Destined for the broad market and recognition which came to Lelia, Maurois' recent biography of George Sand, and perhaps to...

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OLYMPIO: The Life of Victor Hugo

Destined for the broad market and recognition which came to Lelia, Maurois' recent biography of George Sand, and perhaps to go beyond it, this is a monumental study of a monumental poet and statesman. Reading this in comparison with the Lelia, it is a pleasure to note again Maurois' style, his choice of detail and emphasis that makes such a study thoroughly interesting to modern readers, his fine use of source material that covers hitherto unpublished letters as well as the most familiar of Hugo's poems, and the apt integration of the man's works with the man's life. To some readers who may come to this book as an introduction to Hugo, he emerges as a creature of amazing contrasts. The events in his life alone are enough to startle, but Maurois leads us into them, unfolding them so that their cumulative effect is particularly lasting. That Hugo was a quiet, retiring boy, a demanding and priggish suitor, a bored husband, and in old age a faun becomes especially clear in the perceptive reporting of his feelings towards women through letters he wrote and received and in the light of social background and his own erratic genius. So too does his evolution as a writer and believer in liberty as the root of good. The praise Hugo received from his contemporaries- Sainte Beuve, Lamartine, Vigny- and the contrast of his poems and plays with those of his forerunners in the romantic period firmly cast him in the role of spokesman for the French language of his day and the ""voice, in the wilderness"" who in exile kept the thought of freedom alive after 1850. A complete study, for a wide variety of readers.

Pub Date: April 25, 1956

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Harper

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1956