Title: The Last Day of a Condemned Man
Author: Victor Hugo
Publication Date: 2009 (1829)
"Before hearing my death
sentence I was aware that my lungs breathed, that my heart beat, and
that my body lived in the community of other men; now, I plainly saw
that a barrier had sprung up between them and me. Nothing was the same
as before." The imprisoned narrator of this profoundly moving novel
awaits execution — and waits, and waits. Although his guilt is
undeniable, his essential humanity emerges as he struggles with the
certainty of impending death.
Victor Hugo's impassioned early work carries the same power and universality as Les Misérables.
A vocal opponent to the barbarity of the guillotine, Hugo attempted to
arouse compassion in the service of justice. This tale distills his
beliefs and offers a highly significant contribution to the ongoing
debate over the death penalty. A new Foreword by activist David Dow
examines the message and relevance of Hugo's story to modern society. (Goodreads Synopsis)
The Last Day of a Condemned Man is a compelling read I found hard to put down. You can certainly see Hugo's hand in it, with strong echoes of Les Misérables in the description of the convicts and the story of one man with whom our hero converses during his journey to the guillotine. Part fiction and part social commentary, this is a must-read for anyone interested in penal history and/or nineteenth century history.
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