Greece celebrates 2002 as the year of Victor Hugo

Greece’s offering to worldwide events this year, to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of the writer Victor Hugo (1802-1885), one of France’s most distinguished figures of the 19th century, is expected to be substantial. Contemporary readings of Hugo the dramatist, poet and novelist, whose work still remains popular today, offer insight into an array of concepts he advocated, such as humanism, social justice, urban modernization, romantic drama, and human rights, all of which are fundamental aspects of his multifaceted body of work. Naturally, France will be playing a leading role during the bicentennial celebrations, with a series of events which include the republication of his books, conferences, exhibitions, as well as intercultural and interdisciplinary meetings. Small and large events will be taking place in Paris and his birthplace, Besancon, as well as at the Pompidou Center and the Musee d’Orsay. In Greece, the year of Hugo is already under way. A series of lectures at the National Research Foundation began on January 8 and will run through January 29, with the academics Anna Tambaki, Loukia Droulia, Leonidas Kallivretakis and Despina Provata as the speakers. Next month, the members of a Greek-French coordinating committee to handle the plethora of events scheduled throughout the year, under the auspices of the French Embassy, will be announced. «All the fields – the universities, theater, publications – will be represented [on the committee] so that the coverage will be thorough,» said Didier Talpain, cultural attache at the French Embassy in Athens. One of the anniversary year’s domestic highlights should be «Victor Hugo and Greece,» a compilation in book form of all the writer’s references to Greece, to be released this spring by the French Institute in association with the Athens-based bookstore, Kaufmann. It has been edited by Professor Marcel Durand. «It will cater to the needs of both specialized and general readers,» Talpain said. Tambaki, a professor at Athens University and one of the speakers at the National Research Foundation’s series of lectures this month, said a proposal would be made to rerelease the first Hugo work translated into Greek, «Le Miserables.» It had been translated by the Smyrna-based Ioannis Skylitsis. Overall, the tribute’s emphasis will be placed on Hugo’s multifaceted nature as a writer, poet, artist, philosopher, and advocator of human rights. Hugo is also linked with the fundamental ideas of French Romanticism through his archetypal projection of social and moral disorder and progress, as well as values of urban modernity. After all, Hugo was the first to laud Paris’s new sewage system! Talpain, the French Embassy’s education officer, said that film adaptations of Hugo’s work would be projected at various events, including 1995’s version of «Les Miserables» by Claude Lelouch to be screened at the French Institute on April 15, one of the domestic tribute’s most active days. Also scheduled for the same day is a conference to be headed by Jean-Francois Kahn, president of France’s Year of Hugo committee. Other events include a seminar titled «Literary Myths and Modernity» at Thessaloniki University later in the year, in October, as well as a conference in Athens the following month.

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