"As a means of contrast with the sublime, the grotesque is, in our view, the richest source that nature can offer." -- Victor Hugo
Victor-Marie Hugo () (26 February 1802 — 22 May 1885) was a French poet, playwright, novelist, essayist, visual artist, statesman, human rights activist and exponent of the Romantic movement in France.
In France, Hugo's literary fame comes first from his poetry but also rests upon his novels and his dramatic achievements. Among many volumes of poetry, Les Contemplations and La Légende des siècles stand particularly high in critical esteem, and Hugo is sometimes identified as the greatest French poet. Outside France, his best-known works are the novels Les Misérables and Notre-Dame de Paris (known in English also as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame).
Though a committed royalist when he was young, Hugo grew more open-minded as the decades passed; he became a passionate supporter of republicanism, and his work touches upon most of the political and social issues and artistic trends of his time. He is buried in the Panthéon.
"A compliment is something like a kiss through a veil.""A creditor is worse than a slave-owner; for the master owns only your person, but a creditor owns your dignity, and can command it.""A faith is a necessity to a man. Woe to him who believes in nothing.""A great artist is a great man in a great child.""A library implies an act of faith.""A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is a visible labor and there is an invisible labor.""A mother's arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them.""A war between Europeans is a civil war.""Adversity makes men, and prosperity makes monsters.""All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.""Almost all our desires, when examined, contain something too shameful to reveal.""Amnesty is as good for those who give it as for those who receive it. It has the admirable quality of bestowing mercy on both sides.""An intelligent hell would be better than a stupid paradise.""An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.""Architecture has recorded the great ideas of the human race. Not only every religious symbol, but every human thought has its page in that vast book.""As the purse is emptied, the heart is filled.""Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her, still she sings away all the same, knowing she has wings.""Be like the bird that, passing on her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing that she hath wings.""Because one doesn't like the way things are is no reason to be unjust towards God."
Victor Hugo was the third and last son of Joseph Léopold Sigisbert Hugo (1773—1828) and Sophie Trébuchet (1772—1821); his brothers were Abel Joseph Hugo (1798—1855) and Eugène Hugo (1800—1837). He was born in 1802 in Besançon (in the region of Franche-Comté) and lived in France for the majority of his life. However, he went into exile during the reign of Napoleon III ... he lived briefly in Brussels during 1851; in Jersey from 1852 to 1855; and in Guernsey from 1855 to 1870 and again in 1872-1873. There was a general amnesty in 1859; after that, his exile was by choice.
Hugo's early childhood was marked by great events. Napoléon was proclaimed Emperor two years after Hugo's birth, and the Bourbon Monarchy was restored before his eighteenth birthday. The opposing political and religious views of Hugo's parents reflected the forces that would battle for supremacy in France throughout his life: Hugo's father was an officer who ranked very high in Napoleon's army. He was an atheist republican who considered Napoléon a hero; his mother was an extreme Catholic Royalist who is believed to have taken as her lover General Victor Lahorie, who was executed in 1812 for plotting against Napoléon. Since Hugo's father, Joseph, was an officer, they moved frequently and Hugo learned much from these travels. On his family's journey to Naples, he saw the vast Alpine passes and the snowy peaks, the magnificently blue Mediterranean, and Rome during its festivities. Though he was only nearly six at the time, he remembered the half-year-long trip vividly. They stayed in Naples for a few months and then headed back to Paris.
Sophie followed her husband to posts in Italy (where Léopold served as a governor of a province near Naples) and Spain (where he took charge of three Spanish provinces). Weary of the constant moving required by military life, and at odds with her husband's lack of faith, Sophie separated temporarily from Léopold in 1803 and settled in Paris. Thereafter she dominated Hugo's education and upbringing. As a result, Hugo's early work in poetry and fiction reflect a passionate devotion to both King and Faith. It was only later, during the events leading up to France's 1848 Revolution, that he would begin to rebel against his Catholic Royalist education and instead champion Republicanism and Freethought.
Young Victor fell in love and against his mother's wishes, became secretly engaged to his childhood friend Adèle Foucher (1803—1868).
