Cultural Events 2002
The Bicentenary of the birth of Victor Hugo
Few writers have experienced popularity comparable to that of the author of Hernani, Notre-Dame de Paris, Les Châtiments, and Les Misérables, who excelled in all categories of literature. Embodying abundant romanticism and socially committed, he was the resonant echo of his time, always the sentinel of the mysteries of the world and the saviour of the damned of the earth. An heir of the French Revolution, he reigned over French literature and gave it a spirit of liberty and democracy.
The poet visited our country as a tourist during his exile, in 1862, 1863, 1864, and he spent the summer of 1871 as a political refugee in Luxembourg, Vianden, Diekirch, and Mondorf-Altwies.
Of the sixty or so sketches and wash drawings that he produced in Luxembourg, only one remains in the country: it was created on the occasion of his visit to the castle of Schengen on the Moselle on 13 September 1871. At first, he had outlined the castral tower in pencil, which fascinated the owner Louise Collart-de Scherff, who told him: "I would give the tower for this drawing". Politely, the Frenchman offered her another view of the same tower, in profile in front of the façade of the manor, watercoloured and decorated with a vine leaf. Since then, this drawing, bequeathed by the Collart descendants to the Friends of Victor Hugo House in Vianden, has been kept in the National Museum of History and Art in Luxembourg.
It is this coloured sketch, together with a photographic portrait of the artist and his signature, which is included on the stamp issued for the bicentenary. This choice is even more significant given that Victor Hugo, who from 1851 had called for a United States of Europe, is associated with the place in Luxembourg where, in 1985 - the year of the centenary of his birth - the first accords were signed relating to the free movement of people throughout Europe.