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Dimensions:
200 × 130 mm
224 pages
Format:
Paperback
ISBN:
9781789140842
Illustrations:
30 illustrations
Published:
11 Feb 2019
Series:
Critical Lives
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Victor Hugo Bradley Stephens

Victor Hugo (1802-85) is an icon of French culture. He achieved immense success as a poet, dramatist and novelist, and he was also elected to both Houses of the French Parliament. Leading the Romantic campaign against artistic tradition and defying the Second Empire in exile, he became synonymous with the progressive ideals of the French Revolution. His State funeral in Paris made headlines across the world and his breadth of appeal remains evident today, not least thanks to the popularity of his bestseller, Les Misérables.

This biography, the first in English for over twenty years, provides a concise but comprehensive study of Hugo’s monumental body of work within the context of his dramatic life. Hugo wrestled with family tragedy and personal misgivings while being pulled into the turmoil of the nineteenth century, from the fall of Napoleon’s Empire to the rise of France’s Third Republic. Throughout these twists of fate, he sensed a natural order of collapse and renewal. This unending cycle of creation shaped his ideas about freedom and roused his imagination, which he channelled into his prolific writing and other outlets like drawing. Such vigour also suggests, as Bradley Stephens argues, that Hugo was too restless to sit comfortably on the pedestal of literary greatness.

‘Any account for Hugo’s long and eventful life makes a rattling good yarn. Bradley Stephens’s signal achievement is to have compressed it into a short and lively book that gives accurate thumbnails of all the important works. Full of enthusiasm for his subject, Stephens writes nonetheless with admirable balance and does not mask Hugo’s human flaws. This “Hugo” will surely inspire readers to delve into the wonders of the poetry, drama and fiction created by the pre-eminent public figure of nineteenth-century France and whose image and moral example continue to shape many aspects of our contemporary world.’ – David Bellos, Professor of French, Princeton University and author of The Novel of the Century: The Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables

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Bradley Stephens is Senior Lecturer in French at the University of Bristol. His books include Victor Hugo, Jean-Paul Sartre, and the Liability of Liberty (2011), ‘Les Misérables’ and its Afterlives: Between Page, Stage, and Screen (co-edited with Kathryn M. Grossman, 2015) and Approaches to Teaching Hugo’s ‘Les Misérables’ (co-edited with Michal P. Ginsburg, 2018)