Unusually close to his mother, he felt free to marry Adèle (in 1822) only after his mother's death in 1821. They had their first child Léopold in 1823, but the boy died in infancy. Hugo's other children were Léopoldine (28 August 1824), Charles (4 November 1826), François-Victor (28 October 1828) and Adèle (24 August 1830). Hugo published his first novel the following year (Han d'Islande, 1823), and his second three years later (Bug-Jargal, 1826). Between 1829 and 1840 he would publish five more volumes of poetry (Les Orientales, 1829; Les Feuilles d'automne, 1831; Les Chants du crépuscule, 1835; Les Voix intérieures, 1837; and Les Rayons et les ombres, 1840), cementing his reputation as one of the greatest elegiac and lyric poets of his time.
Victor Hugo was devastated when his oldest and favorite daughter, Léopoldine, died at age 19 in 1843, shortly after her marriage. She was drowned in the Seine at Villequier, pulled down by her heavy skirts, when a boat overturned. Her young husband died trying to save her. Victor Hugo was traveling with his mistress at the time in the south of France, and learned about Léopoldine's death from a newspaper as he sat in a cafe. He describes his shock and grief in his poem À Villequier:
Hélas ! vers le passé tournant un oeil d'envie,Sans que rien ici-bas puisse m'en consoler,Je regarde toujours ce moment de ma vieOù je l'ai vue ouvrir son aile et s'envoler !
Je verrai cet instant jusqu'à ce que je meure,L'instant, pleurs superflus !Où je criai : L'enfant que j'avais tout à l'heure,Quoi donc ! je ne l'ai plus !
Alas! turning an envious eye towards the past,unconsolable by anything on earth,I keep looking at that moment of my lifewhen I saw her open her wings and fly away!
I will see that instant until I die,that instant...too much for tears!when I cried out: "The child that I had just now--what! I don't have her any more!"
He wrote many poems afterwards about his daughter's life and death, and at least one biographer claims he never completely recovered from it. His most famous poem is probably Demain, dès l'aube, in which he describes visiting her grave.
Like many young writers of his generation, Hugo was profoundly influenced by François-René de Chateaubriand, the famous figure in the literary movement of Romanticism and France's preëminent literary figure during the early 1800s. In his youth, Hugo resolved to be "Chateaubriand or nothing," and his life would come to parallel that of his predecessor in many ways. Like Chateaubriand, Hugo would further the cause of Romanticism, become involved in politics as a champion of Republicanism, and be forced into exile due to his political stances. The precocious passion and eloquence of Hugo's early work brought success and fame at an early age. His first collection of poetry (Odes et poésies diverses) was published in 1822, when Hugo was only twenty years old, and earned him a royal pension from Louis XVIII. Though the poems were admired for their spontaneous fervor and fluency, it was the collection that followed four years later in 1826 (Odes et Ballades) that revealed Hugo to be a great poet, a natural master of lyric and creative song.
Victor Hugo's first mature work of fiction appeared in 1829, and reflected the acute social conscience that would infuse his later work. Le Dernier jour d'un condamné (The Last Day of a Condemned Man) would have a profound influence on later writers such as Albert Camus, Charles Dickens, and Fyodor Dostoevsky. Claude Gueux, a documentary short story about a real-life murderer who had been executed in France, appeared in 1834, and was later considered by Hugo himself to be a precursor to his great work on social injustice, Les Misérables. But Hugo's first full-length novel] He had also pleaded for Benito Juárez to spare the recently captured emperor Maximilian I of Mexico but to no avail.
Although Napoleon III granted an amnesty to all political exiles in 1859, Hugo declined, as it meant he would have to curtail his criticisms of the government. It was only after Napoleon III fell from power and the Third Republic was proclaimed that Hugo finally returned to his homeland in 1870, where he was promptly elected to the National Assembly and the Senate.
He was in Paris during the siege by the Prussian army in 1870, famously eating animals given to him by the Paris zoo. As the siege continued, and food became ever more scarce, he wrote in his diary that he was reduced to "eating the unknown."
Because of his concern for the rights of artists and copyright, he was a founding member of the Association Littéraire et Artistique Internationale, which led to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works.
