Poor old idiot of a cop, you're in love.

Javert as pictured in the original 1862 publication of  Les Miserables , by Victor Hugo.

Javert as pictured in the original 1862 publication of Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo.

Jean Vallée, the Belgian singer who played Javert in the original French stage cast of Les Miserables, released a song in 1982 entitled "Javert, tes amoureux." (In English: "Javert, you're in love.")

I've only been able to find one English translation of this song's lyrics online, and it wasn't very satisfying -- it's essentially what you get if you paste the French lyrics into Google Translate. I'm no expert, but I know a decent amount of French and way too much about the character of Javert, so I made my own attempt to translate the lyrics. 

The song describes a conflicted Javert coming to terms with repressed romantic feelings. It doesn't specifically state with whom the stoic, diligent cop has fallen in love, so I'll leave that to the reader's interpretation. 

English translation

I have no excuses
Or extenuating circumstances
It’s divine society that has caused me to take a terrible turn and go downhill
I -- an obsessive reader of the Civil Code and the Criminal Code --
I have suddenly found myself in my bed reading the advice column in the newspaper

Javert, you’re in love
You’re dazzled and hear violins playing in your mind
You shouldn’t be, you must keep your cool
Javert, you’re in love
Poor old damn idiot of a cop, I believed you were clever
You’re just miserable
Javert, you’re in love
It’s impossible. Come help me
And make me unapproachable again.
Javert, you’re in love
Can’t you see that?

Inspector Javert
The incorruptible representative of the law
You, who only want to watch TV in black and white,
Now is when you realize it’s missing color
This police story, this noir fiction
That has imprisoned your heart

Javert, you’re in love
Good job, you fool
You are handsome, you are great, you are magnificent
Yet you are pitiful
Javert, you’re in love
Become younger again
Don’t let your heart cause you to lay all your cards out on the table
Javert, you’re in love
It’s impossible, come help me
And make me unapproachable again
Javert, you’re in love
Can’t you see that? 

I feel like an old man tonight
I’m dragging my memory around on crutches
I’m going to return to my role
And continue to be miserable by contract and by duty
I believe our chance was yesterday, and it’s already tonight

Javert, you’re in love
Excuse me, Mr. Victor [Hugo]
If I’m extrapolating from the book, I can’t help it anymore
I love it too much
Javert, you’re in love
I am pathetic, a poor guy who admits he was wrong
Javert, you’re in love
And yes, too bad, whether you want to or not, you will have to deal with it
Javert, you’re in love
Can’t you see it, Javert!

You’re in love
in love
in love
in loooooooove
 

Original French lyrics

Je n'ai pas d'excuses
Pas de circonstances atténuantes
C'est la société divine qui m'a mis sur le plus mauvais côté de la plus mauvaise pente
Moi, le lecteur invétéré du Code Civil et du Code Pénal,
Je me retrouve dans mon lit en train de lire le courrier du cœur dans le journal

Javert, t'es amoureux
Tu as des violons plein les yeux
Il ne faut pas, tu dois garder la tête froide
Javert, t'es amoureux
Pauvre vieux con de flic, je te croyais malin
Tu n'es que misérable
Javert, t'es amoureux
C'est impossible, venez à mon secours
Et rendez-moi inaccessible
Javert, t'es amoureux
Est-ce que tu te rends compte ?

Inspecteur Javert
De la loi, l'incorruptible représentant
Toi qui ne voulais regarder la télé pas autrement qu'en noir ou blanc
Voilà que tu trouves qu'il manque de couleurs
Ce roman policier, cette série noire
Qui t'a incarcéré le cœur

Javert, t'es amoureux
Bravo, le clown
T'es beau, t'es grand, t'es magnifique
Mais tu es lamentable
Javert, t'es amoureux
Redeviens moins si vieux
Ne laisse pas ton cœur te mettre à table
Javert, t'es amoureux
C'est impossible, venez à mon secours
Et rendez-moi inaccessible
Javert, t'es amoureux
Est-ce que tu te rends compte ?

