The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

ISBN: 0760701687
ISBN 13: 9780760701683
By: Victor Hugo

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Reader's Thoughts

Matt

This isn't a review of the book itself, but rather a sampler of its English translations. Since the ratio of English readers of Hugo to English translators of Hugo is perilously close to 1:1, I thought a quick taste test was in order, so I've whipped up this plateau d'amuse-gueules so that you can find your favorite. I've compiled as many versions of the opening paragraph(s) as I could find online; I had no luck unearthing Hazlitt [1833], but most of the others are here. I've ended with Hugo's original French, the essence of which will be surprisingly intelligible after you've parsed it against a couple of the less impressionistic translations. (Just for fun, I've added my own translation at the end, so you can see whether my opinion is worth a crap.) Please click 'Like' if you found this useful - it will make it easier for other people to find it!If you want an opinion without having to slog through all these, I think the only ones close to great literature in English are Beckwith [1895] and maybe Sturrock [1978], who seems to follow Beckwith rather closely. Beckwith is quite good, with Sturrock a notch below, and all the rest defacing Hugo as much as his detested 'masons' were then defacing the medieval facade of Paris.:: Shoberl [1833] ::On this day 348 years, six months, and nineteen days since the good people of Paris were awakened by a grand peal from all the bells in the three districts of the City, the University, and the Ville. The 6th of January, 1482, was, nevertheless, a day of which history has not preserved any record. There was nothing worthy of note in the event which so early set in motion the bells and the citizens of Paris. It was neither an assault of the Picards or the Burgundians, nor a procession with the shrine of some saint, nor a mutiny of the students, nor an entry of our "most redoubted lord, Monsieur the king," nor even an execution of rogues of either sex, before the Palace of Justice of Paris. Neither was it an arrival of some bedizened and befeathered embassy, a sight of frequent occurrence in the fifteenth century. It was but two days since the last cavalcade of this kind, that of the Flemish ambassadors commissioned to conclude a marriage between the Dauphin and Margaret of Flanders, had made its entry into Paris, to the great annoyance of the Cardinal of Bourbon, who, in order to please the king, had been obliged to receive this vulgar squad of Flemish burgomasters with good grace, and to entertain them at his hotel de Bourbon with a goodly morality, mummery, and farce, while a deluge of rain drenched the magnificent tapestry at his door. :: Anonymous [19th century, adopted by Everyman's Library] ::On the 6th of January, 1482, the Parisians were awakened by the noise of all the bells within the triple circuit of the City, the University, and the Town ringing in full peal. Yet this is not a day of which history has preserved any remembrance. There was nothing remarkable in the event which thus put in agitation so early in the morning the bells and the good people of Paris. It was neither an assault of Picards or of Burgundians; nor a shrine carried in procession; nor a revolt of scholars in la vigne de Laas; nor an entry of notre dit tres-redoute seigneur Monsieur le Roi - that is, in plain English, of their most dread lord the King ["In good plain English"!? - Matvei]; nor yet a good hanging up of thieves, male and female, at the Justice de Paris (justice and gibbet having been synonymous in the good old feudal times)[That remark is also actually in the translation - Matvei]. Neither was it the sudden arrival, so frequent in the 15th century, of some ambassador and his train, all covered with lace and plumes. Scarcely two days had elapsed since the last cavalcade of this sort, that of the Flemish envoys commissioned to conclude the marriage treaty between the Dauphin and Margaret of Flanders, had made its entry into Paris, to the great annoyance of Monsieur le Cardinal de Bourbon, who to please the king had been obliged to give a gracious reception to that rude train of Flemish burgomasters, and entertain them, at his Hotel de Bourbon, with one of the rude dramatic exhibitions of the time, while a beating rain drenched the magnificent tapestry at his door. :: Alger [1882] ::348 years, six months, and nineteen days ago today, the Parisians were waked by the sound of loud peals from all the bells within the triple precincts of the City, the University, and the Town. And yet the 6th of January, 1842, is not a day of which history takes much note. There was nothing extraordinary