“La Sibylle” as Ghost Work in Hugo’s La Fin de Satan

Contextualizing “La Sibylle” with the spiritist séances that Hugo conducted in Guernsey between 1853 and 1855, this article explores the complexities intrinsic to Hugo’s visionary writing as embodied in the figure of the sibyl. Closely linked with “la tombe,” the sibyl acts as a hinge between mortality and infinity, translating the latter into finite, concrete language. This translation aspect also figures prominently in the séances, in which the attendants question infinity. Through a discussion of the “ghost work” articulated by Death during one of these séances, it will be shown that it is not Hugo, but the text itself that performs a sibylline dynamic, assuming the simultaneous roles of reader and writer, questioner and responder. Ultimately, these various role switches blur Hugo’s authorial identity to such an extent that he appears to become indistinguishable from “la tombe” through which passes not only creation, but the writing itself, on its expiatory journey.

Simon Rogghe
Volume 48.1–2