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The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831)

by Victor Hugo

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (103)  French (4)  Italian (4)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (2)  All languages (116)
Showing 1-5 of 103 (next | show all)
I listened to this classic narrated by David Case who I thought did a fairly good job of narration. I had also listened to Les Miserables which Case narrated and I wasn’t very impressed with him then but for whatever reason this book seemed better. Of the book itself I was suitably impressed once I got over the custom of the time of writing which Hugo emulated in spades i.e. using 10 words where one would have done. This writing style seems well suited to listening to rather than reading as I have also noted with Dickens works.
It is the latter part of the 17th century. Paris is still a walled city but the walls have had to be expanded three times. Anyone who is not Catholic is viewed with suspicion and often put to death. The King Louis Eleventh is not particularly well liked but he has the support of the church and the military. A band of gypsies (or Egyptians as they are called in the book although they doubtless have never seen Africa) lives in the heart of Paris. A young gypsy girl called La Esmeralda entertains crowds by dancing and demonstrating her goat’s tricks. She is lovely and catches the attention of many men including a captain of the Guard (Phoebus) a priest (Archdeacon Claude of Notre Dame) and a disfigured bell ringer (Quasimodo). The priest enlists Quasimodo’s help to capture La Esmeralda but the kidnapping is foiled by Phoebus. Quasimodo is tried and sentenced to some hours in the stocks. La Esmeralda takes pity on him and brings him water ensuring that Quasimodo is her devoted servant ever after. In her turn La Esmeralda is hopelessly in love with Phoebus who saved her and when he makes an assignation with her she gladly goes although she had sworn to remain a virgin until she could find her parents. (La Esmeralda had been brought up by the gypsies but not born to them.) When the priest heard of the assignation he was overcome with jealousy and followed Phoebus. He hid in the room where they were to meet and when he saw Phoebus and La Esmeralda embracing he sprang out and attacked Phoebus. La Esmeralda fainted and the priest escaped out the window before the Watch could appear. Thus La Esmeralda was charged with the attack on Phoebus (who did not die although La Esmeralda was told he had) and sentenced to hang. She was brought in front of Notre Dame before hanging and Quasimodo snatched her up and claimed sanctuary for her. Despite this aid La Esmeralda does end up on the gallows and is hung. Her fate is even more tragic in that minutes before she had finally reconnected with her mother who had lived as a recluse in Paris ever since her infant daughter had been kidnapped. The priest and Quasimodo also had tragic ends. Love does not conquer all.
Definitely the best person in the book is Quasimodo. His body may be disfigured but his heart is pure. If this were a fairy tale La Esmeralda would have transformed him into a handsome prince with a kiss and they would have lived happily ever after. But Hugo doesn’t do happy endings it seems. ( )
  gypsysmom | Aug 30, 2018 |
We know The Hunchback of Notre-Dame is Victor Hugo's classic masterpiece for a reason, but it did take me a while to understand why. It starts slowly, with several treatises embedded in the text. Hugo is particularly inflamed by the failure to maintain the Medieval architectural structures of France. In this regard, the Cathedral is itself a major character in his novel.

As for the story, it is a romantic tale of love, abuse of power, political and religious corruption, the moral state of humanity, the injustice of justice, the futility of love, the inability of man to see beyond the surface and love for what is beneath, and the fleeting effects of beauty on life. The only character who truly loves is the misshapen Quasimodo, who loves Esmeralda more than self. Because he has been conditioned to think himself beyond being loved by anyone, he takes all of his affections and heaps them upon the object of his desires without any expectation of any return.

Frollo the Archdeacon is a malevolent character, but this is tempered by what we know about him prior to his falling for Esmerelda's charms. It is he who has saved Quasimodo when no one else would have even considered doing so, and he has raised and cared for his worthless brother past all duty and obligation. At the same time, he is the poster child for those who lament "if I can't have you, no one can." To the bitter end, I hoped that his better nature would win out, but even in the face of knowing his soul was at stake, he persisted in feeding his evil character.

By its conclusion, the story has become a tragedy of great proportions. I was reminded of the final lines of Romeo and Juliet in which the Prince laments "all are punished." Goodness does not win any quarter for Esmeralda, who dies piteously and the only kindness given her mother is that she expires before she can see her daughter hanged. Both Frollos get what is coming to them and Quasimodo suffers the fate he chooses in the absence of saving his love. Only Djali can be said to have a happy end, Gringoire will doubtless make him a fine master.

