Victor Hugo, the French poet, playwright and novelist, above all known for "Notre-Dame de Paris" (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame) and "Les Misérables", went into exile to Guernsey as a result of Napoleon III's Coup d'état and stayed there from 1855 to 1870.
In Hauteville House in St. Peter Port he wrote "Les Travailleurs de la Mer", in English "Toilers of the Sea". It is said that "The Hunchback" depicted religion, "Les Miserables" society and "The Toilers" nature.
It's the story of Gilliat, a fisherman and outcast who falls in love with Deruchette, the niece of Mess Lethierry, a shipowner. When Lethierry's steamship is wrecked on the Roches Douvre, an extremely dangerous reef, Gilliat volunteers and in an exhausting battle with the elements and superhuman efforts he manages above all through his willpower to save the ship's engine, the most valuable part. His trials, some of them underwater, and including a battle with an octopus, are described in great length and beauty.The ending is tragic, though.
After having finished the book, Victor Hugo wrote:
I DEDICATE THIS BOOK
ROCK OF HOSPITALITY AND LIBERTY
TO THAT PORTION OF OLD NORMAN GROUND
THE NOBLE LITTLE NATION OF THE SEA
TO THE ISLAND OF GUERNSEY
SEVERE YET KIND, MY PRESENT ASYLUM
PERHAPS MY TOMB
I read somewhere that the novel flooded Paris with squids, there were squid-tasting parties, and people even wore sqid hats.
I enjoyed reading the story and having all the cited locations in the vicinity, either in St. Peter Port or along the coast.
The complete text of "Toilers" can be read or downloaded on the Project Gutenbergs site for free.
Sometimes in the night-time Gilliatt woke and peered into the darkness.
He felt a strange emotion.
His eyes were opened upon the black night; the situation was dismal;
full of disquietude.
There is such a thing as the pressure of darkness.
A strange roof of shadow; a deep obscurity, which no diver can explore;
a light mingled with that obscurity, of a strange, subdued, and sombre
kind; floating atoms of rays, like a dust of seeds or of ashes; millions
of lamps, but no illumining; a vast sprinkling of fire, of which no man
knows the secret; a diffusion of shining points, like a drift of sparks
arrested in their course; the disorder of the whirlwind, with the
fixedness of death; a mysterious and abyssmal depth; an enigma, at once
showing and concealing its face; the Infinite in its mask of
darkness--these are the synonyms of night. Its weight lies heavily on
the soul of man.
This union of all mysteries--the mystery of the Cosmos and the mystery
of Fate--oppresses human reason.