E. H. Blackmore is a freelance writer and translator. A. M. Blackmore is a member of the faculty at Curtin University. Together, they are the editors and translators of Six French Poets of the Nineteenth Century.
Series : Modern Library Classics
The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
VICTOR HUGO (1802-1885) was a French poet, playwright, novelist, essayist, artist, statesman, and human rights activist, best known for his novels Les Misérables and Nôtre-Dame de Paris (translated into English as The Hunchback of Notre-Dame). JEAN-MARC HOVASSE is the author of a biography of Victor Hugo and Director of the Center for the Study of Correspondence and Diaries at the University of Brest, France.Introduction by Jean-Marc HovasseFrom the Introduction True, there is something strange and marvellous in the talent of this man who sweeps the reader before him as the wind sweeps the leaf, who leads him at will through every place and era; unveils before him as if it were child’s play the heart’s innermost recesses, the most mysterious phenomena of nature and the most obscure pages of history; whose imagination dominates and embraces every other imagination, clothing itself with the same astonishing truth in the rags of the beggar and the robes of the king, taking on every attitude, adopting every garb, speaking every language; leaving to the physiognomy of the centuries whatever in their features the wisdom of God has rendered eternal and immutable and whatever the folly of humanity in its ephemeral variety has cast upon them; who does not, as some ignorant novelists do, deck the protagonists of yesteryear in our face-paint nor daub them with the gloss of today, but forces the contemporary reader, under the thrall of his magical powers, to re-assume for the space of a few hours the spirit of olden times – a spirit held in such low esteem today – like a wise and tactful adviser inviting the ingrate son to return to his father’s house. Despite appearances, this epic sentence was not written to greet Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame) on its publication in March 1831. It formed the opening of an article written eight years earlier for the launch of La muse française, a journal founded by Hugo and his Romantic friends – a circle of sentimental young royalists infatuated with the Middle Ages. Hugo had chosen the ‘Literary Criticism’ section for his first contribution. Only twenty-one, he was already very familiar with the work of the man whose ‘magical powers’ he so splendidly evoked: Walter Scott, thirty years his elder, whose Quentin Durward had just appeared in French. Hugo eulogized Scott. That same year, Stendhal noted ‘the French are mad about Walter Scott’. Balzac shared this enthusiasm. But Hugo alone of these admirers devoted an entire essay to Scott – he did the same for William Shakespeare forty years later. He seemed to speak most freely of himself when wearing an English mask. For Hugo, literary criticism was an essential first step in his creative life. His review of Quentin Durward laid the foundations for the notorious preface to Cromwell (yet another English mask): this was effectively the manifesto of French Romanticism (1827). Theatre then dominated the other genres as cinema does today and Hugo praised Scott for freeing his work from the trammels of the ‘narrative’ and ‘epistolary’ novel in order to create the ‘dramatic novel, in which the imaginary action unfolds in truthful and varied tableaux, just like the events of real life’. The novel, Hugo announced, should be like life: ‘And is not life a strange drama in which the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, the sublime and the base are intermingled according to a law whose power ends only with the created world?’ This question, which challenges the separation of genres found in classical French plays and favours a more Shakespearian approach, reappears in almost identical form in the preface to Cromwell. In short, the novel must borrow its principles of composition from drama. The Hunchback of Notre-Dame does in fact display remarkable unity of time and place, as required by the often forgotten subtitle (Notre-Dame de Paris. 1482) but is no less remarkable for its unity of action. In these respects, it faithfully followed the principles set out by Hugo in La muse française. As to the intermingling of genres – Hugo’s key demand in his manifesto – we find it everywhere in The Hunchback. Indeed some have diagnosed an obsession with antitheses. These are present from the first page, which mixes the Epiphany of the Wise Men with the Feast of the Fools, to the last, which brings together Esmeralda and Quasimodo (Beauty and the Beast) for that rather peculiar wedding night – described by Graham Robb in his superlative biography of Hugo as a ‘parody of a happy ending’. Nor should we forget the antithesis constituted by those two considerable personages,
I fisrt wanted to read this book because I like comparing movies to books. I wanted to see how close the 1996 Disney movie was (there are similarities but there are also alot of differences). This book did take me a long time to read, but it was mostly the first part. As boring as i found the first part, it is nessiary; it sets up the story and the characters. Once I started the secound part, it really picked up. I found myself wanting to read it more and more. Don't give up because you find the beginning boring, it will get better.
Out of the many classics (and also the many current novels) of which I've read, Notre Dame is definitely the best. Beautifully crafted with memorable characters, Hugo has truly written a masterpiece, with a wondrous writing style that is beyond all else. Centered in Paris, during a period just after the middle ages, the story follows four different characters: the beautiful, enchanting Esmeralda; the stern, yet kind hearted Claude Frollo; the liberal, yet clueless philosopher Gringoire; and, of course, Quasimodo, the hunchback who wrings the bells of Notre Dame. Through the eyes of these characters, we see the impact of temptation, of love, and of misleading appearances, that the greatest heart may reside in the most crooked of bodies.
Despite the title, though, little is actually told in Quasimodo's voice, but rather most of the story is told through the eyes of Gringoire and the priest Frollo. Another of the main aspects, is the actual structure of Notre Dame, and the immense loss in the art of architecture, which since the middle ages has continued to diminish as times progress. Just as a warning, do not read this book with the expectation that it will be like the popular Disney movie, it is completely different (in fact, it is better to think of them as two completely separate stories); both are very good, but both are vastly different!
Stunningly executed, and definitely memorable, the Hunchback of Notre Dame makes the perfect read, classic or no!!!
By far the best classic I've ever read. This story is dark, with odd snippets of humor. The characters are all deeply obsessed with each other which brings out both the best and worst in humanity. An excellent classic and an excellent read.
Victor Hugo did a masterful job when he wrote The Hunchback of Notre Dame! It is though his pen gave it the gift of life when he wrote it, causing the characters, scenery, emotions, and circumstances to spring to life. If you are one who enjoys a thrilling book with an ability to transport you to another place and time, then read this book. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a tragic story, yet it contains just the right amount of humor and shows the reader that any kind of person be it a priest, a soldier, or an ordinary civilian can be just as deformed and deranged as a hideous hunchback.
A couple of months ago, while sitting in my local library, I spied on the table next to me a discarded copy of 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame'. That title had always fascinated me as a child, for I had watched, in my younger years, all of the many remake movies of it, but I had never actually read the book. Spring break had just started so I decided to take the book home and begin my reading journey through the old, torn pages. And in the blink of an eye, I was transported to the bustling world of medieval Paris, richly described in breath-taking detail. I could see the detail, the outline, as you will, of this Paris of our ancestors, that concealed within it, a story of love, life, and adventure. I meet the hunchback, Quasimodo, who like the reader himself, observed this beautiful city world from the outside, secluded in the great bell tower of Notre Dame. Dom Claude, the jealous priest, whose heart rotted with a mixture of passionate love and loathing disgust, and Esmerelda, the beautiful gypsy girl, who lived in a harsh world of poverty and crime located in the dark alleys of the Paris streets, hidden from the world. These characters, so different in nature and background, whose lives interweaved with a mixture of spell-binding love, sickening hate, and the unique ideas and adventures of life in the streets of Medieval Paris.