By Eve Tawfick
Born: 26 February 1802, Besançon, France
Happy 216th Birthday to Victor Hugo
Arguably one of the most renowned writers in French History, Victor Hugo will celebrate his 216th birthday on February 26th 2018. Hugo’s most notable works include Les Miserables and The Hunch Back of Notre Dame. His novels are rich with societal and moral struggle against the backdrop of Napoleon’s France, and describe the plight of the impoverished man against colossal social injustice (interspersed with romance, of course). As a human rights activist and fierce anti-Napoleonite, this was a subject close to Hugo’s heart, and he fled from France in 1851 for his political activity, as Bonaparte rose to power.
To honour the longevity of his literary works and reputation, here are some little-known Victor Hugo facts, some of which explain why the fundamental humanitarian message behind his works are still relevant today:
An Amoral Love life- A moral work life
Hugo was known for a multitude of romantic affairs. He had many mistresses, despite being married for 46 years to Adele Foucher. However, his moral compass was tuned correctly with regard to social issues. He campaigned for the cessation of the death penalty, an end to poverty and free education for all children.
It was said that Hugo’s cure for writer’s block involved locking himself in a room completely naked, with nothing but his writing tools and telling his servants not to return his clothes to him until he had worked on his novel. Whatever works I guess.
Victor the Saint
Far from being a garden variety Catholic, Hugo practised the Vietnamese religion Cao Dai, which is an amalgamation of several major religions. When Cao Dai was established in 1926, they made Victor Hugo one of their Saints, and built a statue in his honour.
Find out more about Victor Hugo here.