PARIS (AFP) - He is worshipped as a saint in thousands of Vietnamese temples and held up as a prophet of European unity and a human rights hero for his campaigning against the death penalty.
Now the great French novelist Victor Hugo is about to become a television icon with a big-budget BBC adaptation of his masterpiece Les Miserables and an equally lavish series retelling his hugely eventful private and political life.
A literary sensation by the time he was 30 with The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, Hugo quickly became the conscience of his generation.
Appalled by the misery he saw on the streets, he became a hero and was forced into exile for two decades after he declared Napoleon III a dictator and a "traitor to France".
This experience is at the centre of Victor Hugo - Enemy Of The State, a four-hour portrait of the writer now being shot in France.
Director Jean-Marc Moutout said Hugo's remarkable political journey and his equally energetic love life are at the centre of the story, which was unveiled at MIPTV, the world's biggest entertainment market in Cannes, France, on Saturday.
Master adapter Andrew Davies has also vowed to get plenty of Hugo's earthiness into his take on Les Miserables which is now being shot by the BBC.
The veteran screenwriter was the brains behind a string of costume drama hits for the BBC including Pride And Prejudice and War & Peace.