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Explorations Read-Aloud: “The Last Day of a Condemned Man” by Victor Hugo

Friday, April 19 @ 11:00 am 12:00 pm

Every Friday, at 11:00 am, on the library’s YouTube Channel and Facebook Page, the library will stream a brand new recording of local thespian, Joseph Coté reading aloud selections from a wide variety of fascinating and entertaining books of fiction and non-fiction.

For April 19, Coté will read aloud from Victor Hugo’s novel The Last Day of a Condemned Man.

Summary:  Victor Hugo’s classic early novel is a powerful indictment of the death penalty and a plea to end capital punishment completely.

Hugo saw several times the spectacle of the guillotine and was angered at the spectacle that society can make of it. It was the day after crossing the “Place de l’Hotel de Ville” where an executioner was greasing the guillotine in anticipation of a scheduled execution that Hugo began writing The Last Day of a Condemned Man. He finished very quickly. 

The book was published in February 1829 by Charles Gosselin without the author’s name. Three years later, on 15 March 1832, Hugo completed his story with a long preface and his signature.
The novel follows the thoughts and emotions of a man who is sentenced to death, leading up to his execution. It influenced many novels after it, including Dostoevsky’s Notes from a Dead House, Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

Though The Last Day of a Condemned Man is lesser known than some of Hugo’s other works, the novel had the distinction of being praised as “absolutely the most real and truthful of everything that Hugo wrote” by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Notably, Dostoyevsky had suffered the psychological insight of himself being condemned to death and suffered a mock execution and after reprieved.

Furthermore, Dostoevsky pays tribute to the novel in the format of The Meek One, citing Hugo’s novel as a means of justifying the “fantastic” idea of writing down a person’s thoughts at a moment of distress. The work is considered a classic of French literature and played a significant role in the abolition of the death penalty in France in the 20th century.                                                                                                                                                                                           

Click the links to find the library’s YouTube Channel and Facebook Page.

Thoughts to share? Book ideas to suggest?
Contact Joseph at friday-explorations@usa.net

55 Main Street
Camden, ME 04843 United States