An Appeal for Translations

February 26, 2002 will be the 200th anniversary of Victor Hugo's birth. Yet, despite Hugo's evident popularity, the only writings of his that are readily available in English translation are Les Misérables (1862) and Notre-Dame de Paris (1831). Where are The Toilers of the Sea (1866), The Man Who Laughs (1869), Ninety-Three (1874), The History of a Crime (1877-8), let alone his poems and essays? These magnificent works are effectively unknown to English speakers (excepting those who spend their days haunting used-book stores, and even then most of the translations one finds are hopelessly out of date).

I suggest that this situation be remedied through new translations of Hugo's works or, failing that, re-publication of existing translations. For example, The Heritage Press (39 E. 72nd Street, New York, NY, 10021) published a translation of The Toilers of the Sea in 1961, and Bantam Books (1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036, or published a translation of Ninety-Three in 1962. Re-publication of these works in time for the Hugo bicentennial would seem eminently feasible, and if you love the writings of Victor Hugo I ask you to contact these publishers and others (e.g, Penguin Books, which has published both Les Miséreables and Notre-Dame de Paris), encouraging them to make more of Hugo's writings available in English.