The Man Who Laughs (1869) is a novel by Victor Hugo. Written while Hugo was living in exile on the island of Guernsey, The Man Who Laughs is set between the 17th and 18th centuries in England, a time of political unrest and class conflict in which he identified parallels to France of the 19th century. Although the novel was largely panned at the time, it has since been recognized as one of Hugo’s greatest works. The Man Who Laughs has inspired over a dozen adaptations in film, theater, and comics, including a 1928 American silent film that served as source material for the Joker in the original 1940 issue of Batman. “Again the child set himself to sweep away the snow. The neck of the dead woman appeared; then her shoulders, clothed in rags. Suddenly he felt something move feebly under his touch. It was something small that was buried, and which stirred. The child swiftly cleared away the snow, discovering a wretched little body-thin, wan with cold, still alive, lying naked on the dead woman’s naked breast.” Abandoned by a group of Comprachicos, criminals who buy and capture children for the purpose of mutilating them and forcing them to work as beggars or performers, the young Gwynplaine wanders the English coast alone. During a storm, he discovers an infant girl and her dead mother lying in the snow, and endeavors to save the child. Left with no choice but to rely on strangers, Gwynplaine joins a carnival run by the merciful Ursus, a man with a pet wolf. Horrified at first by the boy’s disfigurement, which has left a perpetual smile on his face, Ursus agrees to care for the children and soon finds that Gwynplaine is a versatile and lucrative attraction at his shows. When the Duchess Josiana attends the carnival to see Gwynplaine, now a young man, she finds herself strangely attracted to him. With a beautifully designed cover and professionally typeset manuscript, this edition of Victor Hugo’s The Man Who Laughs is a classic work of French literature reimagined for modern readers. show more
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