Victor Hugo and the Hebrew mind
This thesis examines Victor Hugo's relationship to biblical and postbiblical Judaism as well as to Hebrew thought and language. We shall show that Hugo had an abiding interest in the Jew as a human and an historical phenomenon. An examination of some of his works which are controversial from a Jewish point of view will, moreover, indicate that he had considerable insight into the Jewish condition. Hugo's interest in the Jew extended to Jewish life and tradition, and a host of examples will be given of such an interest. Denis Saurat has claimed that Hugo was not only interested in but influenced by the Cabalah and that Alexandre Weill was his cabalistic mentor. These claims of Saurat's will be critically examined, as will be the work of Weill.The relationship between Weill and Hugo will be reassessed and their fundamental ideas compared. Claudius Grillet has proved Hugo's thorough acquaintance with the Bible. He maintains, however, that Hugo used Hebrew words and names for their sound only with no regard to meaning. This assertion will be critically examined. The many references and allusions to Jewish rites and customs in Hugo's work will be examined in detail and traced to their source. Apart from his interest in Jews and Jewish tradition, Hugo's thought and imagination, it will be suggested, had a deep affinity with the Hebrew mind. This affinity will be shown to be manifest above all in his concept and treatment of the Word, and in his concern for the nature and power of the Word and its component parts, the letters. Finally, it will be suggested that Hugo's doctrine of the Word, so akin to the Hebrew, also enshrines his 'art poetique'. It holds the secret to the process and the state of creation, to the perfect balance, between content and form, spirit and letter. It is the guarantor of lasting renewal.