The last day of a condemned man by Victor Hugo
Orginal title Le Dernier jour d’un condamné
Translator – Christopher Moncrieff
Source personnel copy
Well I want to add more depth to the blog over the next couple of years so Victor Hugo is a great choice for this .Victor Hugo was the best known writer of his generation ,he started as a poet and then later developed into novelist he is of course now best known for his novels now ,especially Les miserable and The hunch back of Notre-Dame .This book was his first novel it also includes the short story Claude Gueux .
Why should what I write here be of use to other ,stop judges from judging ,spare unfortunates ,innocent or guilty ,the agony to which I have been condemned ? What’s the point ? What does it matter ? After my head has been cut off ,what is it to me if they cut off other people’s ?
The narrator wonders why he is writing about his last day
This book is about what it says on the cover and that is the last day of a condemned man ,we met the narrator Unnamed ,we don’t know how he got to be waiting for the guillotine .What we do know is the room he is in the prison and prisoners around him ,what happens on the day of an execution .He is visited by the priest .The narrator comes across a stoic you sense he has fear but is doing his best to bury not to near the end he breaks down and appeal to the crowd for a pardon ,he is driven to this after he has met his daughter earlier and she seems to forgotten her father .The second part of this book is the story of Claude Gueux ,which is a true story of a prisoner ,that due to something happening when he is in prison for five-year ends up sentenced to death ,a heart-wrenching book that shows how one simple mistake that is the cause of a death ,it also the intolerance of prison authorities sometimes .
The man stole .I don’t know what he stole or where he stole it from .What I do know is that the outcome of this theft was three days ‘ food and heat for the women and child and five-year in prison for the man .
From Claude Gueux a man who stole for his family but end up dead as he fell out with the prison authorities during those five years .
Well I had read hunchback years ago in my teens but something makes me think it was an abridged version (as it never stuck in my mind a lot as abridged books sometimes do as they cut the soul from some books )which is why I hadn’t maybe got round to Hugo .He was from the romantic movement of writers but this book is more a social justice piece Hugo was against the death penalty and wrote this book to show people how it felt to be on death row .I was reminded at times to the film from the Dead man walking where we see how this narrator described his world and last day at times was very similar too Sean Penn’s characters last day ,the talking to the priest ,the last meal ,the last visit with family and the final walk to the end .Hugo was an influence on many writer ,I can see a huge connection to Dickens another writer that used his books to show the social woes of his day .So I will try him again soon .
What is your favourite book by Victor Hugo ?