Victor Hugo’s The Man Who Laughs: The Hero with the Passion and Power of Prometheus.

The Man Who Laughs, according to Ayn Rand, was the best novel ever written by Victor Hugo, her favorite novelist. Together, we will see why she was right. In our course, we will analyze its structure, relish its descriptive style, and appreciate the integration of the suspenseful plot with the theme, colorful drama, and razor-sharp character portrayals. We will focus especially on the dramatic set-up, key turning points in the hero’s life, the crucial conflicts and contrasts, the moments when the “man who laughs” becomes the man who acts, and speaks—and, of course, the scene Ayn Rand said was the one scene, in all world literature, she wished she had written.

In the course, we will read the novel in parts, with no more than 100 pages per week, and sometimes less. If you are reading the novel in English, I recommend the only complete English translation in print, The Laughing Man, translated by the award- winning James Hogarth, published by Kennedy and Boyd in 2008 (ISBN 1 904999 84 3). (Other in-print or electronic editions have some omissions, though they do render the narrative.) If you are reading the novel in French, the two-volume Nelson edition has the full text and is the edition in Ayn Rand’s library.