Is It the 'Year of the Hugo?'

photo: playground, luxembourg

In the Luxembourg on Saturday, without Victor Hugo.

Responses About a Club Non-Member

Email from Charles Fremont. Sent via the Internet on Friday, 1. February:-

Ric,

I am sorry I could not attend the meeting this week of the club of which Victor Hugo is not a member, that remarkable Paris club of which you hold the rank of venerable secretary.

I'm venerable too, Ric, so don't feel bad about it. Even more venerable is Victor Hugo who, though not a club member, showed up front and center on our club 'report' this morning. There he was in the headline, and, under a cup of the Corona's coffee, featured in a special issue of 'L'Histoire.'

Why is Victor Hugo so revered by the French? How, after all these years, can he continue to be talked about in Paris? Who is this guy?

Last summer, anticipating this week's club 'report' by several months, I bought and read Grahamphoto: victor hugo did not live here Robb's huge biography of Hugo to get the scoop on this hero of France. Save your money; it made for dreadful reading, which was amazing since I had so thoroughly enjoyed Robb's biography of Arthur Rimbaud.

The building that is not 11. Rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs..

It's not the writing. It's just that compared to Rimbaud's meteoric flash of youthful genius and subsequent self-imposed exile in exotic lands, Hugo's life seemed so unfascinating, an unrelieved mess, his exile to the Channel Islands rather pathetic, his self-promotion, well, I need not go into it.

But the French do love and respect Victor Hugo. Why? I was determined to find out, and voila! I am now happily somewhere around 860 pages into an 1260 page novel that forever will keep Victor Hugo upon the high pedestal on which he stands. It is 'Les Misérables,' and it is a delight, a glimpse into a Paris long gone, and - as Hugo might say - into the soul of Man.

I have Charles E. Wilbur's translation, which came out with the publication of the original edition in French. There are so many abridged print editions out there, not to mention the musical and the various movies - I wanted the unvarnished, unedited Hugo, and it is worth the effort.

Club members, Francophiles, honorable secretary, there is a reason for Hugo's fame, and it can be found in his greatest work. I recommend this masterpiece, this panoply of stars in the night, to one and all.

Charles Fremont


Long-time Popularity

Email from Dana Shaw. Sent via the Internet on Saturday, 2. February:-

Ric,

I did my college senior thesis on Victor Hugo. For somephoto: 90 rue vaugirard strange reason. although the university had semester courses in French literature of every other century, it did not offer a course in 19th century literature.

Trying to be well rounded, my senior independent study was a survey of 19th century lit, starting with the onset of Romanticism and ending with Naturalism.

The entry to 90. Rue de Vaugirard is unmarked.

I chose Hugo for my thesis as he was not only a remarkable public figure but a writer of such genius that his Romantic style remained popular long after readers' tastes had evolved into Realism and ultimately to Zola's Naturalism with works such as 'Nana' and 'Germinal.'

Cheers! Dana


Playing Catch-Up With Hugo

Bonjour Charles and Dana -

Paris, Sunday, 3. February:- While I was prepared for no members to be at last Thursday's club meeting, I didn't realize that having Victor Hugo to keep me company would result in a virtual avalanche of emails.

This has caused me to interrupt my reading of the Hugo story in the magazine and sent me out to follow the map of 'Hugo In Paris' included in it.

Luckily, from 1827 to 1830, he lived relatively nearby, at 11. Rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs. Equally luckily, yesterday was a very fine day to seek this out. However, the map mentions other locations as 'no longer existing,' but fails to mention that the Boulevard Raspail wiped out 'number 11' too.

My source says number 11 was actually number 27 in 1904, located behind a gate at the end of a 50-metre long lane. A photo taken the same year shows a sizeable three-story house, in a small park.

Hugo wrote 'Cromwell,' 'Les Orientales,' 'Le Dernier Jour d'un Condamné,' 'Marionphoto: passage d'enfer Delorme et Hernani' while living in this house. The last piece caused so many visitors that the Hugo family was invited to leave, and they moved to Rue Jean-Goujon.

The other nearby address given was 90. Rue Vaugirard. This is just on the west side of the Rue de Rennes, but there is no plaque on the building, and my source has no note for this address.

Victor Hugo is not known to have lived in the Passage d'Enfer.

The third location mentioned in the magazine is the Luxembourg garden. I know this is still here, but I don't know who Marius and Cosette are, why he saw her here for the first time in 1831, nor where exactly.

But it is nearby too, and yesterday was an especially nice day for January, so I wandered around in the garden with several thousand other Parisians - none of whom seemed to be looking for Victor Hugo.

This leaves about a dozen other 'Hugo' locations in Paris. Some are places where he lived and some are scenes featured in his stories, such as Notre Dame, which 'L'Histoire' says is the heroine of 'Les Misérables.'
signature, regards, ric

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