Sally Minogue looks at Victor Hugo’s novel and Andrew Davies’ adaptation for BBC Television ...
"Laughter is the sun that drives
winter from the human face. "
Novelist, poet and dramatist, Victor Hugo was born in Besancon in 1802, the son of a general in Napoleon’s army. After the marriage of his parents collapsed, he was raised by his mother, Sophie. From 1815 to 1818 Hugo attended the Lycee Louis-le Grand in Paris. In early adolescence he began to write verse tragedies and poetry, and also translated Virgil.
His first published collection, Odes et Poesies Diverses (1822), gained him a royal pension from Louis XVIII. His first novel, Han D’Islande (1823), was published anonymously. In 1822, he married Adele Foucher, with whom his brother, Eugene, was in love. Eugene suffered from mental problems and lost his mind on their wedding day, after which he spent the rest of his life in an institution. Hugo’s fame increased in the 1830s with the publication of his famous historical work Notre Dame de Paris (now known as The Hunchback of Notre Dame) (1831). In his later life Hugo became involved in politics as a supporter of the Republican movement. His daughter was tragically killed in 1843, and Hugo did not publish another book for ten years. In 1851, believing his life to be in danger, he fled to Brussels and then to Jersey. He was expelled from the island, and moved, with his family to neighbouring Guernsey in the English Channel.
During this period he wrote some of his best works, including Les Chatiments (1853) and the epic Les Miserables (1862). Hugo witnessed the Siege of Paris in 1870, when the unpopular Napoleon III finally fell from power at the end of the Franco-Prussian War. After these political upheavals and the proclamation of the Third Republic, Hugo finally returned to France. In 1871, during the period of the Paris Commune, Hugo lived in Brussels, but was expelled for sheltering revolutionaries. After a short time in Luxembourg, he returned to Paris and was elected as a senator in 1876. He suffered a mild stroke in June 1878. Hugo died in Paris on 22 May, 1885, and was given a national funeral, attended by two million people.
TITLES BY VICTOR HUGO