The Last Day of a Condemned Man [NOOK Book]

Overview

Deeply shocking in its time, The Last Day of a Condemned Man is a profound and moving tale and a vital work of social commentary. A man vilified by society and condemned to death for his crime wakes every morning knowing that this day might be his last. With the hope for release his only comfort, he spends his hours recounting his life and the time before his imprisonment. But as the hours pass, he knows that he is powerless to change his fate. He must follow the path so many have trod before him?the path that ...
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The Last Day of a Condemned Man

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Overview

Deeply shocking in its time, The Last Day of a Condemned Man is a profound and moving tale and a vital work of social commentary. A man vilified by society and condemned to death for his crime wakes every morning knowing that this day might be his last. With the hope for release his only comfort, he spends his hours recounting his life and the time before his imprisonment. But as the hours pass, he knows that he is powerless to change his fate. He must follow the path so many have trod before him—the path that leads to the guillotine.
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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
This impassioned early (1829) work, which depicts the "six-week death agony and . . . day-long death rattle" of a condemned prisoner awaiting execution, isn't so much fiction as it is a broadside against the barbarity of the guillotine. (The text is accompanied by a brief satirical playlet in which bureaucrats and aristocrats denounce its author as a troublemaker.) There are moments when the plight of Hugo's nameless protagonist and narrator stirs faint anticipatory echoes of (the later) Les Misérables. But the novella's awkward swings between high emotion and jejune sociological comment and its profusion of accusatory rhetorical questions make it of only minimal literary interest.
From the Publisher

"The message could be delivered by any present-day liberal, about any extreme punishment."  —Amnesty International

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781300995906
  • Publisher: Lulu.com
  • Publication date: 5/1/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 261,852
  • File size: 344 KB

Meet the Author

Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo (1802–1885) is best known for his novels Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Christopher Moncrieff has previously translated the work of Jean-Euphele Milce.

Biography

Novelist, poet, dramatist, essayist, politician, and leader of the French Romantic movement from 1830 on, Victor-Marie Hugo was born in Besançon, France, on February 26, 1802. Hugo's early childhood was turbulent: His father, Joseph-Léopold, traveled as a general in Napoléon Bonaparte's army, forcing the family to move frequently. Weary of this upheaval, Hugo's mother, Sophie, separated from her husband and settled in Paris. Victor's brilliance declared itself early in the form of illustrations, plays, and nationally recognized verse. Against his mother's wishes, the passionate young man fell in love and secretly became engaged to Adèle Foucher in 1819. Following the death of his mother, and self-supporting thanks to a royal pension granted for his first book of odes, Hugo wed Adèle in 1822.

In the 1820s and 1830s, Victor Hugo came into his own as a writer and figurehead of the new Romanticism, a movement that sought to liberate literature from its stultifying classical influences. His 1827 preface to the play Cromwell proclaimed a new aesthetic inspired by Shakespeare, based on the shock effects of juxtaposing the grotesque with the sublime. The great success of Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) confirmed Hugo's primacy among the Romantics.

By 1830 the Hugos had four children. Exhausted from her pregnancies and her husband's insatiable sexual demands, Adèle began to sleep alone, and soon fell in love with Hugo's best friend, the critic Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve. They began an affair. The Hugos stayed together as friends, and in 1833 Hugo met the actress Juliette Drouet, who would remain his primary mistress until her death 50 years later.

Personal tragedy pursued Hugo relentlessly. His jealous brother Eugène went permanently insane following Victor's wedding to Adèle. His daughter, Léopoldine, together with her unborn child and her devoted husband, died at 19 in a boating accident on the Seine. Hugo never fully recovered from this loss.

Political ups and downs ensued as well, following the shift of Hugo's early royalist sympathies toward liberalism during the late 1820s. He first held political office in 1843, and as he became more engaged in France's social troubles, he was elected to the Constitutional Assembly following the February Revolution of 1848. After Napoléon III's coup d'état in 1851, Hugo's open opposition created hostilities that ended in his flight abroad from the new government.

