The Prospective Banning of Les Miserables II

By Carmen Comment

In France, a huge fight is brewing as the highest appeal courts are set to decide today whether a contemporary sequel to Victor Hugo’s LES MISERABLES should be banned – and if so, what this might mean to future attempts to “sequelize” classics or other works of note. The result would be a culmination of a more-than-five year battle between Hugo’s great-great-grandson, Pierre Hugo, and Francois Ceresa, whose two-tome sequel COSETTE OU LE TEMPS DE ILLUSIONS (Cosette or the Time of Illusions). “I hope to set a legal precedent for all descendants of celebrities, be they writers, artists or musicians, to protect the spirit of their forebears,” Hugo, 59, a writer and goldsmith, told The Daily Telegraph.

Intellectual property rights lawyers said the ruling could set a precedent in cases pitting literary works considered to be in the public domain 70 years after their author’s death against an author’s “moral rights” — which are by law timeless and guarded by his descendants. And lawyers for Ceresa argued that to ban his novel would violate freedom of expression and deter artists from turning to great works for inspiration. Literary lawyers worry that they will be swamped with real or fake descendents of celebrated authors seeking compensation.

If he loses, Hugo pledges to keep battling. If he wins, the book will be pulled from stores and the editor ordered to pay legal fees. But what was Hugo’s take on the LES MISERABLES musical? Evidently, his great-great grandfather would have enjoyed it “quite thoroughly.”