The Last Day of a Condemned Man

The Last Day of a Condemned Man


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The Last Day of a Condemned Man by Victor Hugo

"Before hearing my death sentence I was aware that my lungs breathed, that my heart beat, and that my body lived in the community of other men; now, I plainly saw that a barrier had sprung up between them and me. Nothing was the same as before." The imprisoned narrator of this profoundly moving novel awaits execution — and waits, and waits. Although his guilt is undeniable, his essential humanity emerges as he struggles with the certainty of impending death.
Victor Hugo's impassioned early work carries the same power and universality as Les Misérables. A vocal opponent to the barbarity of the guillotine, Hugo attempted to arouse compassion in the service of justice. This tale distills his beliefs and offers a highly significant contribution to the ongoing debate over the death penalty. A new Foreword by activist David Dow examines the message and relevance of Hugo's story to modern society.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486469980
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 06/22/2009
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 145,298
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

French poet, playwright, novelist, and activist, Victor Hugo is best known as the author of Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. A leader of the French Romantic movement, he was one of the most prolific authors in history and his career reflects a turning point in French literature.

Date of Birth:

February 26, 1802

Date of Death:

May 22, 1885

Place of Birth:

Besançon, France

Place of Death:

Paris, France


Pension Cordier, Paris, 1815-18

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The Last Day of a Condemned Man 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
crazylilcuban More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago