Saturday, March 2, 2013

Victor Hugo-isms: #3

#3: "Nobody walks alone at night in the forest without trembling.  Darkness and trees, two formidable depths - a chimeric reality appears in the indistinct distance.  An outline of the Inconceivable emerges a few steps away with a special clarity.  You see floating in space or in your brain something strangely vague and unseizable like the dreams of sleeping flowers.  There are fierce shapes on the horizon.  You breath in the odors of the great black void.  You are afraid and are tempted to look behind you.  The socket of night, the haggard look of everything, taciturn profiles that fade away as you advance, obscure dishevelments, angry clumps, livid pools, the gloomy reflected in the funereal, the sepulchral immensity of silence, the possible unknown beings, swaying of mysterious branches, frightful torsos of the trees, long wisps of shivering grass - you are defenseless against all of it...Forests are apocalypses..."

Where: Page 388-389

What's Happening: The young Cosette has been sent out in the night by the nasty Th√©nardiess to fetch a bucket of water from the well in the woods.  She is very afraid and her surroundings are being described to us.

What I Learned: First and foremost, this entire paragraph is stunning.  If this passage doesn't paint a vivid and animated picture, then I don't know what does!  It is simply so much fun to read this beautifully crafted paragraph.  And second, it's also very true.  Thank you, Victor Hugo, for writing down in extreme detail exactly why Nicole Knapp does not go into forests at night.  I had originally thought that I didn't venture outside at night for fear of either being eaten by bears or abducted by creepers, but now that I've read this passage and thought of it...there is something very strange about the forest at night.  While I do think the forest at night is mysteriously beautiful, I also think that it can be the stuff that nightmares are made of, if we let it.  Dangers - whether real or imagined - follow you as you step through the endless trees and the endless darkness.  And getting back to the language - the way this is written is just so cool.  The dreams of sleeping flowers, frightful torsos of the trees, forests are apocalypses...these phrases speak for themselves and emit a literary power of their very own.

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