Message from Mr. Denis Lavalle, Honorary General Heritage Curator
In the breath of the “old pensive of the solitudes”: the thirty years of the Literary House of Victor Hugo in Bièvres
Here is an anniversary that can not surprise. Our turbulent times have never sought so much for the liveliest forces of humanist hope and attachment to the solid branches of a fundamental culture. However, on all the lands of the earth, it is Victor Hugo who always best symbolizes the sense of goodness and the loftiness of the Spirit. Les Misérables is read in the universities of Moscow and there are hardly any young Chinese schoolchildren who are unaware of the poem dedicated to Leopoldine. All in all, it is logical that the foundation of the Literary House of Victor Hugo was undertaken on the recommendations of a high personality of culture in Japan. Undoubtedly this foundation, saving the place, was anchored in a residence where Hugo stayed several times during his first glories. Undoubtedly, there are presented remarkable Hugolian documents – so remarkable that they have been recognized as national treasures – linked to the most famous works of the writer. But the success that the Literary House meets, in particular with the school public, is due to the fact that it has chosen a rather unique angle to approach the knowledge of the hero. Because it could not be a question of taking over these Hugolian museums so essential as those of the Place des Vosges or Hauteville House. The idea was to insist on this reflection that Hugo carried out more and more deeply during his long life: the confrontation of his thought with that of the great creators who worked on a vision where art was not only sought in its own forms but as having to serve to engender in all parts of humanity a noble elevation of feelings and the accomplishment of a definitive charity: that of the heart. An entirely idealistic vision, of course, and which this leader of the party of the “ideal” in literature could only defend. We know that Flaubert made fun of it and that Baudelaire found himself doubtful about it many times. The fact remains that such a vision brought the poet to action, to the most decisive struggles for the education and freedom of beings.
It is therefore very exciting that within the research carried out by Victor Hugo’s Literary House, these series of exhibitions have been set up presenting the dialogue between Hugo and these « great men » whom he understood as a chain of minds. raised always working for the optimistic values of human creation. Shakespeare, Romain Rolland, George Sand, Balzac, Dumas, or Berlioz were thus associated with Hugolian thought and allowed the public to take into account not only the scope of his personality but the broad movement of the best minds he heard see uniting with him, out of time, like a constellation of beneficial stars. Hence the interest of the Literary House of Victor Hugo where, in the peaceful setting of a protected park, students and teachers, visitors from all nations, share the discovery of a national hero who listens to others. The image of the poet is singularly amplified. For many he still remains this man isolated in the struggles, the exile of Guernsey, the idealist of the rejection of misery or the dreamer in front of the immense ocean. If Victor Hugo defined himself in front of Verlaine as the “old pensive of solitudes” it is not to sing of creative individualism. But rather to signify how much he intended, far from fleeting adventures, to listen to and participate in the song of the world. It is to its universality that the Literary House of Bièvres is attached. There is no doubt that such an objective will ensure for a long time to come a strong anchoring, a certainty of longevity.