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Remembering Victor Hugo

This week, France celebrates the 200th anniversary of the birth of the great 19th-century novelist, poet, playwright, and politician, Victor Hugo.

Hugo—whom Ayn Rand regarded as the greatest novelist in history—was born February 26, 1802. Best known today for his novels Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the prolific father of literary Romanticism wrote many other novels as well. He also was a controversial dramatist whose plays sparked public riots and official censorship, and perhaps the finest poet ever to grace the French language. In addition, Hugo was a tireless social crusader and a popular public figure elected to both houses of parliament. At his death, it is estimated that two million mourners filed past his body as it lay in state.

Now his Promethean life and work are being celebrated in a year of exhibits, plays, and concerts. French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin kicked off the celebrations at Hugo's birthplace, opening a musical show on the author. The Comedie Francaise is showing his play Ruy Blas, a tale of passion and revenge in the 17th-century Spanish court. More than 100 French communities will display poster-sized quotations from Hugo's masterpieces. Ceremonies are planned abroad throughout the year as well, in French embassies, and at conferences and concerts from Miami to Tokyo.

``Hugo's career was extraordinary,'' said Danielle Molinari, curator of the Victor Hugo house in the Place des Vosges, where he lived for 16 years. ``He worked constantly, was enormously creative and interested in all the problems of his time.''

For more information on Victor Hugo's amazing life, remarkable work, and enduring influence, visit the following links:

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