Victor Hugo’s Hernani


Written in 1830, it was a product by a very young Victor Hugo who was thrust into a huge controversy with the established theater community in Paris. It’s the play where he made his bones.

In 1978, I had just come back from a year abroad in France as part of the University of California’s Education Abroad Program (EAP) and back in San Diego, I was taking a class taught by Jonathan Saville, who was also the longtime theater critic for the San Diego Reader. The class was deadly – – I was beyond bored and underwhelmed, especially after a year studying and drinking in Poitiers. The first thing we read was Hernani. I offered to translate it to English for credit rather than sit in the seminar. I thought it would take a quarter to do. Two quarters later, I had completed seven drafts, all typewritten, all without a word processor.

The manuscript sat in my file cabinet in the garage for almost twenty years until I scanned it and made it available on Since then, the translation has been used by a host of university drama departments studying 19th century French Theater.



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