While Hugo’s exile itself is well-documented, details from before his arrival in Guernsey in 1855 are lacking.
Researcher Kevin Lognone aims to trace a fake passport used by Hugo and discover more about the Oak of the United States of Europe, which grew from an acorn he planted at his home in Guernsey, Hauteville House.
He said: ‘Before his 15-year exile Victor Hugo went to Brittany to get to the Channel Islands and settle in Hauteville House. [He had] a romantic relationship in Fougeres town. Juliette Drouet helped him to make a fake passport. This passport has since disappeared.
‘At this time we have very little information. I would love to appeal to your readers and find out more.’
There are a few clues.
‘The fake passport borrowed the name of a print worker called Lanvin. This name could have a link with the old printing press venture Lanvin Oberthur, transformed by an Alsatian entrepreneur, Francois-Charles Oberthur.
‘The Alsatian printer could have been sensitive to the cause of the young poet, like many Alsatian exiles from east to west. At that time, some were forced to change their nationality five times and chose to find refuge.’
Many ended up in London’s Farringdon district, Brittany or the Channel Islands.
Hugo took and planted displaced acorns as he himself was displaced.
‘He collected samples from various places across Europe.
‘Some were collected on his way to Guernsey. It seems different trees have grown up somewhere else. But the one acorn planted at Hauteville is definitely the most iconic one.’
The great-grandfather of Mr Lognone, Theophile Lognone, worked with many Guernsey people around the 1930s, when he improved poultry egg quality using seashells.
‘Small islands have great ideas. Channel Islands mix cultures and languages, bridge Europe and the rest of the world, flirt with the old and the new. Likewise, [they are a] natural hub for creativity and innovation. Guernsey is a blend of influences. The fake passport of Victor Hugo can question all of us.’
n Contact Mr Lognone at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any information on the oak planting or passport.