Hugo heirs protest ‘Miserables’ sequel

Follows U.S. 'Gone With the Wind' flap

Move over, Margaret Mitchell.

While objections to a “Gone With the Wind” parody have engendered a not-so-civil war, a French sequel to Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables” is fueling a révolution in Gaul.

Hugo’s heirs have demanded that the May 3 publication of “Cosette ou le temps des illusions” (“Cosette or the Time of Illusions”) be halted.

The book, by Francois Ceresa, centers on the premise that Inspector Javert is not dead, as Hugo’s original text left him. Publisher Plon has slated a first printing of 65,000 copies and a promo budget of 1.5 million francs ($200,000).

Under French law, however, an author’s heirs control the “moral rights” to their relative’s creative output, even if the work has entered the public domain. So Hugo’s heirs have asked the Societe des gens de lettres (Society of Literary People) — which Hugo helped found — to halt this affront to their ancestor’s oeuvre.

For his part, Ceresa sees his work as a logical extension of Hugo’s.

“My book is based on Javert’s redemption, which qualifies as a Hugo-ish theme,” he told Le Monde.

Olivier Orban, Plon’s CEO, points out that a previous sequel to “Les Miserables,” published by HarperCollins in the U.S., was translated into French and published by Lattes in France without raising any objections from the family.

Barring a complete block of the book’s publication, Hugo’s heirs want the proceeds — the stolen bread if you will — to go to charity not the publisher.

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