My name is Les Miserables (pronounced L-E-Z), and from the moment I was born, fifty-five years ago, people have been making the same mistake. ‘Les Miserables’ they say. ‘Isn’t that the nineteenth century French novel by Victor Hugo?’
My doctor said it when my mother told him my name. ‘I don’t have time to read that!’ he said. ‘I have important doctor things to do.’
My dad said the same thing, even though he gave me the name. ‘I aint reading no namby pamby French book! I want good Anglo-literature, like this manual for hammers.
My room was modelled after a bookshelf, and people would walk by and say ‘you know, I should read that one day. And I will. I’ll totally read that. One day. It’s on my bucket list.’
The library constantly tried to kidnap me.
And so on.
I’m here to say that I am sick of this. I am angry. And I want to shout from the rooftops, I AM NOT A NINETEENTH CENTURY FRENCH NOVEL! That is Les Misérables. That is not me.
I am not a story about sad French people. I don’t know who Jean Valjean is, and neither do I care. He sounds like an old woman who couldn’t decide between the name Val or Jean, so picked both, and then decided he liked Jean more and so put it again.
I don’t know who Javert is, and I also don’t care. He sounds like a portmanteau of the name Joe and the word pervert, which means his name is Joe the Pervert.
I don’t know who Fantine is. It sounds like a name you’d adopt of you were a fan of Tina Turner, or Tina Fey, or maybe Christinas Aguilera or Ricci.
I don’t know who Cosette is. All I know is it is the thing I used to listen to before they invented CD’s.
I don’t care about the 1832 Rebellion. NOBODY cares about the 1832 Rebellion. Who the fuck was Louis-Philippe? He was the French King equivalent of Emmanuel Macron. Nobody wants to hear your policy ideas AYN BLAND!
And what kind of republican movement calls itself Friends of the ABC? That’s a Jackson Five Tribute Band!
My adult life has been defined by this mistake.
My wife married me because she thought I was the novel and had always meant to read it. I didn’t complain because she was WAY out of my league in looks and personality, but it was still disheartening to have her grab my face and try to read tales of Jean Valjean’s redemption on my forehead.
My children took me to school, and a professor of French Literature did a paper on me.
I have been bought by several people when I stood still in the classics section of a book shop for too long.
Don’t I deserve some dignity? Don’t I deserve some basic human dignity!
I am not a novel. I am a human.
My name is Les Miserables, and I am a person.
p.s. you’re totally welcome to keep mistaking me for the musical. People come to my house and give me money just to sit and stare and say ‘Hey, here’s that song about wanting to die that everybody loves!’ I’ve managed to buy another house on that income. It’s fantastic.