Victor Hugo quote

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On résiste à l'invasion des armées; on ne résiste pas à l'invasion des idées.

—Victor Hugo, Histoire d'un Crime (History of a Crime) (written 1852, published 1877)

Context[edit]

Victor Hugo - Project Gutenberg eText 16943.jpg
The star possesses no anger; the dawn bears no malice. Light is

satisfied in being light. Light is everything; the human race has no other love. France knows herself beloved because she is good, and the greatest of all powers is to be loved. The French revolution is for all the world. It is a battle perpetually waged for Right, and perpetually gained for Truth. Right is the innermost part of man; Truth is the innermost part of God. What can be done against a revolution which has so much right on its side? Nothing. To love it. That is what the nations do. France offers herself, the world accepts her. The whole phenomenon lies in these few words. An invasion of armies can be resisted; an invasion of ideas cannot be resisted. The glory of barbarians is to be conquered by humanity; the glory of savages is to be conquered by civilization; the glory of darkness is to be conquered by the torch. This is why France is desired and assented to by all. This is why, having no hatred, she has no fear; this is why she is fraternal and maternal; this is why it is impossible to lessen her, impossible to humiliate her, impossible to irritate her; this is why, after so many ordeals, after so many catastrophes, after so many disasters, after so many calamities, after so many falls, incorruptible and invulnerable she holds out her hand to all the peoples from above. (emphasis added)

—Victor Hugo, The History of a Crime (Translation by T.H. Joyce and Arthur Locker.)

Literal translations[edit]

  • One resists the invasion of armies; one does not resist the invasion of ideas.
  • One withstands the invasion of armies; one does not withstand the invasion of ideas.

Alternative translations and paraphrased variants[edit]

  • An invasion of armies can be resisted; an invasion of ideas cannot be resisted.
  • One cannot resist an idea whose time has come.
  • No one can resist an idea whose time has come.
  • Nothing is stronger than an idea whose time has come.
  • Armies cannot stop an idea whose time has come.
  • No army can stop an idea whose time has come.
  • Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come.
  • There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.
  • More powerful than the might of all the armies on Earth is an idea whose time has come.

Discussion[edit]

Begin discussion of quote and translation(s) here:

It's a truism that meanings can get "lost in translation", but I still think that, if we want to use a quote, we should plump for a translation in English, and, yes, link to a page such as this for people to discuss the meaning of a quote. It's just that, while I think this quote has a beauty and a passion, it's just a bit pompous for me (in the context of our main page). Cormaggio talk 19:12, 28 January 2008 (UTC)

While updating the qotd entries in the template I tried to dig out the original source and confirm that the wording and atribution was correct for each quote. I was struck by how different the version we were then using ("More powerful than the might of all the armies on Earth is an idea whose time has come.") was from the original, say one of the literal translations. It seems far bolder. Then I discovered the long list of other translations and paraphrased variants at Wikiquote. It seems to me that the original quote has taken on something of a life of its own. Is it proper to atribute some of the variants to Hugo when they go beyond his original words? In most circumstances I would not have included a foriegn language quote on the english Wikiversity. But in this case I though it might be instructive to compare the versions. I've certainly learned a lot from how difficult it can be to pin down the original source and text of a quote. Also, about how reworded or paraphrased quotes can sometimes become far more widely quoted (on the internet) than the original... I tend to think that the "More powerful..." quote is more pompous than the original. Although the context (French revolution) of the original is rather arogant. I can see your point about the suitability of this quote for the main page (although, I didn't have a negative reaction when I first saw this quote.) I would like to leave this one up for just a few weeks to see what discussion it leads to. But, in general I think there are a number of quotes that better fit what wv is about. --mikeu talk 02:58, 29 January 2008 (UTC)
Nod to all that. I totally agree with you on the gulf of meaning between the original quote and what it's evolved into. And yeah, the internet tends to serve as a bit of an 'echo chamber' for misquotes - emphasises the need to track down an original source. :-) Cormaggio talk 11:58, 29 January 2008 (UTC)


As a French-speaking person, may I suggest : "You may resist the invasion of armies, but you can't resist the invasion of ideas." If not correct, I will say that this one is the best : "An invasion of armies can be resisted; an invasion of ideas cannot be resisted." The two "litteral" translations do not have the same meaning as the french quote. imho. - Elavoie 28 April 2008 22:45 (UTC)

Very interesting, I think this Quote hints at the Science of Memetics ( ideas Developing from mind to mind )... and Psychological warfare, after all , everything originates within the mind, and materializes in the physical afterward.... ideas that invade, ideas can also Grow, contribute, expand, enlighten... or they can dominate, limit, direct, navigate or demand, much like the way, ideas are shared among minds, through the internet and Wikiversity, a truelly massive Topic to discuss indeed.--Gaon Abhinava 02:10, 31 August 2011 (UTC)

See also[edit]