Had someone asked me if I knew this story, I would have said "yes". I would have been wrong. I had many misconceptions about both the plot and the themes Hugo addressed. It is apparent why this story has survived time and still has impact and meaning for a modern audience: Love is often still unrequited for the wrong reasons; we still fail to see the quality in someone who presents an ugly face and make too much of those who are only pleasing outwardly; there is still great political corruption that feeds the pockets of those at the top and cares nothing for the everyday man; mobs still whip themselves into fury and reap havoc upon the wrong objects; and injustice can be found in every community and every system.

( )
1 vote phantomswife | Jul 6, 2018 |
This was a fun read. I was unfamiliar with most of the story or the politics, not having seen the Disney version (a lacuna now filled), and came to it mostly spoiler-free. Notre-Dame de Paris was this year’s Big French Classic (following Thérèse Raquin and Le comte de Monte-Cristo), and I’ve enjoyed working my way through this delightfully dark, if melodramatic, Gothic Novel. It felt very filmic in the way it set scenes and gathered momentum for its spectacle through imagery, and I mean that as a compliment. And of course, it featured an awesome villain -- entirely believable in his zealous self-righteousness and post facto rationalisations.

Even so, a few portions of this 1831 book were a slog to get through. Not Hugo’s digressions on what 1480s Paris looked like, or his tract on Architecture vs the Printing Press, or the Alchemy subplot that went nowhere -- I was mostly on board with those. The incredibly obvious setups for later “reveals”, on the other hand, did make me check the pagecount. The intervening two centuries or so of media and storytelling do make a difference. I wasn’t too keen on the cheap melodrama, either, or the Manic Pixie Dream Girl -- a trope I tend to shun.

Most of what I disliked about the book can be chalked up to its age (melodrama, unsubtle setups for reveals); and most of what I liked (opinionated author, the setting, the spectacle, and the surprising darkness) I feel are good features to have in novels. Two thumbs up! ( )
1 vote Petroglyph | Sep 29, 2017 |
Just read the Hunchback. What a tear jerker of a story. It honestly broke my heart. No movie can do this tale justice. It is just plain sad. Well written and full of heart. This trumps Les Miserables by a mile. ( )
  Joe73 | Sep 22, 2017 |
It took a while to get used to Hugo effusive style, and I could have read it happily without the descriptions of the Paris skyline and streets from 600 years ago, but it did capture my attention. I doubted I would be able to read it at all until I was well into it, then it went pretty rapidly. I was inspired to read this by a student who compared the original with the Disney movie of her childhood, which I have never seen, in a capstone presentation. Another classic--read at last! ( )
  mojomomma | Sep 21, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 103 (next | show all)
Au point de sembler plus vraie que la vraie. Bref, un roman-cathédrale.
added by Ariane65 | editLire (Mar 1, 2002)
In Notre-Dame de Paris Hugo’s dreams are magnified in outline, microscopic in detail. They are true but are made magical by the enlargement of pictorial close-up, not by grandiloquent fading. Compare the treatment of the theme of the love that survives death in this book, with the not dissimilar theme in Wuthering Heights. Catherine and Heathcliff are eternal as the wretched wind that whines at the northern casement. They are impalpable and bound in their eternal pursuit. A more terrible and more precise fate is given by Hugo to Quasimodo after death. The hunchback’s skeleton is found clasping the skeleton of the gypsy girl in the charnel house. We see it with our eyes. And his skeleton falls into dust when it is touched, in that marvellous last line of the novel. Where love is lost, it is lost even beyond the grave...

