The life of a writer whose books were such powerful social and political statements that he lived in exile from both France and England.
Victor Hugo was the most important writer of the nineteenth century in France: founder and destroyer of the Romantic movement, revolutionary playwright, seminal poet, epic novelist, author of the last universally accessible masterpieces in the European tradition, among them Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He was also a radical political thinker (and eventual exile); a gifted painter and architect; a visionary and mystic who conversed with Virgil, Shakespeare, and Jesus Christ -- in short, a tantalizing, protean personality who dominated, distracted, and maddened his contemporaries.
Attempts to explain Hugo's bewildering complexity have generated a literature of memorable paradoxes. If there were a being higher than God, wrote Ford Madox Ford, one would have to say that it was Victor Hugo. Andre Gide, asked who the greatest French poet was, replied, "Victor Hugo, alas " And Jean Cocteau famously defined Victor Hugo as a madman who thought he was Victor Hugo.