Victor-Marie Hugo, the pivotal figure of the Romantic movement in France, involved equal mixtures of literature and politics. He was born in Besançon, France, in 1802. He began writing precociously in adolescence, and in 1819, at the tender age of 17, began a literary magazine, Conservateur Littéraire, The publication in 1831 of his novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame secured his widespread popularity. With the accession to the throne of Louis-Philippe, Hugo turned his hand to political verse, producing several books of poetry, and political drama; among his several plays of this period was The King's Fool (1832), which despite being initially banned was later adapted by Verdi to be the libretto for Rigoletto (1851). In 1848, following the revolution of that year, Hugo was elected to the Constituent Assembly as a deputy for Paris, and his politics moved steadily leftward. The establishment of the Second Empire under Napoleon III saw him flee into exile, first in Brussels (until 1852), then on the island of Jersey (until expelled in 1855) and finally on Guernsey, where he remained until 1871 despite the declaration in France of an amnesty in 1859. He completed Les Misérables (1872), an instant success not only in his native land but also, through immediate translations, on an international scale. The declaration of the Third Republic inspired Hugo to return to Paris, and he served briefly in 1871 as a deputy in National Assembly. But the deaths of his wife (1868) and two sons (1871, 1873) drained his energies and, although a national hero, he wrote little more of note. In 1883 Juliette Drouet, his mistress since the early 1830s, died, and two years later, in 1885, he followed her.
Hugo Award Winner