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Wednesday, 23 May, 2001, 08:09 GMT 09:09 UK
Hugo estate sues over sequel
The Scarlet Pimpernel
The French Revolution is the backdrop to Hugo's classic
Descendants of Victor Hugo are to go to court on 27 June to try to stop the publication of a sequel to his classic novel Les Miserables, source of the world-beating musical.

The publisher of Cosette, Or The Time of Illusions, is being sued in Paris by Hugo's great-great-grandson Pierre Hugo for 425,000 in damages.


It is not a sequel, but instead a rewriting

Pierre Hugo
Pierre Hugo says that Francois Ceresa's sequel is a betrayal of the French classic and a violation of intellectual property rights.

What has most angered Hugo's descendants is the change to the book's original ending, where Javert, who has furiously pursued Jean Valjean for violating his parole, jumps in the Seine.

They maintain that Hugo was particularly attached to his ending, and wrote: "If this ending is not moving, I will never write again."

'Violation'

"It is not a sequel, but instead a rewriting of the lives of the characters of Victor Hugo," says the legal complaint by Pierre Hugo.

Francois Ceresa
Ceresa plans a further instalment in the autumn
The complaint alleges that the novel "represents a pure commercial order based on the violation of the respect for Victor Hugo's work".

But Ceresa's sequel has its defenders.

On Tuesday the French newspaper Liberation carried a defence by writer Antoine Audouard under the headline "Long live the pillage of Les Miserables".

"The history of literature is full of sequels, of reprises and borrowing," wrote Audouard, "from one period to another, from one theme to another."

Lauretta Hugo, the wife of Hugo's great-grandson, Jean, and her five children have sent letters of protest to French President Jacques Chirac and to the ministers of culture and education.

"Can one imagine commissioning the 10th symphony of Beethoven?" they asked in an open letter to Liberation last week.

Author Ceresa said he finds the controversy unfair, pointing out that that Les Miserables has also been retold and adapted many times before - such as in the long-running musical on Broadway and in London.

And despite the impending court case, Ceresa's publisher Plon plans to release Ceresa's second installment, Marius, or the Fugitive, this autumn.

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