Founder’s message, Mr. Daisaku Ikeda
Introduction to the catalog of the Literary House of Victor Hugo
There is « poetry », the « fire of the soul » and the « rhythm of the universe » in Hugo’s writing. One also finds « piercing cries » for the oppressed, « rage » against lies and inequality, and a « passionate yearning » for justice. Victor Hugo accompanied me in my youth; more exactly, he is my life-long companion.
A warrior of words. I don’t know of anyone who better fits this description than Hugo. Everywhere, in his office, in the street, in the literary salons, at the National Assembly, even in exile, this great writer couldn’t keep silent. He couldn’t keep from writing. No chains could imprison his soul. No threat was great enough to silence this voice which cried out for justice. No wrong escaped him, be it poverty, injustice, lack of freedom of the press, inequality of political rights or the death penalty. Silence may be golden, but eloquence is more precious still. Like for the Athenian wise men, words for Hugo were the best of all possible weapons. Words allow people to reveal their true value as human beings. He used this arm to its fullest. In the history of humanity, Hugo will remain an exceptional warrior of words.
Hugo lived with an energy and intense emotion that people today have lost. The force of will that exists in « Les Misérables », solid as a rock, a force that the writer always directed towards good, shakes my soul still today. For this strong will that never gave in to attack encouraged me so many times, as did his determination and love for the people…
My Master often talked to us about Jean Valjean. I have wonderful memories of meetings where we studied the novel « 93 » and had passionate discussions about the ideal revolution for humanity. Ces souvenirs restent pour moi inoubliables. The Japanese people greatly appreciate Hugo’s work. « Les Misérables » made its first appearance in Japan at the end of the Meiji era and was published several times thereafter, greatly affecting its readers. The story of Jean Valjean is well known, even by children. In the East as in the West, regardless of the time period, Hugo’s work is a source of fascination for all.
When speaking of himself, Hugo wrote: « I am like a forest that has been cut down many times: the new shoots are more and more hardy. » His penetrating gaze unfailingly revealed injustice, lies and hypocrisy, leaving no room for the perpetrators to escape. A few months before his death, when refusing the presence of priests at his funeral, he declared: « Truth, light, justice and consciousness are God ». He could not tolerate any abusive use of power that oppressed the people and broke their strength and their spirit.
In his ideal vision of the « United States of Europe », he longed for a union of free people. Today his ideal of a unified Europe is becoming a reality. The dawn is near. This ray of sunlight will soon illuminate the entire world. Victor Hugo is waiting for this moment to arrive. As he wrote in his last will and testament, his eyes of this world have closed but the eyes of his spirit are open wide and looking out on the world to come. Hugo is my eternal companion. Hugo, with his spirit to fight until the end, and his eyes set on a far-off ideal, should be an eternal companion and source of encouragement for all people throughout the ages.
Thanks to the help and support of many people, we were able to create the Victor Hugo House of Literature at the Château des Roches in Bièvres France. I hope this house of literature will reinforce the existing ties between France and Japan and will help the immortal soul of this great poet to bring all people closer to universality.