Hugo's religious views changed radically over the course of his life. In his youth, he identified himself as a Catholic and professed respect for Church hierarchy and authority. From there he became a non-practicing Catholic, and increasingly expressed anti-catholic and anti-clerical views. He frequented Spiritism during his exile (where he participated also in many seances conducted by Madame Delphine de Girardin), and in later years settled into a Rationalist Deism similar to that espoused by Voltaire. A census-taker asked Hugo in 1872 if he was a Catholic, and he replied, "No. A Freethinker".
Hugo never lost his antipathy towards the Roman Catholic Church, due largely to what he saw as the Church's indifference to the plight of the working class under the oppression of the monarchy; and perhaps also due to the frequency with which Hugo's work appeared on the Pope's list of "proscribed books" (Hugo counted 740 attacks on Les Misérables in the Catholic press). On the deaths of his sons Charles and François-Victor, he insisted that they be buried without crucifix or priest, and in his will made the same stipulation about his own death and funeral. However, although Hugo believed Catholic dogma to be outdated and dying, he never directly attacked the institution itself.
Hugo's Rationalism can be found in poems such as Torquemada (1869, about religious fanaticism), The Pope (1878, anti-clerical), Religions and Religion (1880, denying the usefulness of churches) and, published posthumously, The End of Satan and God (1886 and 1891 respectively, in which he represents Christianity as a griffin and Rationalism as an angel). "Religions pass away, but God remains", Hugo declared. Christianity would eventually disappear, he predicted, but people would still believe in "God, Soul, and the Power."
Although Hugo's many talents did not include exceptional musical ability, he nevertheless had a great impact on the music world through the inspiration that his works provided for composers of the 19th and 20th century. Hugo himself particularly enjoyed the music of Gluck and Weber and greatly admired Beethoven, and rather unusually for his time, he also appreciated works by composers from earlier centuries such as Palestrina and Monteverdi. Two famous musicians of the 19th century were friends of Hugo: Berlioz and Liszt. The latter played Beethoven in Hugo's home, and Hugo joked in a letter to a friend that thanks to Liszt's piano lessons, he learned how to play a favourite song on the piano — even though only with one finger! Hugo also worked with composer Louise Bertin, writing the libretto for her 1836 opera La Esmeralda which was based on the character in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Although for various reasons the opera closed soon after its fifth performance and is little known today, it has been recently enjoying a revival, both in a piano/song concert version by Liszt at the Festival international Victor Hugo et Égaux 2007 Cette page utilise des cadres and in a full orchestral version to be presented in July 2008 at Le Festival de Radio France et Montpellier Languedoc-Roussillon. 23 juillet - Festival Radio France et Montpellier Languedoc Roussillon - classique - concert - opéra La Esmeralda Louise Bertin - direction Lawrence Foster - Orchestre Nationa...
Well over one thousand musical compositions have been inspired by Hugo's works from the 1800s until the present day. In particular, Hugo's plays, in which he rejected the rules of classical theatre in favour of romantic drama, attracted the interest of many composers who adapted them into operas. More than one hundred operas are based on Hugo's works and among them are Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia (1833), Verdi's Rigoletto (1851) and Ernani (1844), and Ponchielli's La Gioconda (1876). Hugo's novels as well as his plays have been a great source of inspiration for musicians, stirring them to create not only opera and ballet but musical theatre such as Notre-Dame de Paris and the ever-popular Les Misérables, London West End's longest running musical. Additionally, Hugo's beautiful poems have attracted an exceptional amount of interest from musicians, and numerous melodies have been based on his poetry by composers such as Berlioz, Bizet, Fauré, Franck, Lalo, Liszt, Massenet, Saint-Saëns, Rachmaninov and Wagner.
Today, Hugo's work continues to stimulate musicians to create new compositions. For example, Hugo's novel against capital punishment, The Last Day of a Condemned Man, has recently been adapted into an opera by David Alagna (libretto by Frédérico Alagna). Their brother, tenor Roberto Alagna, performed in the opera's premiere in Paris in the summer of 2007 and again in February 2008 in Valencia with Erwin Schrott as part of the Festival international Victor Hugo et Égaux 2008. Festival Victor Hugo & Egaux 2008 In Guernsey, every two years the Victor Hugo International Music Festival attracts a wide range of musicians and the premiere of songs specially commissioned from such composers as Guillaume Connesson, Richard Dubugnon, Olivier Kaspar and Thierry Escaich and based on Hugo's poetry.
