Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables: A Case Study On How Capitalism Funds The Arts

Nina Martyris over at the Paris Review recounts the delightful story of How ‘Les Misérables’ Was the Biggest Deal in Book History:

Signed in 1861 on a sunny Atlantic island, it tied an exiled French genius to an upstart Belgian house, resulting in the printing of that perennial masterwork, Les Misérables. In a new book, The Novel of the Century: The Extraordinary Adventure of ‘Les Misérables’, the professor and translator David Bellos condenses tranches of research into a gripping tale about Victor Hugo’s masterpiece. 

The deal, Bellos points out, was pathbreaking on several levels. First, Hugo earned an unprecedented sum: 300,000 francs (roughly $3.8 million in today’s money) for an eight-year license. “It was a tremendous amount of money, and since it entitled the publisher to own the work for only eight years, it remains the highest figure ever paid for a work of literature,” Bellos writes: “In terms of gold it would have weighed around ninety-seven kilos [213 pounds]. It was enough money to build a small railway or endow a chair at the Sorbonne.”

Second, the neophyte Belgian publisher Albert Lacroix was the antithesis of a Penguin Random House. At the time, the twenty-eight-year-old Lacroix had cut his teeth at his uncle’s printing press, and he didn’t have so much as a sou to his name. Determined to sign Hugo on, he set up his own firm—Lacroix, Verboeckhoven & Co—and borrowed the entire amount for Hugo’s advance from the Oppenheim bank in Brussels, where he had contacts. Bellos marks it as “probably the first loan ever made by a bank to finance a book,” which means “Les Misérables stands at the vanguard of the use of venture capital to fund the arts.”

Third, Lacroix signed on knowing full well that his client was a political outcast….

Read the full story: How ‘Les Misérables’ Was the Biggest Deal in Book History:

Get The Book:The Novel of the Century: The Extraordinary Adventure of ‘Les Misérables’ by David Bellos

Affirmative Action For Movie Casting?

Star-Trek-Into-Darkness-Benedict-Cumberbatch

Movies should cast the best actor for the part — whatever their race or gender. Sadly many viewers are race-conscious rather than race-blind.

Quoting Opinion: A look at Whitewashing and Ethnicity Swapping in Television and Movies

Diversity is important for movies. The whole world watches Hollywood movies, and our films should include a great variety of talented actors, regardless of race or gender. Traditionally, American television and movies have been less than stellar at casting people of color or women for parts that could be portrayed by any ethnicity or gender. The raunchy comedy South Park, even shamelessly goes after this trend in television and movies by having one African American character who is named “Token”.

[…]

If a new movie is released and it isn’t based on older movies, or history, then Hollywood should strive to bring more diversity to their cast. For example, take a science fiction movie like Edge of Tomorrow. The film takes place in the future and involves battles between humans and aliens. Hollywood can and should cast a diverse team for these original movies, as it’s new territory not built on past franchises.

The real diversity that matters — whether in schools, work, sports, or movies — is intellectual (performance), not racial.