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By “the red ant heaps of Toulon”, Hugo means the Bagne de Toulon, a notorious prison where the convicts wore red jackets and red caps. This is the prison where Jean Valjean serves nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread, in Hugo’s Les Misérables. L’habillement du forçat qui est différent pour chaque bagne, se compose à Toulon, dit l’auteur, d’une ...


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I just figured out the answer to my own question. By the "Red ant heaps of Toulon", Hugo most likely means the Bagne of Toulon, the prison that is also prominently featured in "Les Misérables" as the place in which the protagonist Jean Valjean is imprisoned for many years. It was, by modern definition, more of a forced labor camp than a ...


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