It has always been the aim of the Hugo Pages to make Victor Hugo and his poetry more accessible to English-speaking readers. At first, French texts were presented with occasional commentary. Translations soon followed. The first of these were verse translations, intended to give a feel for how the poems worked. In an effort to speed the process of putting up poems, we began offering some poems in relatively literal line-by-line translations - better conveyors of the precise wording of texts but not so good for illustrating their poetic side.
We have been pleased with the way the site has unfolded and with the response it has gotten. But there has been a need for something more, something that would allow an English-speaking reader to truly get a feel for the text. The art of translation is an art with limitations, and no innovation is going to allow someone who has no French to hear and understand a Hugo poem as a Francophone would. That said, we think we have found something that will help those with no French get a little closer and those who have some but are not fluent to more readily approach the master poet's works.
Our innovation is not really new, per se. It's a combination of methods used in different readers over the years. The difference is that instead of using these methods to transmit a feel for a language, we are using it to give readers a feel for a poem - to let those who are not fluent in French nonetheless read Hugo's poetry as he wrote it. A master poet like Hugo has much to say, but the way he says it, the way his song flows, can sometimes tell as much as the actual words (you can read more about this in the essays on translation and versification on the main page. Our hope is that this slightly different form of translation - movement between places - will allow the reader to move back and forth between the French form and style and Anglophone understanding. As always, our efforts are in service of Hugo's poetry and those who would read it.