Journey to the centre: Great middle lines – 8

This morning I pulled from my bookshelf a translation of Les Misérables by Victor Hugo.  I flipped to the end, p. 1,463!  Then I backflipped to the middle, where I read on p. 731 the essence of Hugo’s message about the miserable poor of France.  Next to it on the shelf was a five-volume set of the novel in French, so I pulled out the third volume and had a go at translating the lines myself.

Just before the lines of my translation, the narrator had recounted an incident where Marius, walking at a wintry nightfall, had run into two barefoot girls in torn rags whispering to each other about their narrow escape from the police.  Once they had disappeared, he continued his walk:

Along the way, in an alley off the Rue Mouffetard, he saw a child’s coffin covered in a black cloth, lying across three chairs and lighted by a candle.  It brought to his mind the two girls of the twilight.

‘Poor mothers!’ he thought.  ‘There’s one thing sadder than seeing your children die, and that’s seeing them live bad lives.’

*****

 

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