A Bringer of New Things

I want to read and learn all I can, write thoughtfully and truthfully, live according to reason and ever more mature wisdom, and savor every wonderful little gift of life.

Why I ♥ Victor Hugo

9EDC2AA5-4D86-4924-B748-82D7424A4152

Say what you will about him and his writing, but I adore Victor Hugo. I’ve had a thing for him ever since I read Les Misérables when I was a moody teenager, and my affection for his work has only grown. Oui, he may not be everyone’s favorite, but here are the main three reasons for my obsession with him:

1. I love the grandeur of his novels, especially Les Misérables.

Of course the realists criticized him: he was writing in a completely different plane from them. He wasn’t sketching the ordinary lives of realistic characters. Hugo wrote on the level of epics, portraying heroes and victims, observers and villains, virtues and vices, twists of fate and fatal plot twists.

And I love all of it. I guess some people don’t, and that’s okay. But even taking a few minutes to review the cliff notes synopsis of Les Misérables gives me chills. (Oddly enough, I still haven’t seen the new movie or a live show of the Broadway musical, but I’m sure I’ll love them too.) I’m reading The Hunchback of Notre-Dame right now, and it’s gripping my soul, though not quite as deeply as Les Misérables did.

[Update 8/21/2014] I finished The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, and it severly disappointed me. I hated it. My hero let me down…but he’s still one of my literary heroes!

2. I love that he was a thinker.

So, if you haven’t read Les Misérables or The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, keep in mind that you might want to read abridged versions, with the chapters of Hugo’s historical, non-story-related commentary cut out. These commentaries are rather interesting in themselves, but they would fit much better in some other nonfiction context, when readers aren’t thinking, “Hurry up with all this boring stuff and get back to the story!”

But I love it that he had all these interesting things to say, and I think his desire to put all his non-related thoughts into his novels is kind of sweet, because I can relate; I can just picture him thinking, “Ooo, this would be a good place to sneak in my treatise on European architecture! I’ve been wanting to do something with that for a while now…”

3. I love that his poems are simple and sincere.

He grieves, he ponders, he breathes in the air of a summer night—he feels, and he expresses it all through poetry that is accessible, not obscure. That scores huge points with me.

 

Because of Victor Hugo, I’ve developed a branched-off love of all things French. This love also grew out of taking a French I course when I went back to get courses toward a second (real) bachelor’s degree. I had already taken a semester of German, because I let someone talk me into it, but I decided to switch to French. On the first day of class, when the teacher asked us each why we were taking the class, I said, “Because I want to be able to read Victor Hugo in French someday.” 🙂 But through the class I also fell in love with the beauty of the French language and culture. Now I’m getting closer to my goal, but I’ve still got a ways to go before I’ll be able to easily read Hugo’s original work.

In the meantime, my heart beats after his, as I learn from him, one of my literary heroes whom I want to be when I grow up.

Advertisements

8 comments on “Why I ♥ Victor Hugo

  1. whatmeread
    June 26, 2014

    I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t read anything by Hugo, although I tried to read Les Miserable years ago and got too mad when he hit the priest over the head with the candlestick. I guess I should try again, since I sometimes find my opinion changes over time.

    Like

    • Sarrah J. Woods
      June 26, 2014

      If you try again, like I said, I would recommend an abridged version. However, for you, I’m not sure I would recommend reading The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, because it seems to me to portray even more injustice and inhumanity than Les Miserables does. I normally can’t stand a whole lot of that kind of thing in books either, but in this case I’m hanging on for, I hope, an ending where justice and humanity triumph; the historical interest and the strong authorial narration also help me through.

      Like

      • whatmeread
        June 26, 2014

        My reaction was more like I didn’t want someone cast as the hero of a novel when he starts out by bashing this priest that was nice to him over the head so he can steal the candlesticks. I know the plan was for him to reform, but I just didn’t want to read any more about him. I don’t really agree with abridged versions of novels, though. I think people should read a novel as written. After all, what are they cutting out? If you don’t read the full version, you don’t know.

        Like

        • Sarrah J. Woods
          June 26, 2014

          I think your reaction is understandable. My reaction to that whole scene was less about Jean Valjean, though, and more about the priest; I am moved to this day by his act of mercy. I’ve thought a lot about writing a modern day retelling of that episode…probably someone’s already done it, but it would be neat, I think.

          This is the one and only case in which I’d ever recommend an abridged version; usually I am completely in agreement with you about abridgements. But really, Hugo goes on for chapters with historical commentary that only obliquely relates to the story. I couldn’t bring myself to NOT read those chapters, though! But I think new readers of Hugo need to at least be aware that that’s coming, so they can choose to either read an abridged version, skip those chapters, or just buckle in and read them.

          Like

          • whatmeread
            June 26, 2014

            The historical background would probably be interesting to me.

            Like

            • Sarrah J. Woods
              June 26, 2014

              All right, then, have at it! It’s so refreshing to talk with likeminded people. You’re making me backtrack from the ingrained assumptions I have developed from talking with most people around here. This is great.

              Like

  2. emilievardaman
    June 26, 2014

    Haven’t read him – yet!

    Like

    • Sarrah J. Woods
      June 26, 2014

      If you do get around to it, I hope you’ll tell me what you think!

      Have a great day, Emilie.

      Like

I welcome your thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: