Victor Hugo, French poet, dramatist and novelist lived on the second floor of the former Hôtel Rohan-Guéménée from 1832 to 1848. This is where he wrote most of Les Misérables. He is best known in English speaking countries for this novel and for The Hunchback of Notre Dame. His daughter Léopoldine, recently married, was accidentally drowned with her husband in September 1843. Hugo found some solace in writing poems that was later published as Les Contemplations, a volume that he divided into “Autrefois” and “Aujourd’hui,” the moment of his daughter’s death being the mark between yesterday and today. The interior of the house seem a bit depressing, maybe the dark red walls plays a role. Can picture him sitting there, feeling pretty miserable… writing the magnificent Les Misérables.
But the house has a wonderful view of the square at Place des Voges. Maybe this poem was inspired there:
Demain dès l’aube by Victor Hugo (English translation by unknown author)
Tomorrow, at dawn, in the hour when the countryside becomes white,
I will leave. You see, I know that you are waiting for me.
I will go by the forest, I will go by the mountain.
I cannot stay far from you any longer.
I will walk the eyes fixed on my thoughts,
Without seeing anything outside, nor hearing any noise,
Alone, unknown, the back curved, the hands crossed,
Sad, and the day for me will be like the night.
I will not look at the gold of the evening which falls,
Nor the faraway sails descending towards Harfleur.
And when I arrive, I will put on your tomb
A green bouquet of holly and flowering heather
Note et Bien is an orchestra and choir that perform for charitable causes. Yesterday afternoon they performed Mahler’s 5th Symphony at Church of Saint-Denys of the Holy Sacrament, near where I stay. It was a magical afternoon. Sitting in that beautiful old, old building, listening to this incredible performance, it seems I was listening to angels. What a wonderful blessing.