A Paris appeal court spared two sequels to Victor Hugo s epic of the French Revolution Les Miserables from the chop Friday, rejecting an attempt by the author s heirs to ban them.
Seven years ago modern-day novelist Francois Ceresa published two follow-ups to the acclaimed 19th century classic, which has also inspired a stage musical and at least two motion pictures.
Hugo s family, including his great great grandson Pierre Hugo, objected to Cosette and the Time of Illusions and Marius or The Fugitive, arguing that they were an insult to the original work.
The Paris High Court threw out the case in September 2001, in what proved to be only the start of a lengthy legal battle, which at one point appeared to be going the family s way before Friday s victory for Ceresa.
Francois Ceresa, who does not pretend to have Victor Hugo s talent, is free to pursue his own personal expression, which does not necessarily act on all the levels that Victor Hugo was able to access, the judges ruled.
We can t criticize the author of this sequel … not to have respected the learned construction of the primary work, which functions on many levels though philosophical and historical asides, they added.
He is also free, they declared, to develop the characters that he brings back to life in new situations.
The family was particularly annoyed that Ceresa had resurrected Hugo s policeman Inspector Javert, who drowned in the Seine in the course of Les Miserables and yet somehow returned for the modern sequel.
Hugo himself had seen this as a key episode in the story, declaring: If this death doesn t move people, I ll give up writing.
The judges, however, decided this anomaly was not sufficient reason to ban the sequels, arguing: The general spirit of Les Miserable can not be reduced to Javert s fate, but embraces a much wider social and philosophical project.
Legal officials said the ruling appeared to mark the final chapter in the saga, although another appeal by the family could not be ruled out.