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The Last Day Of A Condemned

by Victor Hugo, Trans. By Eugenia De B

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About Book

Amnesty International
The message could be delivered by any present-day liberal, about any extreme punishment.

Book Description
Deeply shocking in its time, The Last Day of a Condemned Man is a profound and moving tale and a vital work of social commentary.

A man vilified by society and condemned to death for his crime wakes every morning knowing that this day might be his last. With the hope for release his only comfort, he spends his hours recounting his life and the time before his imprisonment. But as the hours pass, he knows that he is powerless to change his fate. He must follow the path so many have trod before him—the path that leads to the guillotine. With a Foreword by Libby Purves.

Language Notes
Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French

From the Publisher
Hesperus Press, as suggested by their Latin motto, Et remotissima prope, is dedicated to bringing near what is far—far both in space and time. Works by illustrious authors, often unjustly neglected or simply little known in the English–speaking world, are made accessible through a completely fresh editorial approach or new translations. Through these short classic works, which feature forewords by leading contemporary authors, the modern reader will be introduced to the greatest writers of Europe and America. An elegantly designed series of exceptional books.

From the Author
'... it breathes a powerful, agry message to the age of the electric chair and the lethal injection in the US, and the Taleban's executions on the football-ground of Kabul' - from the Foreword by Libby Purves

From the Inside Flap
I was free.

Now I am a captive. My body is fettered in a cell, my brain imprisoned in a fixed idea, and dreadful, bloody, and merciless it is! I now have but one thought, a lone conviction and a single certainty: that I am condemned to death!

About the Author
Victor Hugo, born in 1802 in Besancon, France, was one of the leading French authors of the Romantic movement. Although he originally studied law, Hugo dreamed of writing. In 1819, he founded the journal Conservateur Litteraire as an outlet for his dream and soon produced volumes of poetry, plays, and novels. Hugo's most notable works include The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Miserables. Published in 1831, The Hunchback of Notre Dame appealed to the public's consciousness concerning society and the treatment of outcasts. It was with the publication of Les Miserables in 1862 that Hugo gained international fame. Another tale of outcasts, this story follows the life of Jean Valjean, a man imprisoned for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread. After his release from prison, Valjean is hunted by the policeman Javert. Full of intricate details, the story also describes the famous Battle of Waterloo. (Hugo's father had been an officer in Napoleon's army.) Both of these works have been adapted for the stage and screen many times. These adaptations include the Walt Disney version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and the award-winning musical sensation Les Miserables. In addition to his literary career, Hugo also held political office. In 1841, he was elected to the Academie Francaise. After political upheaval in 1851, he was exiled and remained so until 1870. He returned to Paris in 1871 and was elected to the National Assembly, though he soon resigned. During Hugo's life, he had suffered devastating losses, including the death of his daughter in 1843, his wife in 1868, one son in 1871, and another in 1873. He lived out the rest of his life as a national hero and symbol of excellence, dying on May 22, 1888.

Excerpted from The Last Day of a Condemned Man by Victor Hugo, Libby Purves. Copyright © 2002. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
My counsel arrived.

‘There is still hope,' he said.

‘I'm sure there is,' I replied, relaxed and smiling myself.

‘Most definitely,' he went on. ‘We don't yet know how they have found, but since they can hardly believe you guilty of premeditation, it will be hard labour for life.'

‘What are you saying, sir?' I replied indignantly. ‘Death is infinitely to be preferred.'

Yes, death! ‘And anyway,' some inner voice prompted me, ‘I can say so without tempting fate. When have death sentences ever been pronounced except at midnight, by flickering torchlight, in a dingy, black courtroom, on a cold and rainy winter's night? But in August, at eight in the morning, on such a fine day, and with such decent jurors, it would be unthinkable!' And my eyes moved back to the pretty yellow flower in the sunlight.

Just then the president of the court, who had only been waiting for my counsel to appear, bid me stand up. The guard shouldered arms, and at once all the onlookers were on their feet. An unprepossessing individual seated at a table beneath the judges' dais, who must have been the clerk of court, stood to address the assembly and read out the verdict that the jury had pronounced in my absence. My limbs were suddenly drenched in cold sweat, and I leaned against the wall so as not to collapse.

‘Counsel for the defence, have you anything to say in mitigation of the sentence?' asked the presiding judge.

It was for me to have plenty to say, but nothing occurred to me. My tongue stayed glued to the roof of my mouth.

My defence counsel stood up.

I saw that he was trying to soften the jury's verdict and to substitute, for the sentence that it carried, the lesser one that I had been so outraged to find him anticipating.

My indignation must have been strong indeed to have surfaced amid this multitude of emotions conflicting in me. I tried to shout out loud what I had already told him: ‘Death is infinitely to be preferred!' But words failed me, and I could do no more than grab him roughly by the arm, crying desperately, ‘No!'



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