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The Man Who Laughs
by Victor Hugo
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From Library Journal
The recent success of the stage adaptation of Les Miserables has made Hugo's name widely known to the general public. Atlantean Press marks this resurgence with the inauguration of a series of re-published works by Hugo. The Man Who Laughs ( L'Homme qui rit , 1869), generally unavailable in English since the turn of the century, is the first volume in the series. This translation, by an unidentified translator, remains highly readable. The work itself, however, despite the touching tale of the love between the blind Dea and the deformed Gwynplaine, is highly stylized, extremely long, and often tedious. It will be interesting primarily for readers wishing to gain familiarity with a lesser known work by the father of French romanticism and with the tastes of the French reading public at the time.
- Anthony Caprio, Oglethorpe Univ., Atlanta
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Victor Hugo's The Man Who Laughs (first published under the French title L'Homme qui Rit in April 1869) is a sad and sordid tale -- not the sort of tale of the moment Hugo was known for. Is starts on the night of January 29, 1690, a ten-year-old boy abandoned -- the stern men who've kept him since infancy have wearied of him. The boy wanders, barefoot and starving, through a snowstorm to reach a gibbet bearing the corpse of a hanged criminal. Beneath the gibbet is a ragged woman, frozen to death. The boy is about to move onward when he hears a sound within the woman's garments: He discovers an infant girl, barely alive, clutching the woman's breast. A single drop of frozen milk, resembling a pearl, is on the woman's lifeless breast . . .
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 turned their partnership to account at fairs, at village fêtes, at the corners of streets where passers-by throng, and out of the need which people seem to feel everywhere to listen to idle gossip and to buy quack medicine.
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