Reading with Xi Jinping | Les Miserables

By Liu Yishuang, Sheng Shuang, Zhao Chen, Ma Tianyi, Xie Ying (People's Daily Online) 08:50, April 23, 2022


Chinese President Xi Jinping is an avid reader of world masterpieces. He has many hobbies and reading ranks No.1. Reading has become something of a lifestyle for him, as Xi revealed.

“I developed a keen interest in French culture and particularly French history, philosophy, literature and art when I was a young man,” Xi said in a speech he delivered at the Meeting Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Establishment of China-France Diplomatic Relations on March 27, 2014.

Of all the works by so many French writers, the novels written by Victor Hugo impressed Xi the most. When reading Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, Xi found the moment when Bishop Myriel enlightens Jean Valjean to be quite moving. Great literary works like this possess a remarkable ability to stir the heart and literature is the vehicle of ideas, Xi said.

The epic novel Les Miserables, which was published in 1862, tells the story of Jean Valjean, an ex-convict from the Bagne of Toulon in France.

When Jean Valjean stole the Bishop's silverware, the bishop was not angry, but gave him also the two silver candlesticks which he had not stolen. 

And he said: "Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I buy from you; I withdraw it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God."

The book tells us that humans are born good. A terrible society can make people become evil; but there is always a possibility for them to become good. In his book, Victor Hugo condemns the injustices of French society in his time, emphasizing love, sympathetic forbearance and human nature.

Occupying an important position in both French and world literature, Les Miserables is a book worth reading repeatedly.

(Web editor: Zhang Wenjie, Du Mingming)


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