It's not just a book thing!
Technically part of the city of Paris, a visit to Hauteville House is not only the quickest and cheapest way to get away from Guernsey for an hour-long holiday, it will also remove you from the the 21st Century and transport you into the imagination of one of the most famous men of the 19th Century.
From the outside, it doesn’t look all that special, but I almost feel as though I shouldn’t describe the inside of Hauteville House – for fear of spoiling surprises and fear of not doing it justice. But then I have to write something to persuade you that it is worth a visit (and probably a repeat visit, and a few more after that). Maybe you don’t want to look round another dull old house. and maybe you haven’t read any of Victor Hugo’s work. Dispel both of these concerns – you haven’t seen a house like this before, and you do not need to know anything about Victor Hugo because this house is a work of art in itself.
A literary sensation in his native France by the time he was exiled, Hugo set about decorating his home to represent his ideas. Living in Hauteville House, as Hugo and his family did between 1856 and 1870, must have been like inhabiting an ideology – the house is designed and constructed to embody Hugo’s attitudes to art and genius, death and the afterlife, religion and the church, exile and family. Whole rooms embody beautiful manifestoes and barely function as spaces to live in, though they do function perfectly well as a legacy. Self-mythologising as he went, I wonder whether he imagined his house being visited years into the future.
You might not actually like the house – some of the rooms are a little garish – but I think it would be difficult to not be impressed by the detail, the sheer outlandish scope of it. There is enough to look at that you can spot new things on repeat visits, and a revolving cast of tour guides means that there are always new facts about the house, or new interpretations each time you go. Which is one of the reasons why Timothy Adès tour during the litfest, under the title of ‘How To Be A Grandfather’ is a must for returning visitors and first timers alike.
On Thursday 17th September and Saturday 19th September, Timothy Adès & Hyoie O’ Grady will be conducting special tours of Hauteville House, focussing on the familial relationships of Victor Hugo.