It's not just a book thing!
Thank you so much to Timothy Adès for writing this post. Timothy is a translator-poet who will be appearing at Hauteville House as part of September’s LitFest on 17th and 19th September.
Beautiful Guernsey was the home of Victor Hugo from 1854 to 1870, in his long years of exile from France. His two great novels Les Misérables and Notre-Dame of Paris (he hated it being called The Hunchback…) are famous today on stage and screen. Written at Hauteville House, Les Misérables was a gigantic success, creating a vast new readership for the written word.
Victor had made his mark as a young man, earning a royal ‘pension’ for his poems. He had written novels and plays. But in 1843 he was shattered by tragedy: his daughter drowned in a boating accident, along with her husband and unborn child. He gave up writing and went into politics, as an impassioned campaigner for the poor and oppressed, for free speech and against the death penalty.
1848 was a year of revolutions. The king fled; there were barricades in the streets of Paris. Victor walked between the guns, averting a massacre. Every male citizen could now vote, and Napoleon’s nephew was elected President. When his three-year term was up, he became by coup d’état the Emperor Napoleon III. Victor was outraged and called for resistance. Juliette Drouet, for fifty years his devoted mistress, got him out of the country. He was banished and went to live in Jersey. He was expelled from there and Juliette got him into Guernsey.
Banished, he took up his pen. Scathing invective was unleashed. His works were published in Brussels and read avidly in France. He was able to buy Hauteville House: he adorned it with fabrics and ceramics and carved wood, he wrote in it year after year from dawn to dusk, standing in a little glasshouse on the terrace, from which he could see France on a clear day beyond Sark and Herm, and Juliette’s house nearby.
I am a rhyming translator-poet. Victor Hugo’s last book of poems was my first: How to be a Grandfather. That was in 2002 and a new Complete Edition, with many extras, came out in 2012. There’s also a pretty fold-out, The Big Story of the Lion. (My two new books are bilingual: Storysongs from French, Florentino and the Devil from Spanish.)
On 17 and 19 September in the LitFest, I’m thrilled to be presenting some of my versions of his poems in Hauteville House. And we’ll have the delight of hearing Hyoie O’Grady singing famous songs from Les Misérables. Come and join us!