Victor Hugo

Today we are remembering Victor Hugo, one of the greatest writers not only of French literature but also of all universal literature.

 

His greatest works are “Les Misérables”,  “Ninety-Three“, “Le Roi s’amuse” and “Notre-Dame de Paris”.

Like many young writers of his generation, Victor Hugo was profoundly influenced by François-René de Chateaubriand, the famous figure in the literary movement of Romanticism and France’s preeminent literary figure during the early 19th century.

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 (though mostly as a champion of Republicanism), and be forced into exile due to his political stances.

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.

Some Victor Hugo Trivia:

Victor Hugo loved music and he had a great friendship with Liszt and Berlioz.

Victor 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.

Well over one thousand musical compositions have been inspired by Hugo’s works from the 19th century 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).

Victor 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.

More interesting trivia:

Victor Hugo loved 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.

Some Victor Hugo poems:

The Grave and the Rose

THE Grave said to the Rose,”What of the dews of dawn,Love’s flower, what end is theirs?””And what of spirits flown,The souls whereon doth closeThe tomb’s mouth unawares?”                                                         The Rose said to the Grave.

The Rose said, “In the shadeFrom the dawn’s tears is madeA perfume faint and strange,Amber and honey sweet.”

“And all the spirits fleetDo suffer a sky-change,More strangely than the dew,To God’s own angels new,                                   “The Grave said to the Rose.

The Poor children

TAKE heed of this small child of earth;He is great; he hath in him God most high.Children before their fleshly birthAre lights alive in the blue sky. In our light bitter world of wrongThey come; God gives us them awhile.His speech is in their stammering tongue,And his forgiveness in their smile. Their sweet light rests upon our eyes.Alas! their right to joy is plain.If they are hungry ParadiseWeeps, and, if cold, Heaven thrills with pain. The want that saps their sinless flowerSpeaks judgment on sin’s ministers.Man holds an angel in his power.Ah! deep in Heaven what thunder stirs, When God seeks out these tender thingsWhom in the shadow where we sleepHe sends us clothed about with wings,And finds them ragged babes that weep!
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