- Paperback: 480 pages
- Publisher: Modern Library; New edition edition (Sept. 10 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0375761322
- ISBN-13: 978-0375761324
- Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.8 x 20.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 318 g
- Average Customer Review: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #499,354 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Toilers of the Sea Paperback – Sep 10 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
Though it sold briskly when first published in 1866, Toilers of the Sea, by Victor Hugo (1802-1885), is rarely read in the U.S. today. In time for the bicentenary of Hugo's birth, Modern Library has commissioned a new translation by Scot James Hogarth for the first unabridged English edition of the novel, which tells the story of an illiterate fisherman from the Channel Islands who must free a ship that has run aground in order to win the hand of the woman he loves, a shipowner's daughter. Gilliat, the embattled fisherman, contends with sea storms and monstrous predators that Hugo describes in exhilarating detail. Intended to be part of a triptych with Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, the book laments the living conditions of impoverished workers, while celebrating their ingenuity and discipline.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
About the Author
James Hogarth was educated at Edinburgh University, and was later undersecretary in the Scottish Office.
Graham Robb’s many books include Victor Hugo: A Biography, which won the 1997 Whitbread Biography Award.
Top customer reviews
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This is a new translation by James Hogarth (if Amazon has put this review with the right book). The translation is much smoother and more natural than the Hapgood/Artois/et al. translation, which is being sold by Signet as the "mass market paperback edition." That old translation is OK - but you should get the Hogarth; it is worth the extra money to have this novel in 21st Century prose.
So buy this and savor it!
The main character of The Toilers of the Sea is Gilliatt; a dreamy, pensive young man, who is generally unpopular in his neighborhood and lives in solitude. He makes his living as a fisherman and has a thing for birds. He's almost the split image of Marius (from Les Mis), if you replace the interest in politics with the interest in nature. He also is shy and withdrawn, is intimidated by women, and has a visionary, contemplative mind. Unfortunately, Gilliat falls in love with Deruchette; a shallow, silly girl, who is wholly underserving of him. This is one of the book's flaws. But the love story is typically Hugoesque, in which the object of Gilliatt's love is only the vague image of a woman and a voice over the garden wall. To win her hand in marriage, Gilliatt must go to rescue the steam engine of a wrecked ship from a forlorn, treacherous reef in the middle of the ocean.
This is what makes the book brilliant. Gilliatt, with hardly any resources, all alone, takes on a superhuman feat that would frighten the most valiant of men, against the ruthless forces of nature. This part is about 35% of the book, and alone makes the whole book worth reading. The solitude of the reef, the blind efforts of the sea and wind, the intrepidity and unshakable will of Gilliatt, makes the story transcend everything mortal. The sea takes on a life of it's own and Gilliatt will seem the only being on earth. This is all tied in with Hugo's fascinating insight on topics such as the mysteries of nature, the glory of perseverance, the deception of the sea, the wind, the night, God, and much more. Hugo's poetic language is captivating. There is also an interesting sub-plot, which adds some suspense, and gives Hugo more material to develop the main themes (think of the octopus and his lair). The ending is tragical and entirely unexpected. It's meant to be very moving, but sadly it isn't, greatly unlike his other books.
The themes and digressions are a real treat for a philosophical palette, but this book is more 'for everyone' than his other books. If you'd like to read Hugo but are a bit intimidated, you can start with this one. There are no lengthy chapters about the Paris sewers or the battle of Waterloo, and the topics are accessible and interesting to all. This is not Hugo at his best, but it's still timeless enough to live up to its author's celebrated name.
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To say that "Toilers..." is about Man's struggle with the sea would be an understatement of the actual theme of this beautiful work of unsurpassed literary...Read more