A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
Les Misérables is one of those defining social/protest novels that deserves to be read (and listened to) in its entirety. It is easily on par with the great social novels of the 19th century: Brothers Karamazov, Anna Karenina, Uncle Tom's Cabin and Hard Times.
I remember the first time I read the unabridged version in high school, I was stunned that Hugo could engage me with such force. I practically read it straight through. Listening to Rose's relatively new translation and Guidall's audio version, I was transported back to the emotions and engagement I felt 20 years ago. All those memories and I was again anchored to my pro-unabridged novel bias. If you are going to attempt this work, please go the unabridged route, you will NOT regret it. There are few books I've read twice, but Les Misérables defintely makes the cut.
When you begin this novel it DOES looks like a beast (1376 pgs or 60.5 hours), but when you finish it you realize you have sat down to a feast with a master novelist and social gospel writer. Dollar per page or dollar per minute, you can't get much better for its price, unless you steal it.
Dostoevsky's 'The Double' is one of those novellas/novels where I REALLY wish I could have read it in the original Russian. His Gogol-inspired novella plays with language, poetry, puns and double entendres are hard to translate adequately (go with Pevear and Volokhonsky for the poetry and avoid Constance Garnett). While patterns still do emerge in translations, they are fragmented and seem often like poor reflections of what the original must be.
After reading this short, early piece of Dostoevsky it is nice to start recognizing its influence on other authors and their work. I finished reading 'the Double' and immediately started seeing how Dostoevsky fits and flips right into the whole bizarre family tree of madness literature. Dostoevsky's double/doppelgänger/unreliable narrator idea inspired a whole fugue of Nabokov novels ('Despair', 'Pale Fire', etc), entire Kafkaesque worlds, Solaris, the Riplad, etc.
Anyway, if you love Russian novels and love Dostoevsky, this is a must (especially if you also love Nabokov). If you haven't read Dostoevsky yet, I'd probably start with 'Crime & Punishment', 'Brothers Karamazov', and/or 'the Idiot' first
An absurd and brilliant satire. To think I avoided reading this novel for years because I thought it was going to be depressing. Ha! Dead Souls reminded me in many ways of the Odyssey + Don Quixote written by Mark Twain in a Russian prose poem. Gogol captures the absurdity of the mid-19th century Russia. Included in Gogol's satire/farce is an absurd and brilliant look at the corruption of the government, the stratification of society, the pretentiousness of the Russian middle-class, etc.
Anyway, the writing was amazing and D.J. Hogarth's translation seems to have held up very well. Arthur Morey narrates this text with both clarity and humor.