Victor Hugo - Biography

Victor Hugo - Biography

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Short biography - Victor Hugo dominated French literature in the 19th century and is considered the leader of the Romantic movement. Author of the novel Wretched and the collection of poetry Contemplations, he is presented as a committed writer, emblematic symbol of IIIe Republic and resistance to the Second Empire. Victor Hugo nonetheless remains a genius as much approved as discussed and in disproportionate work. But behind it and contrary to the presentation that the literary critic Sainte-Beuve made of him (“ Hugo is not of the race of men. He was born from the teeth of the dragon ») Hides a deeply human man.


Childhood and literary beginnings of Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo was born in Besançon on February 26, 1802. Then a simple commander, his father distinguished himself militarily, which earned him the titles of General and Count of the Empire. From 1804, Hugo lived in Paris with his mother. From 1807 to 1809, they stayed in Naples and, from 1811 to 1812, they went to Spain. This last trip leaves vivid impressions in the memory of Hugo (Hemani or the Castilian Honor). His parents separated, he entered the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in 1815. He already showed great literary ambition. Fourteen years old, he wrote: “I want to be Chateaubriand or nothing. "The awards he received from the Académie française in 1817 convinced his father of his career choice. In 1819, then Catholic and monarchist, he founded a review, the Literary Conservator.

In 1822, he married Adèle Foucher, who gave him four children. He became known with the Odes and ballads (1822). The following year he published his first novel, Han from Iceland. He meets Lamartine and Vigny at Charles Nodier's living room at the Arsenal library. Literally, he remained moderate until 1827, when he defined the romantic drama (preface by Cromwell). He then established himself as a leader of romanticism in France. He organized the meetings of the “cenacle” in his apartment on rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, without however dethroning the Nodier salon. It was there that these novelist scholars prepared for the "Battle of Hemani" of 1830.

Hugo at the height of fame

After 1830, Hugo was gradually abandoned by the intellectuals of the cenacle. In addition, his wife betrays him with Sainte-Beuve. In 1833, he fell in love with Juliette Drouet, a discreet and tender woman. The same year, he triumphed again with Notre Dame de Paris, novel in which he manifests his taste for the Middle Ages. From 1830 to 1840, he asserted himself as the greatest poet of his generation with the publication of four major collections: Autumn Leaves (1831), The Twilight Songs (1835), The Inner Voices (1837) and Rays and Shadows (1840). In the preface to this last collection, he evokes the function of the poet.

He is a visionary who guides men, who brings a message of love to the poor and who fights injustice. He is a politically engaged man. As early as 1850, the poets of Parnassus opposed Hugo's conception by developing that of "art for the sake of art". In the theater, Hugo knows fame with The King has fun (1832) and several dramas asMarion delorme (1831), Lucretia Borgia (1833) andRuy Blas (1838) without forgetting the poetry Oriental (1829) toRays and Shadows (1840). He then undeniably became the leader of this movement. In 1843, he failed with Les Burgraves (1843). The same year, he faces the first real drama of his existence. Her daughter Léopoldine drowns in the Seine as she walks with her husband. Hugo then abandoned poetry for many years, before publishing Les Contemplations in 1856, a collection in which he devoted many pieces to Léopoldine

From then on, Victor Hugo moved towards political engagement.

Political engagement and exile

Turning to politics was the logical outcome of the concept of the committed poet. Victor Hugo has always been an unrestrained fighter as evidenced by his relentless fight for the abolition of the death penalty, which he began in 1829 with The Last Day of a Convict, pursuing her even during her exile. He is also fighting to protect the architectural heritage, rebelling against the dilapidated state of Notre Dame de Paris and declaring war "on the demolishers". His fight will take on greater importance during his political life in the decade 1840-1850. The destitution of the humble prompts him to concern himself with social questions when the newspaper was founded The event.

He then did not publish any new books until 1852 devoting himself body and soul to his struggles, in particular on "social questions" and justice. In 1843, he became a peer of France in 1843 and then entered the National Assembly, having been elected deputy in 1848. The coup d'etat of Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte - to which he was then opposed - changed the situation. Victor Hugo must take the path of exile, a path which nevertheless allows him to rediscover that of literature.

And this literature is above all a controversial literature with Napoleon the little (1852) and The punishments (1853). With this work disseminated clandestinely, he becomes the spiritual leader of the French Republicans. Victor Hugo is constantly fighting the "usurper" of his island Jersey, then Guernsey. It is also for him the beginning of a new life marked by freedom and solitude. Far from mundane circles and the world of Parisian literature, these are the most fruitful years of the romantic writer. It follows the Punishments with Contemplations (1856), The legend of the centuries (1859) and his great novel Wretched (1862).

The triumphant return of Victor Hugo

Following the defeat of Sedan and the fall of Napoleon III, Victor Hugo returned to France in 1870, where he received a triumphant welcome. Back in Paris, Hugo finds himself without his wife, who died in 1868. In addition, in 1871, he lost another child, his son Charles. A fervent republican, he celebrated the Paris Commune with theTerrible year (1872). And while he does not play a large political role as he would have liked, he nonetheless remains a living symbol of the IIIe Republic. This recognizes in him the cantor who suits him to achieve unanimity in the face of the inclinations of the legitimists and the upholders of the moral order.

Following a senator's mandate in 1876 and some late works like theArt of being a grandfather (1877), a collection inspired by tenderness for his grandchildren, he definitively put down the pen in 1883, on the death of his lifelong mistress - since 1833 - Juliette Drouet, thereby completing an epistolary correspondence of tens of thousands of letters with it. On May 22, 1885, he passed away from pulmonary congestion, hailed as the representative of France, and glorified by all for his disproportionate work.

His state funeral on June 1, 1885 resulted in a procession of gigantic proportions. Several hundred thousand people paid homage to the liberating voice of the "people", which became and remains today a tutelary figure of France and of 19th century literature.e century. His coffin remains near the Arc de Triomphe for several days so that the crowds can pay their last respects. His remains will later be buried in the Pantheon.

Main works

- Hernani (1830)

- Notre-Dame de Paris (1831)

- The Punishments (1853)

- Les Misérables (1862)

For further

- Victor Hugo, biography of Alain Decaux, 2010.

- The Extraordinary Metamorphosis - Hugo the rebellious, by Jean-François Kahn. fayard, 2001.

Video: La Maison Victor Hugo à Paris Full HD


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