|Javert, from Les Misérables|
by Victor Hugo, published in 1862.
Having just launched Bishop Myriel: In His Own Words, what's a writer and avid Les Miserables junky to do? Follow BM with a book about the most dangerous and mysterious of all Victor Hugo's antiheroes, Inspector Javert (if he ever had a given first name, it isn't mentioned in the novel)?
It's as if he came from the womb a dedicated policeman. His single purpose in life? To catch and jail every lawbreaker in his path, until the just and punishing God he believed in and whose cause he served (in his own misguided way) carried him to his eternal reward. "Job well done," my son.
In fact, this young, innocent child quickly decided he had only two possible life-choices in front of him . . . follow his fortunetelling mother and his father, both of whom were serving prison sentences at the time of Javert's birth . . . or to become the most impeccable and zealous lawman ever created. And go to his grave with a clean slate to be welcomed by a choir of angels singing, "Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the reward your flawless service has merited."
Since 1862, Javert has become known the world over by readers of Les Miserables and audiences packing movie theaters and stage venues. We know him as a tragic foil to the the man of principle and charity, Jean Valjean (who assumes a variety of identities in his desire to cover his tragic past as the paroled prisoner 24601). These two antagonists first met during Valjean's prison years. As chance--and Victor Hugo--would have it, they cross paths again . . . twice, at least, during Valjean's life in Western France and finally in Paris.
The question for me was . . . why do I want to enter the dark mind and soul of this man who dedicated his life to bringing lawbreakers to justice with a vengeance unsurpassed in world literature? To be honest, I fought it for months. After writing about the wonderful bishop who turned Valjean's life around and set him on a course of compassionate living and works of charity, I balked. Throughout the writing of Bishop Myriel, I reveled in probing the soul and good works of that great man. Then, why Javert?
Yes, why Javert?
(to be continued)