Je me sens un peu vieillard ce soir
J'ai des béquilles qui traînent dans ma mémoire
Je vais rentrer dans mon théâtre
Continuer d'être misérable par contrat et par devoir
Je crois qu'on est hier alors qu'on est déjà ce soir

Javert, t'es amoureux
Pardonnez, m'sieur Victor
Si je sors du bouquin, je n'en peux plus
Mon amour est trop fort
Javert, t'es amoureux
Je suis un misérable, un pauvre mec qui reconnaît ses torts
Javert, t'es amoureux
Et oui, tant pis, que voulez-vous, il faudra vous y faire
Javert, t'es amoureux
Est-ce que tu te rends compte, Javert !

T'es amoureux
Amoureux
Amoureux
Amoureeeeuuuux

Notes on the translation

  1. C'est la société divine qui m'a mis sur le plus mauvais côté de la plus mauvaise pente. Literally, this line reads, "It's the divine society that has placed me on the worst side of the worst slope." I found this difficult to translate for several reasons. First, I really don't know what Vallée means by "divine society" here, and my attempt to Google the concept didn't make it any clearer. I simply translated it as "divine society," but this isn't really a phrase we use in modern English. I suspect what he's referring to here is religious/Christian rules and expectations, but I could be completely off base. Also, being placed "on the worst side of the worst slope" is a rather bizarre phrase. In French, to go down a "mauvaise pente" (bad slope) is an idiom that means going down the wrong path/wrong road. I tried to keep the hilly imagery in English by using "go downhill," but that seems pretty mild compared to Vallée's insistence that Javert is on the worst side of the worst slope. So I went with divine society causing him to "take a terrible turn and go downhill," which isn't terribly literal but hopefully captures Vallée's intention here.

  2. Je me retrouve dans mon lit en train de lire le courrier du cœur dans le journal. In this line, Vallée uses an interesting French grammatical construction to emphasize an ongoing action. He could simply use the first person form of the verb lire, "je lis" -- that  is, "I read" or "I am reading" -- but instead he uses the phrase "en train de lire," meaning, essentially, "in the process of reading." It emphasizes the ongoing nature of the action. What I took from this is that Vallée is not simply describing Javert reading the advice column in bed -- a VERY non-Javert-like activity -- but describing Javert suddenly realizing this uncharacteristic thing he's doing ... and continuing to do it. I don't think this grammatical form translates well into English, so I added the "suddenly" into my translation in an attempt to portray Javert's surprise. 

  3. Tu as des violons plein les yeux. The French idiom "en prendre plein les yeux" means to be dazzled by something. One can have "des étoiles plein les yeux," or eyes full of stars, for example. In this case, Vallée says Javert has eyes full of violins, which is pretty strange. Hence my decision to translate it as "You're dazzled and hear violins playing in your mind."

  4. Pauvre vieux con de flic, je te croyais malin. This line says a lot, and it's not easy to translate. "Con" is a French curse word that can mean any number of things; most literally, it means "cunt," but it's not perceived as nearly that rude (or as particularly feminine) in French. It's closer to "jerk" or "idiot," but carries more weight than those words in English. This blog post has a great analysis of the word and the problems with translating it. The other word that gave me trouble in this line is "malin." The best translation of the word on its own is probably "cunning," "sly," or "crafty." But that doesn't make a lot of sense here. It can also mean "smart," which seems more appropriate, but I went with "clever" in the hopes that it would capture a tiny bit of the darker vibe that comes with French word. ("Malin," by the way, can also mean malignant or even evil.)

  5. J'ai des béquilles qui traînent dans ma mémoire. I'm not completely confident in my translation of this line, which is pretty odd. Literally, it says "I have crutches which I am lugging in my memory." This doesn't make a lot of sense. My best guess is that Vallée wants to covey a) that Javert is feeling old and perhaps feeble (hence the crutches), and b) that Javert feels his memory is a heavy burden (hence the dragging). 

  6. Je vais rentrer dans mon théâtre. This means "I'm going to return to my theater." Javert's a law enforcement officer, so I'm assuming this is meant to imply that he's acting (by hiding his feelings) in his daily life. 

  7. Je crois qu'on est hier alors qu'on est déjà ce soir. Literally, this says something like "I believe we are yesterday while it is already tonight."