Les Orientales  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Les Orientales is a collection of poems by Victor Hugo, inspired by the Greek War of Independence. They were first published in January 1829.

Of the forty-one poems, thirty-six were written during 1828. They offer a series of highly coloured tableaux depicting scenes from the eastern Mediterranean -- in particular, scenes which would set off the contrast between the (implicitly) freedom-loving Greeks and the imperialistic Ottoman Turks. The fashionable subject ensured the book's success.

Although Hugo described it as ce livre inutile de poesie pure, the general theme of the poems is a celebration of liberty, linking the Ancient Greeks with the modern world, freedom in politics with freedom in art, and reflecting Hugo's turn from the royalism of his early twenties to a rediscovery of the Napoleonic enthusiasms of his childhood (for example, see the fortieth, Lui). The poems are also intended to undermine the classicists' exclusive claim on antiquity.

The depiction of Turks in Les Orientales mixes condemnation, idealisation, and crude envy. It is often cited as being representative of the "Orientalist" attitudes in much of French literature.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Les Orientales" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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