Poetry and Translation: Timothy Adès Presents Victor Hugo’s 'How to be a Grandfather'

With the recent release of Les Misérables, the great Victor Hugo is once again fresh in the public’s mind. While this famous novel-turned-musical has been adapted over and over again, some of his other works are only now being translated into English. At the end of January 2012, Timothy Adès will be presenting his new translation of How to be a Grandfather at The Poetry Café in London.

Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo is one of the greats in French Literature. Poet, novelist and playwright, Hugo’s work covers a range of genres and topics. Hugo’s influence is immense, not only in literature, but also in politics, music and much more. Throughout his life Hugo experienced first hand the incredible changes that were happening in France. From the 1832 June Rebellion and the 1848 Revolution to the Coup of 1851, France’s identity and politics were in constant upheaval. These experiences can be seen as clear catalysts for several of Hugo’s works, such as Les Misérables. However it was his personal life that inspired the beautiful poetry that won the hearts of French people. Amidst the restless political and social climate of France, Hugo had five children with his wife Adèle before he was exiled. Sadly, Hugo outlived all of his children except for his youngest, who was named after her mother. This trauma greatly effected Hugo and his work, especially the loss of his favourite child, Léopoldine, at the young age of 19. Hugo wrote the poem ‘Tomorrow, At Daybreak’ about traveling to her grave.

How to be a Grandfather was written after Hugo’s third child, Charles, died in 1871. When Charles’ wife passed away soon after, Hugo became the guardian of their children. By this time Hugo was well accustomed to death and grieving. The poems in this collection explore a celebration of love and innocence, while still scrutinising tyranny and power.

Never before translated to English, Timothy Adès has unlocked these poems so that non-French speakers too can embrace them. Adès specialises in translating rhyme and meter, and has translated many poems from French, German and Spanish. At this exciting event, Adès will be presenting poems from How to be a Grandfather in both French and English, discussing his the process of translating poetry, while also giving details about the context in which they were written. Adès will also be talking about Victor Hugo’s work and his importance as a poet. It is therefore a must for all Victor Hugo fans and those interested in translation, and will offer a unique insight into the private sorrow and grief of the man who wrote Les Misérables.


The Poetry Cafe 22 Betterton Street London WC2H 9BX

Wednesday 30 January at 7.30 pm

Tickets at the door: £5

Please visit Holland Park Press and The Poetry Cafe for more information.

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