The black and white view is relieved by the courage of the priest’s feckless brother and the scepticism of Gringoire, the whole is made workable by poetic and pictorial instinct. It has often been pointed out that Hugo had the eye that sees for itself. Where Balzac described things out of descriptive gluttony, so that parts of his novels are an undiscriminating buyer’s catalogue; where Scott describes out of antiquarian zeal, Hugo brings things to life by implicating them with persons in the action in rapid ‘takes’. In this sense, Notre-Dame de Paris was the perfect film script. Every stone plays its part.
added by SnootyBaronet | editObserver, V.S. Pritchett

» Add other authors (486 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hugo, Victorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Aken, Jan vanAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Alger, Abby LangdonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Antal, LászlóTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bair, LowellTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Beckwith, James CarrollTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Boor, GerdiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dixon, Arthur A.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hill, JamesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kool, Halbo C.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krailsheimer, AlbanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Laverdel, MarcelIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lusignoli, ClaraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Oorthuizen, WillemTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rhys, ErnestEveryman's Library Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Seebacher, JacquesEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Spitzers, AttieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stedum, Gerda vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sturrock, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Swinburne, A. C.Appreciationsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Terpstra, BasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Verhagen, InekeIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
וולק, ארזTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Exactly three hundred and forty-eight years, six months and nineteen days have passed away since the Parisians were awakened by the noise of all the bells within the triple walls of the city, the university, and the town, ringing a full peal.
Endlich neigte sich der geschworene Buchhändler der Universität, Meister Andry Musnier, zum Ohre des Kürschners der Kleider des Königs mit den Worten:

"Ich sage euch, Herr, das Ende der Welt ist nahe. Man sah nie solche Ausgelassenheit der Studenten. Die verfluchten Erfindungen des Jahrhunderts richten alles zugrunde, die Kanonen, Serpentinen, Bombarden und vor allem die Buchdruckerkunst, diese andere Pest aus Deutschland. Keine Manuskripte! Keine Bücher! Der Druck tötet den Buchhandel! Das Ende der Welt ist nah."
Stets dachte ich, werde es von mir abhängen, den Prozeß zu verfolgen oder fallen zu lassen. Doch jeder böse Gedanke ist unerbittlich und bestrebt, zur Tatsache zu werden; und da, wo ich mich allmächtig glaube, ist das Verhängnis mächtiger als ich. Ach, ach, das Verhängnis ergriff dich, überlieferte dich den furchtbaren Rädern der Maschine, die ich im Dunkel baute. Jetzt bin ich dem Ende nahe. (Claude Frollo)
Die Liebe gleicht einem Baum; sie sproßt von selbst hervor, treibt tiefe Wurzeln in unser Sein und grünt oft noch auf einem gebrochenen Herzen.
Dom Claude begann aufs neue: "Ihr seid also glücklich?" - Gringoire erwiderte mit Feuer: "Auf Ehre, ja! Zuerst liebte ich Frauen, dann Tiere; jetzt liebe ich Steine. Sie sind ebenso unterhaltend wie Tiere und Frauen, aber nicht so treulos."
Der Priester legte die Hand auf die Stirn. Es war seine gewöhnliche Bewegung; dann sprach er: "Wahrhaftig, Ihr habt recht!"
Peter Gringoire war so glücklich, die Ziege zu retten, und erlangte auch einigen Beifall im Tragödien-Dichten. Nachdem er, wie es scheint, alle Torheiten gekostet hatte, die Astrologie, Alchimie, Philosophie und Architektur, kehrte er zur albernsten Torheit, der Tragödie zurück; das nannte er: Ein tragisches Ende nehmen.

Auch Phoebus von Chateaupers nahm ein tragisches Ende: Er verheiratete sich.
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This is the major work for The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo. Please do not combine with abridgements, adaptations, etc.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451527887, Mass Market Paperback)

This extraordinary historical novel, set in Medieval Paris under the twin towers of its greatest structure and supreme symbol, the cathedral of Notre-Dame, is the haunting drama of Quasimodo, the hunchback; Esmeralda, the gypsy dancer; and Claude Frollo, the priest tortured by the specter of his own damnation. Shaped by a profound sense of tragic irony, it is a work that gives full play to Victor Hugo's brilliant historical imagination and his remarkable powers of description.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:26 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

In fifteenth-century Paris, a disfigured man named Quasimodo, who was abandoned as an infant in the cathedral of Notre-Dame and now lives in its bell tower, must come to the aid of a beautiful gypsy girl named Esmeralda after she repels the advances of the cruel archdeacon Don Claude Frollo.… (more)

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140443533, 0451531515

Tantor Media

2 editions of this book were published by Tantor Media.

Editions: 1400102111, 1400109035

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