Victor Hugo (1802-1885), the celebrated author of Les Misérables, rose from the dead this morning to throw his tricorne into the ring and proclaim his endorsement of Sonia Sotomayor for Supreme Court Justice of the United States.
“If you loved Les Miz, there is only one way for the Senate to vote,” he averred. “You gotta go with Sonia. Otherwise, cognitive dissonance, hypocrisie!"
“Those who know my Les Misérables only as staged musical schmaltz herring may be surprised to learn that the actual novel, a two-ton tome upon which I rest my head in Tempur-Pedic eternity, is a vigorous plea for the E word, empathy, a neutral noun now in crisis; who ever imagined that it could be transmogrified into something sinister?”
The novelist was clearly on a roll; I dared not interrupt. Rising further from the dead to full stature, he continued:
“Les Misérables is, further and most importantly, my answer (and I'm sticking to it) to the moral Absolutism of Immanuel Kant which, in sum, is: Right is Right, Wrong is Wrong, the Law is All, end of story. If you feel you’ve been victimized, that’s all you want to know. But if you’re on the other side of the case, you may want a little understanding of the context, if not forgiveness. Moral absolutism is generally associated with religion but in its socio-political context extends far beyond theology into everyday justice and fairness; there is a human dimension to the law, often and unfortunately overlooked by those who demand an impossible degree of objectivity in jurisprudence. The law is not, first and foremost, about legal process divorced from human action but rather about human fallibility and frailty and its civil redress for society and the individual.”
Hugo, breathless after a hundred and twenty-four years of dead silence, sat down and asked for a glass of wine. “And no vin du pays, either,” he insisted. “I may be of the people but I draw the line at drinking cheap peasant wine; life’s too short. A sturdy yet delicate Châteauneuf-du-Pape would be nice.”
He had to settle for Two-Buck Chuck; who did he think I was, Robert Parker? He winced. He drank.
Ten minutes and a liter and a half later, Hugo’s hootched to the gills. His tongue was too marinated for coherency but this was the gist of the verbal marbles in his mouth:
So, if you cheered for Jean Valjean and booed at Javert, there is only one choice for the Senate: confirm Sonia Sotomayor, who appears to have thus far wisely and successfully walked the tighrope between statute and the individual during her career, balancing the rock of the law with the glorious mush of human existence.
Vic – we were bosom buddies by now – roused from his stupor for a final comment uniting philosophy and phallic itch as only the French can.
“Sonia, ma cher chaude, ma sorte de fille,” he leered. “My kinda gal.”
The true first edition of Les Misérables appeared in Brussels, published by A. Lacroix, Verboeckhoven & Ce, in 1862 in five parts within ten octavo volumes.