is over. People returning from outside are symbols to the end of war where people used to return to their homeland and looked for their relatives. The last lines are quite profound - the plague bacillus doesn't disappear for good, it lies dormant everywhere - in books, in shelves, in bedrooms - just like a war, that is only a dormant epidemic for the moment.


English translated ebook is made available by (560 KB).

Bangla translation is available by Seba Prokashoni.


Book: Ha Za Ba Ra La (May be translated as 'The Disorder')

Author: Sukumar Ray (Indian, 1887 - 1923)


Original Language: Bangla
Category: Comedy
Year: Unknown


Summary: Strange and nonsense things started happening. The kerchief became a cat and fled away. The crow started calculating 7 times 2 with timer constraint where 7 times 2 is not 14 always - but just in the nick of time. 'Budho' - the old man started counting his age backwards and is now aged 13. The character 'Udho' started to beat 'Budho' by jumping on his body to mimic 'Udho-r pindi budho-r ghar e' (it's an idiom in Bangla to mean someone else is punished instead of the one committing the offence). Strange other things are happening everywhere. Is it a dream or a reality?!?

Comment: How to make non-sensible thoughts into an artistic comedy - the story is a wonderful example. Without Sukumar Ray, it is difficult to perceive comedy in such a supremity. No English translation is available.


Bangla ebook is made available at from

Let us buy paper books. Let's enrich our mind and home library.

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