A Victor Hugo Encyclopedia

A Victor Hugo Encyclopedia

A Victor Hugo Encyclopedia

A Victor Hugo Encyclopedia

Synopsis

Though he wrote more than a century ago, French author Victor Hugo (1802-1885) continues to capture the imagination of contemporary readers both in France and around the world. In the United States, he is best remembered as the author of the novel Les Miserables (1862), which has been adapted for the stage, and of Notre-Dame-de-Paris (1831), more commonly known to Americans as The Hunchback of Notre Dame. But Hugo was also a poet and politician, a great religious and social thinker, and one of the most important shapers of French Romanticism. This reference book is a comprehensive guide to his life and literature. The volume begins with a biography that places Hugo within the context of 19th-century France. The alphabetically arranged entries that follow discuss his works, characters, and themes, as well as historical persons and places. Many of the entries cite sources of additional information, and the volume closes with a selected, general bibliography.

Excerpt

I knew John Frey for too short a time, but long enough to regard him as a friend and to feel the sorrow of his sudden death. The story of our friendship can be told in a few words: I was happy to make acquaintance with a true American "Hugophile" who, in his book about Les Contemplations, had adopted an original point of view. I was deeply honored to be asked to write a foreword for his Encyclopedia. Finally, we met in Paris and I discovered his gentleness and simplicity, which I appreciated very much.

Now let me explain why John Frey's Encyclopedia is so useful. Mainly written for a majority of American or English readers who consider Victor Hugo , above all, and sometimes exclusively, as the author of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame and Les Misérables, Frey's work will teach them the genius and the universality of the poet. I hope that, at the same time, it will remind the French of the importance and international glory of the novelist, since in the French lycées he is taught primarily as a poet, which is hardly less reductive. To me this is the primary interest of a survey of Hugo's entire life and work.

John Frey, who has much admired and carefully analyzed the great collection of poems which Victor Hugo presented as Les Mémoires d'une âme (The memorial of a soul), has introduced them with entries of the highest quality. This should draw attention to a book of inexhaustible richness which Victor Hugo left to us as a "mirror," reflecting not only his personal history but ours also, composed, like his, of joy, love, struggle, dreams, and mourning--hopes alternating constantly with doubts. But, even if Frey manifests preference for this lyrical masterpiece of exile, which Hugo entitled Les Contemplations, he neglects none of the other collections and gives each of them a substantial entry. The sole exception is a book which nevertheless was surely dear to Frey, Les Quatre Vents de l'esprit . . .

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