Friday, 2 December 2011

Plus Ça Change?

1st December

This was the date in 1830 that French novelist, Victor Hugo, had agreed to submit Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame) to his publisher. However, he allowed himself to become distracted with other projects, extending his deadline several times. Sound familiar? The book was finally published (happily for Disney) the following year.

As Hugo wrote a number of plays in the 1830s and met his mistress, actress, Juliette Drouet, at the same time, presumably his distractions were artistically valid!

One interesting consequence of the novel was that the City of Paris undertook restoration of the neglected Cathedral of Notre Dame, which attracted thousands of tourists as a result of reading it.

Hugo also began planning a major work about social injustice as early as the 1830s. It then took seventeen years for Les Misérables to be fully realized, whilst he was living in exile in the Channel Islands. The novel was finally published in 1862 with only the first part, “Fantine” released initially. Publication went to the highest bidder and the Belgian publishers undertook a marketing campaign unusual for the time, issuing press releases six months ahead of launch. Note to publishers – instalments sold out within hours!

Allegedly the shortest correspondence on record is between Hugo and his publisher. On the novel’s release Hugo telegraphed ‘?’ to which his publisher replied, ‘!’   Keeping an eye on profit margins presumably? And Hugo must have been rightly exhausted after producing the 1,200+ page novel. And keeping a mistress.

Hugo concerned himself with artists' rights and copyright and was a founding member of the Association Littéraire et Artistique Internationale. This led to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. Hail to Victor Hugo.


  1. It's nice to know the story behind the classic works and authors, thanks for sharing ...

  2. plus c'est la meme chose! That's the end of the phrase isn't it? Must read Victor Hugo!

  3. Thank you to all who viewed and a hug to two lovely commentators!