How Hugo and Manet unveiled Paris's poor and privileged faces

With the film of Les Misérables on release and a Royal Academy exhibition opening, France's cultural giants and their views of the city take on a fresh importance

The iron gates of the short passageway, a stone's throw from the increasingly trendy Montorgueil district of Paris and a brief walk from the prostitutes of Saint Denis, are closed to the public these days. It was here, in what was Passage Saumon off the Rue du Bout du Monde – the end of the world road – that Victor Hugo is said to have sheltered between the stone pillars of the public baths and a ballroom of low repute from a raging battle between republican and monarchist forces on 5 June 1832. The gates were slammed shut then too, leaving the writer trapped in the crossfire.

A decade on, Hugo would use what he had heard and seen of the failed student uprising, known as the Republican Uprising,
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