Every time I see remarks along the lines of “what would Victor Hugo say if he saw people arguing about his work!” or “Victor Hugo wouldn’t want us disagreeing like this!” “Victor would just want us all to be nicer!” I have a bit of a chuckle.
Are we talking about the same Victor Hugo?
The guy who was known to delight in befriending people he could easily beat in debates? The guy who participated in literary circles that indulged in vigorous critical arguments? The guy who could be scathing of opinions he didn’t agree with, political, artistic or personal? Who had a huge ego (do you really want to talk about “pretentiousness”)?
Hugo wouldn’t approve of petty cruelty, no - but Hugo was a man of strong ideas and opinions, and who wasn’t overly concerned with being “nice” when he expressed them - he liked a rigorous discussion and exchange of ideas (rather like the Amis do when they’re tossing ideas and arguments around in the back room of the Musain). Hugo is not to be confused with someone of anodyne “niceness” - he was a huge character, and he could be confronting, egoistical, provocative and magnificent.
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