When Hugo returned to Paris in 1870, the country hailed him as a national hero. Despite his popularity Hugo lost his bid for reelection to the National Assembly in 1872. Within a brief period, he suffered a mild stroke, his daughter Adèle's internment in an insane asylum, and the death of his two sons. (Adèle's biography inspired the movie The Story of Adele H.) His wife Adèle had died in 1868. His faithful mistress, Juliette Drouet, died in 1883, only two years before his own death. Despite his personal loss, Hugo remained committed to the cause of political change. On 30 January 1876 Hugo was elected to the newly created Senate. The last phase of his political career is considered a failure. Hugo took on the role of a maverick and got little done in the Senate.
In February 1881 Hugo celebrated his 79th birthday. To honor the fact that he was entering his eightieth year, one of the greatest tributes to a living writer was held. The celebrations began on the 25th when Hugo was presented with a Sèvres vase, the traditional gift for sovereigns. On the 27th one of the largest parades in French history was held. Marchers stretched from Avenue d'Eylau, down the Champs-Élysées, and all the way to the center of Paris. The paraders marched for six hours to pass Hugo as he sat in the window at his house. Every inch and detail of the event was for Hugo; the official guides even wore cornflowers as an allusion to Cosette's song in Les Misérables.
Victor Hugo's death on 22 May 1885, at the age of 83, generated intense national mourning. He was not only revered as a towering figure in literature, he was a statesman who shaped the Third Republic and democracy in France. More than two million people joined his funeral procession in Paris from the Arc de Triomphe to the Panthéon, where he was buried. He shares a crypt within the Panthéon with Alexandre Dumas and Émile Zola. Most large French towns and cities have a street named for him. The avenue where he died, in Paris, now bears his name.
Victor Hugo was a prolific visual artist, producing more than 4,000 drawings in his lifetime. Originally pursued as a casual hobby, drawing became more important to Hugo shortly before his exile, when he made the decision to stop writing in order to devote himself to politics. Drawing became his exclusive creative outlet during the period 1848-1851.
Hugo worked only on paper, and on a small scale; usually in dark brown or black pen-and-ink wash, sometimes with touches of white, and rarely with color. The surviving drawings are surprisingly accomplished and "modern" in their style and execution, foreshadowing the experimental techniques of Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism.
He would not hesitate to use his children's stencils, ink blots, puddles and stains, lace impressions, "pliage" or folding (i.e. Rorschach blots), "grattage" or rubbing, often using the charcoal from match sticks or his fingers instead of pen or brush. Sometimes he would even toss in coffee or soot to get the effects he wanted. It is reported that Hugo often drew with his left hand or without looking at the page, or during Spiritualist séances, in order to access his unconscious mind, a concept only later popularized by Sigmund Freud.
Hugo kept his artwork out of the public eye, fearing it would overshadow his literary work. However, he enjoyed sharing his drawings with his family and friends, often in the form of ornately handmade calling cards, many of which were given as gifts to visitors when he was in political exile. Some of his work was shown to, and appreciated by, contemporary artists such as Van Gogh and Delacroix; the latter expressed the opinion that if Hugo had decided to become a painter instead of a writer, he would have outshone the artists of their century.
Image:Victor_Hugo-Setting_Sun.jpg|Crépuscule ("Twilight"), Jersey, 1853-1855.Image:Victor_Hugo-Bridge.jpg|Ville avec le pont de Tumbledown, 1847.Image:Victor_Hugo-Octopus.jpg|Pieuvre avec les initales V.H., ("Octopus with the initials V.H."), 1866.File:Victor Hugo1300.JPG|Le Rocher de l'Ermitage dans un paysage imaginaire ("Ermitage Rock in an imaginary landscape")
1973 - Five VIews on European Peace[Reorganization of the European Community; The United States of Europe; Considerations on the political system now existing ... war and peace - English and French Edition](Hardcover)