Declining at least two offers of amnesty -- which would have meant curtailing his opposition to the Empire -- Hugo remained in exile in the Channel Islands for 19 years, until the fall of Napoléon III in 1870. Meanwhile, the seclusion of the islands enabled Hugo to write some of his most famous verse as well as Les Misérables (1862). When he returned to Paris, the country hailed him as a hero. Hugo then weathered, within a brief period, the siege of Paris, the institutionalization of his daughter Adèle for insanity, and the death of his two sons. Despite this personal anguish, the aging author remained committed to political change. He became an internationally revered figure who helped to preserve and shape the Third Republic and democracy in France. Hugo's death on May 22, 1885, generated intense national mourning; more than two million people joined his funeral procession in Paris from the Arc de Triomphe to the Panthéon, where he was buried.

Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Good To Know

Hugo was seen by his fans as a grand, larger-than-life character -- and rumors spread that he could eat half an ox in one sitting, fast for three days, and then work without stopping for a week.

Hugo owned a pet cat named Gavroche -- the name of one of the primary characters in Les Misérables.

The longest sentence ever written in literature is in Les Misérables; depending on the translation, it consists of about 800 words.

When Hugo published Les Misérables, he was on holiday. After not hearing anything about its reception for a few days, Hugo sent a telegram to his publisher, reading, simply:

"?"

The complete reply from the publisher:

"!"

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    1. Also Known As:
      Victor-Marie Hugo
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 26, 1802
    2. Place of Birth:
      Besançon, France
    1. Date of Death:
      May 22, 1885
    2. Place of Death:
      Paris, France

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2003

    An intriguing social comment from Hugo

    Throughout the course of The Last Day of a Condemned Man, Victor Hugo displays several excellent literary qualities. Hugo brings the harsh reality of 19th century prison systems to a cruel light. Due to his bias against capital punishment, this light is overwhelmingly gruesome. Hugo uses his prisoner to display this idea. The convict is a rounded character: 'baffled, doubtful, remorseful, and angry. Anyone can relate to him.' Despite the ingenuity of this literary quality, Hugo¿s lack of plot is disappointing. Most of the story takes place in a Paris prison cell. This, however, makes the psychological essence of The Last Day of a Condemned Man more enjoyable. How would someone react if they knew they had six hours left to live? Hugo¿s response to this intriguing question tells the reader that the prisoner should be punished with more sympathy, not with the death penalty. Although this tale of pain and mental suffering is strongly biased, it is a fascinating story told by an exceptional writer that deserves more attention in the literary world.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 25, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A tough but powerful read.

    Victor Hugo's "The Last Day of a Condemned Man" may be a short read, but it is by no means an easy one. Not necessarily enjoyable in the usual sense, "The Last Day..." is an important and powerful work in opposition to the death penalty. The book reads like the thoughts and journal of a condemned man in France, who is given six weeks to live. The reader is forced to delve into the thoughts and fears of a man that we never really get to know in a sense; we are told very little about his life, and told practically nothing about the crime he has committed that has led him to prison and to be sentenced to death. But that is Hugo's point -- that capital punishment is so inhumane that it should not matter the crime, or the details, or who a person is, only that the sentence is so cruel and unusual that it should not be an option. This was an especially interesting read for me as I work in a law office that represents people on death row in their appeals, and some of the ideas in this short novel are interestingly at odds with the work we do. One thing David Dow mentions in the foreword is how death penalty litigation is heavily focused on individual stories and individual cases, trying to show how and why a certain client should not be put to death, but that Victor Hugo's novel approach to death penalty discussion, the idea that it does not matter who the criminal is or what the circumstances are of the specific case, is an important one. It was fascinating to feel how compelled I was and how sympathetic the main character could be even when I knew nothing of his circumstances or what he had done. This short novel can definitely be tough to get through (it's quite short page-wise but took me a few sittings because I could only take in so much at a time) but I think it's an incredibly important intellectual work to read if one is interested in the death penalty. This should honestly be required reading for anybody involved in the criminal justice system, if not everybody period.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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