Selected Poems of Victor Hugo: A Bilingual Edition

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Overview


Although best known as the author of Notre Dame de Paris and Les Misérables, Victor Hugo was primarily a poet—one of the most important and prolific in French history. Despite his renown, however, there are few comprehensive collections of his verse available and even fewer translated editions.

Translators E. H. and A. M. Blackmore have collected Victor Hugo's essential verse into a single, bilingual volume that showcases all the facets of Hugo's oeuvre, including intimate love poems, satires against the political establishment, serene meditations, religious verse, and narrative poems illustrating his mastery of the art of storytelling and his abiding concern for the social issues of his time. More than half of this volume's eight thousand lines of verse appear here for the first time in English, providing readers with a new perspective on each of the fascinating periods of Hugo's career and aspects of his style. Introductions to each section guide the reader through the stages of Hugo's writing, while notes on individual poems provide information not found in even the most detailed French-language editions.

Illustrated with Hugo's own paintings and drawings, this lucid translation—available on the eve of Hugo's bicentenary—pays homage to this towering figure of nineteenth-century literature by capturing the energy of his poetry, the drama and satirical force of his language, and the visionary beauty of his writing as a whole.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This satisfyingly fat collection has some definite virtues in tracking the poetic output of Hugo (1802-1885), France's monumental 19th-century scribe: it is organized chronologically, with prefaces that mark out his various phases, and the original French texts are included, which is a rare if necessary pleasure in understanding European poetry. Unfortunately, in terms of translation, this huge book is almost a total loss. The Blackmores (Six French Poets) are a freelance writer and a faculty member of Australia's Curtin University, respectively, and they have chosen to render Hugo's work by preserving the rhymes. What results loses almost all of Hugo's power, as his delicate combination of the plainspoken and grandiose is upset by the demands of English jingling. Perhaps Hugo's most famous lyric, "Tomorrow, at Dawn...," becomes: "I'll cross the woods, I'll cross the mountain-height./ No longer can I keep away from you.../ Alone, unknown, hands crossed, and back inclined;..." If the "mountain-height" and "inclined" seem odd, that's because they are inventions of the translators, in order to rhyme with "bright" and "mind" respectively. Hugo wrote a far simpler poem, about how he would "go by the mountain" with his "back bent" to pay his respects at his daughter's grave. It is not an isolated incident, and anyone who reads even a little French must wince at the constant unpoetic interventions in English. This is a particular pity, as the translators have clearly worked hard to set the poet's work in biographical context, even if a preface underrates his novels as "by-products of his career... in which his talents were only half involved." The rather skimpy notes and very limited bibliography are added disappointments. (Apr.) Forecast: As far as bilingual selections of Hugo's verse go, this is presently the only game in town, so university libraries and stores with larger poetry collections will be forced to act accordingly. The French versions and good intentions of the translators provide some succor. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226359816
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2004
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 664
  • Sales rank: 540,407
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Victor Hugo

E. H. Blackmore is a freelance writer and translator. A. M. Blackmore is a member of the faculty at Curtin University. Together, they are the editors and translators of Six French Poets of the Nineteenth Century.

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

Table of Contents


Lists of Illustrations
Introduction
Chronology
from Odes et ballades / Odes and Ballads (1822-8)
from Les Orientales / Orientalia (1829)
from Feuilles d' automne / Autumn Leaves (1831)
from Les Chants du crépuscule / Songs of the Half-Light (1835)
from Les Vooix intérieures / Inner Voices (1837)
from Les Rayones et les ombres / Sunlight and Shadows (1840)
from Les Châtiments / The Empire in the Pillory (1853)
from Les Contemplations / Contemplations (1856)
from Chansons des rues et des bois / Songs of Street and Wood (1865)
from L'Année terrible / The Year of Horrors (1872)
from Les Quatre Vents de l'esprit / The Four Winds of the Spirit (1881)
from La Légende des siècles / The Legend of the Ages (1859-83)
from La Fin de Satan / The End of Satan (1886)
from Dieu / God (1891)
from Toute la lyre / The Whole Lyre (1888-97)
from Les Années funestes / The Fateful Years (1898)
from Dernière Gerbe / Last Gleanings (1902)
from Océan / Ocean (1942)
Notes
Select Bibliography
List of Poems in Order of Composition
Index of Titles and First Lines
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