Victor Hugo on Sewage

Violating every rule of narrative, Hugo interrupts the climax of his great novel Les Misérables (1862) to hector the reader for fifteen pages about the Parisian sewer system. The city’s sewers discharged vast quantities of excrement into rivers, which carried it to the sea. That excrement, Hugo proclaimed, should instead be applied to farmers’ fields: “the most fertilizing and effective of manures is that of man.”

Mann, Charles C.. The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Groundbreaking Scientists and Their Conflicting Visions of the Future of Our Planet Pan Macmillan. Kindle Edition.

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