Victor Hugo was born in 1802. His father
was a general in Napoleon's army, so the family travelled all around
Europe during Victor's childhood.
Victor was a very clever boy. He was
writing and publishing books of poetry when he was only seven
years old! At the age of 17, he started a magazine which reviewed
books and poetry. He then entered the army and was awarded the Legion
of Honneur, France's highest military award.
Victor Hugo became interested in politics.
He was particularly interested in trying to make life better and
more equal for the poor. He thought that a Republic would help to
pass laws that would be fairer for poor people, so he supported a Revolution against the Emperor in 1848 .
However, the revolution failed and the Emperor remained in power. Because of this, Hugo was looked upon as a traitor, tried for
treason and sent into exile in 1851, to the Channel Islands. He had to stay away from France
for nearly twenty years. During this time, Hugo concentrated on his writing, producing works that were not only great literature, but also very popular. Today, his stories are still popular with people all over the world and have been reproduced in movies and tele-movies.
||Hugo became involved in the 1848 Revolution fighting in the streets of Paris with
students, Parisians and poor people to try to bring a Republic to France.
Two of Hugo's most famous novels are
"The Hunchback of Notre Dame" and "Les Misérables".
"The Hunchback of Notre Dame"
tells the story of Quasimodo the bell ringer of Notre Dame de
Paris who fell in love with the beautiful gipsy princess, called
Esmeralda. In French, this book is called "Notre Dame de Paris".
The Disney movie
|The novel encouraged people to take an interest in the old cathedral that had fallen into a total state of disrepair and in danger of demolition. Thanks to this book, Notre Dame was restored and is now one of the world's best known churches. It has been filmed many times and most recently turned into a Walt Disney cartoon.
LES MISÉRABLES (1862), is Hugo's most popular
work. It has been filmed many times and is a very successful musical
on the stage.
Hugo thought of the idea for the story one day when he
saw a poor woman begging bread and money from a rich man in an expensive
coach. The story is about a convict called Jean
Valjean who is sentenced to 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of
bread. When he is released, he plans to rob a kindly bishop. The bishop
saves Jean from the police by saying that he gave Jean the silver which
he had really stolen.
In return, Jean turns his life to helping others,
though all the time he is pursued by the police inspector Javert. With
his adopted daughter, Cossette, Jean goes to Paris and helps the Parisians
in their revolution against a bad ruler. This was what Hugo had done
in real life.
After defeat in a war against Prussia (Germany) in 1870, France
at long last became a republic and Victor Hugo was able to return to his beloved France.
in Paris in 1885 and his body lay in state below the Arc de Triomphe, where people came from all over France and Europe to pay their respects to a man who was both a great writer and a great humanitarian.
Hugo's funeral at the Arc de Triomphe
|He was given a national funeral attended by
two million people. The picture on the left is in the Museum of Paris (Musée Carnavalet) and shows his funeral. You can see the Arc de Triomphe is covered in black.
Hugo holds the record for the longest sentence in French literature, in Les Misérables. It is a massive 823 words in length!