stiamo tranquilli…

Hauteville House, la villa dei miserabili

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Un articolo a firma di Emma Jacobs pubblicato su Longreads racconta le abitudini di Victor Hugo nella cittadina di Saint Peter Port, nell’isola di Guernsey – situata nel canale della Manica -, dove il celebre scrittore francese trascorse un lungo periodo d’esilio (precisamente dal 1856 al 1870, durante l’impero di Napoleone III) per motivi politici. Il racconto, accompagnato da una serie di illustrazioni didascaliche, si sofferma in particolare sulla descrizione di Hauteville House, la lussuosa dimora che Hugo fu costretto ad acquistare per garantirsi la permanenza sull’isola e non essere espulso. Nel 1862, tra le pareti di Hauteville House, oggi restaurata e aperta al pubblico, vide finalmente la luce uno dei massimi capolavori della letteratura mondiale: I miserabili.

Like a cabin in the woods, an island sounds like a writer’s dream: inspiring scenery and a remove from distractions. Here, the mythology creeps in, the writer can achieve an internal calm to match external tranquility, and of course will not suffer in the least from the isolation.

Give the writer a desk at a window with a view. Victor Hugo’s would do nicely. In the late 19th century, the French author lived for 14 years as a political exile on the island of Guernsey in the English Channel. He wrote overlooking the sea and, on a clear day, he could see all the way to the hazy coastline of his beloved France.

Engaged with the outside world but removed from it, he produced an outpouring of words — including poems, essays, and books — and most famously completed his five-volume novel, Les Misérables.

I wanted to visit Hugo’s home on Guernsey, called Hauteville House, for a mix of intangible reasons we visit writers’ houses, but mainly out of curiosity about how someone so iconic lived and worked, and for some better understanding of the mind at work here. The house also has a reputation as worth seeing in and of itself, a masterpiece of Hugo the decorator. Hugo scholars, known as Hugoliens, consider it another one of his great works, alongside his books. His son Charles described it as an “autograph of three stories,” and “a poem in many rooms.” I had avoided looking too closely at photos of the house that became synonymous with his time abroad, which might muddy first impressions.

Immagine da wikimedia.

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