The Man Who Laughs
251 Installments—Entirely free
Victor Hugo (1802-1885) was born to parents on either side of the Napoleonic/Royalist conflict of nineteenth century France. Hugo's father was an officer in Napoleon's army and his mother was a passionate Catholic, loyal to the king. Growing up largely with his mother, Hugo took her rather conservative views as his own. Life experience and personal reflection, however, would eventually bring him to the opposite side of the spectrum. By the end of his life Hugo was both beloved and reviled for his strong liberal views. As a young man, Hugo found success as a poet and playwright, turning to fiction in 1831 with his novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame. It was not until after many years of work that Hugo produced his greatest novel, Les Miserables, which debuted in 1862. Although Hugo's vocal protests against the mid-century French leader Louis Napoleon forced him to live in exile for many years, when he at last returned home in the 1870s, he was celebrated as one of the foremost creative spirits and political figures in France, an honor he holds to this day.Back to top
Opening Lines (Experimental)
Ursus and Homo were fast friends. Ursus was a man, Homo a wolf. Their dispositions tallied. It was the man who had christened the wolf: probably he had also chosen his own name. Having found Ursus fit for himself, he had found Homo fit for the beast. Man and wolf ...
Reviewed by scott0122 on May 12, 2009
Promising, but disappointing
Old joke: The optimistic child, when thrown into a room filled with horse manure, wades around with excitement: "Somewhere in here, there *has* to be a pony!"
I shared that same feeling, and suffered the same inevitable disappointment.
This novel has a good story to tell. But Hugo fails to tell it well. His characters are not real. When they speak, their dialogue is indistinguishable from the prose, and it all sounds like Hugo. Polarities are juxtaposed. Aphorisms abound.
Hugo is a brilliant man who wants you to know just how brilliant he is, and his editors are clearly terrified at suggesting otherwise.
Some of that is attributable to the time period.
Most of it, though, is due to Hugo's inability to just get on with the story.
Which is there, I'm sure of it. You just need to have the courage and optimism to wade around a bit and see for yourself.
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Ratings for 'The Man Who Laughs' by Hugo, Victor