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Victor Hugo: The Writer Who Made His Tragedy the Best of His Works

Por: Rafael Perez24 de enero de 2023

Victor Hugo, author of literary classics like ‘Les Miserables’ and ‘The Hunchback of Notredame,’ was a genius who turned his tragedies into art.

The son of Léopold Sigisbert Hugo Opold, a general in Napoleon’s France, Victor Hugo was born on February 26, 1802, and from a very young age, he saw dozens of landscapes, cities, and people pass before his eyes due to the trips he had to make because of the demands of his father’s work. From that time on, the young writer’s gaze contemplated the world with an interest and curiosity that would mark his literary work as well as his personality, making him one of France’s most endearing writers.

The problems between his parents, as well as the difficulties to continue living in Spain due to the general discontent, made his mother and her three children return to Paris. Upon their return, their family life passed in harmony and happiness. Victor Hugo and his brothers, all of them of lively and intelligent personalities, entertained themselves by playing with their friends in the garden of their house.

The sensitive personality of little Victor Hugo began to manifest itself at that time in a somewhat naive way towards one of his friends, the girl Adèle Foucher. Between games and innocent displays of affection expressed in little poems, a feeling of love was born between them that grew with them and would unite them in marriage on October 12, 1822.

Having a family implied economic responsibilities that for Victor Hugo were only one more incentive to show his creative genius. His work soon gained him fame and lavished him with success thanks to the novels, poems, dramas, and essays that uninterruptedly followed one after another with virtuous naturalness. Victor Hugo’s home became a cultural epicenter and meeting point for writers and artists from all over France.

But just as life lavished him with great achievements and satisfactions, it would also show him its cruelest and most unbearable aspect: his firstborn, Léopold, passed a few months after his birth. He also had to watch helplessly as madness consumed his brother, Eugène Hugo.

But Victor Hugo showed a resilience that made him resist these misfortunes and continued his life with the same fecundity that would never leave him. He also stood out as a journalist, orator, and a fierce participant in political life, which earned him the nickname of “The Lion,” a nickname that would portray in an incomparable way the strong spirit and indomitable character of the writer. He proved to be always ready to support any just cause that came his way. His merits were always stronger than the voices of his detractors, and he was named Academician of France and later a member of Parliament.

In 1843, life put him to a difficult test; his daughter Léopoldine and her husband passed when the ship they were on sank; Victor Hugo found out by reading the news in a newspaper several days after the tragedy.

In 1848, the French Revolution broke out in the country, while the Monarchy was defeated; the author, being part of the Republicans, became a deputy of the Constituent Assembly, but only three years later, the coup d’état restored the old privileges to the Monarchs. This was the reason why Victor Hugo had to go into exile, first in Belgium, and later to Guernsey, a small island where he remained for almost 15 years and where he would continue his incessant literary work.

It seemed that everything was getting better, but other misfortunes still awaited the already legendary Victor Hugo. In 1864, his daughter Adèle became mentally ill as a result of heartbreak. Four years later, he had to endure the passing of his beloved wife and unconditional life companion, with whom he shared and resisted adversities throughout their life together.

The French Monarchy was again overthrown, and Victor Hugo returned to his homeland on September 5, 1870. A multitude of people, happy and grateful to see him return, welcomed him. In 1876, he was elected Senator for life. At the same time, he continued tirelessly and unperturbed with his literary work. The name Victor Hugo crossed all frontiers and was read all over the world.

Always active and creating, he passed on May 22, 1885, being the only one who could physically stop the dizzying pace of work of the writer. But this did not stop his words or his thoughts, which will continue to be heard in the world through the centuries with the roar launched from eternity.

Story originally published in Spanish in Cultura Colectiva

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