Avant-propos Philippe Moine

The Founder’s wish
Foreword to the 30th Anniversay Album

During a visit to France in 1981, Mr. Daisaku Ikeda, Japanese writer, philosopher and man of peace, met Mr. Alain Poher, President of the Senate. The latter made him visit the Luxembourg Palace and its most beautiful salon, the “Salon Victor Hugo”. Deeply in love with literature, Monsieur Ikeda has been an admirer of Victor Hugo since he was very young; he says he overcame the horrors of the Second World War as a teenager thanks in particular to reading Les Misérables.

« The idea of ​​founding the Maison littéraire came to me […] At that moment, I decided to leave to posterity the testimony of a heroic fight and the work of a great writer. » he explains.

On June 7, 1989, in the presidential office of the Élysée Palace, Mr. President François Mitterrand welcomed Mr. Ikeda for an interview on the celebration of the bicentenary of the Revolution and Franco-Japanese relations. The following week, invited by the Academy of Fine Arts, Mr. Ikeda gave a speech entitled “Art and spirituality in the East and in the West”.

Then in 1991, with the support of Alain Poher, President of the Senate, Jack Lang, Minister of Culture, Marcel Landowski of the Institute, Alain Decaux and René Huyghe of the French Academy, Mr Ikeda, founded in Bièvres the Maison Literary by Victor Hugo. It therefore entrusted its management and animation to a French association.

The creation of this museum dedicated to Victor Hugo is the expression of his commitment to peace, culture and education, he who is the author of a hundred books, including dialogues with thinkers such as Arnold Toynbee, André Malraux , Mickaël Gorbachev, Henry Kissinger, Linus Pauling, René Huyghe, Charles Bonaparte… translated into more than thirty-six languages ​​and who, every year since 1978, has submitted proposals for peace to the UN, which are then published throughout the world.

In 2000, Mr. Ikeda accepted that five major pieces from the collection be classified as « National Treasure » as historical monuments: the hand-corrected proofs by Hugo of Les Misérables, those of Contemplations, those of La Légende des siècles, the draft of the communards’ amnesty project, as well as the last word written by Victor Hugo’s hand, three days before his death: « To love is to act ».

For this important contribution to the influence of Victor Hugo, the Minister of Culture presented him in 1992 with the distinction of Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters.

Fruit of the efforts of the entire team of the Literary House of Victor Hugo to concretize during these three decades the mission devolved by the founder, this catalog offers you a rich overview of our achievements: national and international exhibitions, partnerships, meetings, acquisitions heritage, cultural events… It shows some treasures from the collection, manuscripts, letters, rare and original editions, engravings, sculptures, period snapshots… It invites you to take a walk in the wake of the poet, thanks to the hundreds of photographs of this part of the Bièvre valley that Louis-François Bertin knew so well how to develop. Above all, it recalls the spirit of our activities, illustrated by the sixty texts by Victor Hugo, which continue to illuminate the future.

I would like to thank the very many personalities and specialists from the world of culture, research and literature who have done us the honor since the inauguration of participating, through their support, their messages and their testimonies, in the enhancement of this humanist heritage, and particularly those which, today, make us the friendship of texts which you will discover in the following pages: Mr. Gérard Larcher, president of the Senate, Mrs. Pelletier-Le Barbier, mayor of Bièvres, Mr. Denis Lavalle, Honorary General Curator of Heritage, Mrs. Anne-Simone Dufief, Emeritus Professor of Literature at the University of Angers, Mr. Charles Bonaparte, descendant of Jérôme Bonaparte.

My thanks also go to the visitors from all over the world who come in large numbers each year, demonstrating their passion for Hugolian thought and thus testifying to its universality.

During these last thirty years, following the wish of the founder, we wished by emphasizing certain unknown aspects of Victor Hugo, that a dialogue be established between each visitor and the visionary work of the poet, particularly with regard to the younger generations.

This year, we are going to plant a tree, symbol of the momentum we intend to take towards the next thirty years and beyond. I hope it will bear witness to an increasingly enlightened world and I am convinced that the messages of Victor Hugo and the great authors that we will continue to honor, will be able to contribute to this.

In his preface to the catalog of the exhibition dedicated to Victor Hugo, organized in 2004 in Japan, Monsieur Ikeda said it all :

« Victor Hugo wrote: « The dreams of great men are the gestation of the future. » I am firmly convinced that what he proclaimed – his aspirations for peace and respect for human rights in a chaotic era, and his quest, sometimes gropingly, in the creation of new values – still remains, two centuries later, a living force enabling countless people to elevate their spirits and expand their potential.« 

Philippe Moine

Director of the Literary House of Victor Hugo