I want to speak here about a more hidden part of the work and personality of the famous french author Victor Hugo. You certainly all know about him and read “Les Misérables”, “Notre-Dame de Paris” or some other masterpieces of the french litterature of the 19th century (and often adapted for the cinema).
He was a novelist, a poet … politically involved (pro and then against Napoléon -that led him in exile)… but he was also a drawer.
His drawings are mostly dark and sad with old castels or seastorm…
But my opinion is that is a gift when a writer is also able to draw what is in his brain. That completes perfectly how you can read a text and also feel the personality of the author. Writing and drawing are not so different : picture or words… the only ambition is to pass on an idea, a feeling, a cerebral world…
With the drawings of Hugo, you feel a suffering, a pain… but also a critic like when he draws a hanged man to denounce death penalty ; following his book : “The last day of a convicted prisoner”.
He began to draw in 1830 and made around 3 500 drawings but he considered himself not like a drawer. He made it for his personal pleasure. My opinion is to say he was too strong with himself and too modest … but a genius is often his fisrt critic.
This last drawing I wanted to add is certainly the drama of his life : Leopoldine. She was her daughter and she died, drowned, in a river after her small boat capsized. Her husband tried to save her but did not succeed and decided to let himself flow to die with her. When Hugo came to this place he said “No, Madam, that is not their boat”.
This episode has always fascinated me as I always see in such tragedie, a absolute love, passionate.
And this event inspired the most beautiful poem of Hugo (that certainly every french pupil has learnt one day) :
Demain, dès l’aube
Demain, dès l’aube, à l’heure où blanchit la campagne,
Je partirai. Vois-tu, je sais que tu m’attends.
J’irai par la forêt, j’irai par la montagne.
Je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus longtemps.
Je marcherai les yeux fixés sur mes pensées,
Sans rien voir au dehors, sans entendre aucun bruit,
Seul, inconnu, le dos courbé, les mains croisées,
Triste, et le jour pour moi sera comme la nuit.
Je ne regarderai ni l’or du soir qui tombe,
Ni les voiles au loin descendant vers Harfleur,
Et quand j’arriverai, je mettrai sur ta tombe
Un bouquet de houx vert et de bruyère en fleur.
Tomorrow, beginning at dawn, at the time when the countryside pales,
I will leave. You see, I know that you are waiting for me.
I will go through the forest, I will go through the mountain.
I cannot remain far from you any longer.
I will walk with my eyes fixed on my thoughts,
seeing nothing else, hearing no noise,
alone, unknown, my back hunched over, my hands crossed,
sad, and the day for me will be like night.
I will not see the gold of the evening falling,
nor the sails in the distance going down toward Harfleur,
and when I arrive, I will lay on your tomb
a bouquet of green holly and of heather in bloom.
About inspired works after Hugo :
– Ruy Blas of Mendelssohn : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8bqpLLjPzk&feature=related
– Les Misérables (John Malkovich and Gérard Depardieu) : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LcBQtqxFEvI&feature=related