about the event which thus set all the bells and the citizens of Paris agog from early dawn. It was neither an attack from the Picards or the Burgundians, nor some shrine carried in procession, nor was it a student revolt in the Ville de Laas, nor an entry of "our greatly to be dreaded lord the king", nor even the wholesale slaughter of a band of thieves before the Palace of Justice. Neither was it the arrival, so frequent during the 15th century, of some plumed and laced embassy. It was scarcely two days since the last cavalcade of this sort, that of the Flemish ambassadors empowered to arrange a marriage between the Dauphin and Marguerite of Flanders, had entered Paris, to the great annoyance of Cardinal Bourbon, who, to please the king, was forced to smile upon all this rustic rout of Flemish burgomasters, and to entertain them at his own mansion with "a very fine morality and farce", while a driving rainstorm drenched the splendid tapestries at his door. :: Hapgood [1888] :: Three hundred and forty-eight years, six months, and nineteen days ago today, the Parisians awoke to the sound of all the bells in the triple circuit of the city, the university, and the town ringing a full peal. The sixth of January, 1482, is not, however, a day of which history has preserved the memory. There was nothing notable in the event which thus set the bells and the bourgeois of Paris in a ferment from early morning. It was neither an assault by the Picards nor the Burgundians, nor a hunt led along in procession, nor a revolt of scholars in the town of Laas, nor an entry of "our much dread lord, monsieur the king," nor even a pretty hanging of male and female thieves by the courts of Paris. Neither was it the arrival, so frequent in the fifteenth century, of some plumed and bedizened embassy. It was barely two days since the last cavalcade of that nature, that of the Flemish ambassadors charged with concluding the marriage between the dauphin and Marguerite of Flanders, had made its entry into Paris, to the great annoyance of M. le Cardinal de Bourbon, who, for the sake of pleasing the king, had been obliged to assume an amiable mien towards this whole rustic rabble of Flemish burgomasters, and to regale them at his Hôtel de Bourbon, with a very "pretty morality, allegorical satire, and farce," while a driving rain drenched the magnificent tapestries at his door.:: Beckwith [1895] ::Exactly 348 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. Yet the 6th of January, 1482, was not a day of which history has preserved any record. There was nothing remarkable in the event which thus put in agitation so early in the morning the bells and the good people of Paris. It was neither an assault of the Picards or of the Burgundians, nor a shrine carried in procession, nor a revolt of scholars in the vigne de Laas, nor an entry of their most dread lord the king, nor a grand hanging up of thieves, male and female, at the Justice de Paris. Neither was it the sudden arrival, so frequent in the fifteenth century, of some ambassador and his train, all covered with lace and plumes. Scarcely two days had elapsed since the last cavalcade of this sort -- that of the Flemish envoys commissioned to conclude the marriage treaty between the Dauphin and Margaret of Flanders -- had made its entry into Paris, to the great annoyance of Monsieur le Cardinal de Bourbon, who, to please the king, had been obliged to give a gracious reception to that rude train of Flemish burgomasters, and entertain them, at his Hotel de Bourbon, with one of the rude dramatic exhibitions of the time, while a beating rain drenched the magnificent tapestry at his door. :: Bair [1956] :: On January 6, 1482, the people of Paris were awakened by the tumultuous clanging of all the bells in the city. Yet history has kept no memory of this date, for there was nothing notable about the event which set in motion the bells and citizens of Paris that morning. It was not an attack by the Picards or the Burgundians, a procession carrying the relics of some saint, an entry of "Our Most Dread Lord, Monsieur the King," nor even a good hanging of thieves. Nor was it the arrival of some foreign ambassador and his train, all decked out in lace and feathers, a common sight in the 15th century. It had been scarcely two days since the latest cavalcade of this kind had paraded through the streets: the delegation of Flemish ambassadors sent to conclude the marriage between the Dauphin and Marguerite of Flanders. To his great annoyance, Cardinal de Bourbon, in order to please the king, had been obliged to give a gracious reception to that uncouth band of Flemish burgomasters and entertain them in his mansion. [Yes, Bair omitted the driving rain drenching the tapestries! - Matvei]:: Unknown (though after you read this, it will be clear that the translator was Alan Smithee) [Wordsworth Classics edition - perhaps Cobb 1964?] ::One morning, 348 years, six months, and nineteen days ago, the Parisians were awakened by a grand peal from all the bells, within the triple enclosure of the City, the University, and the Town. Yet the 6th of January, 1482, was not a day of which history has preserved any record. There was nothing remarkable in the event that so early in the morning set in commotion the bells and the bourgeois of Paris. It was neither a sudden attack made by Picards or by Burgundians, nor a shrine carried in procession, nor a student fight in the city of Laas, nor the entry of 'our most dread lord the King', nor even a goodly stringing up of thieves, male and female, on the Place de la Justice. Nor it was it a sudden arrival, so common in the 15th century, of some ambassador and his train, all belaced and beplumed. Only about two days ago, indeed, the last cavalcade of this kind, Flemish envoys commissioned to conclude the marriage treaty between the young dauphin and Marguerite of Flanders, had made entry into Paris, to the great annoyance of Cardinal Bourbon. To please the king, his Eminence had undertaken to give gracious reception to the rough crowd of Flemish burgomasters, and to entertain them at his Hotel de Bourbon with a 'very fine morality, burletta, and farce,' whilst a beating rain was all the time drenching his magnificent tapestries at his portals. :: Sturrock [1978] ::348 years, six months, and nineteen days ago today, the people of Paris awoke to hear all the churchbells in the triple enclosure of the City, the University, and the Town in full voice. Not that 6 January 1482 is a day of which history has kept any record. There was nothing noteworthy about the event that had set the burgesses and bells of Paris in motion from early morning. It was not an assault by Picards or Burgundians, it was not a reliquary being carried in procession, it was not a student revolt in the vineyard of Laas, it was not an entry by 'our most redoubtable Lord Monsieur the King', it was not even a fine hanging of male and female thieves on the gallows of Paris. Nor was it the arrival, so frequent in the 15th century, of an embassy, in all its plumes and finery. It was barely two days since the last cavalcade of this kind, that of the Flemish ambassadors charged with concluding the marriage between the dauphin and Marguerite of Flanders, had made its entry into Paris, much to the annoyance of Monsieur the Cardinal of Bourbon, who, to please the king, had had to put on a smile for this uncouth mob of Flemish burgomasters and entertain them, in his Hotel de Bourbon, with a 'very fine morality, satire, and farce', as driving rain drenched the magnificent tapestries in his doorway.:: Krailsheimer [1993] ::Just three hundred and forty-eight years, six months, and nineteen days ago today Parisians woke to the sound of all the bells pealing out within the triple precinct of City, University, and Town. The sixth of January 1482 is not, however, a day commemorated by history. There was nothing very special about the event which thus launched the bells and the people of Paris into movement from early in the morning. It was not an attack by Picards or Burgundians, not a procession of relics, not a student revolt in the Laas vineyard, not ‘our aforesaid most dread sovereign Lord the King’ making his entry, not even the fine spectacle of men and women being hanged for robbery at the Palais de Justice in Paris. Nor was it the arrival of some embassy, a frequent occurrence in the fifteenth century, all bedizened and plumed. It was hardly two days since the last cavalcade of that kind, the Flemish embassy sent to conclude the marriage of the Dauphin and Marguerite of Flanders, had entered Paris, much to the annoyance of the Cardinal de Bourbon, who, to please the King, had had to put on a welcoming smile for this rustic bunch of Flemish burgomasters and treat them, in his Hotel de Bourbon, to ‘a very fine morality, satire, and farce’, while torrential rain soaked the magnificent tapestries hung at his door.:: Liu [2002] ::Three hundred and forty-eight years, six months, and nineteen days ago, the good people of Paris awoke to the sound of all the bells pealing in the three districts of the Cité, the Université, and the Ville. The sixth of January, 1482, was, however, a day that history does not remember. There was nothing worthy of note in the event that set in motion earlv in the morning both the bells and the citizens of Paris. It was neither an assault of the Picards nor one of the Burgundians, nor a procession bearing the shrine of some saint, nor a student revolt in the vineyard of Laas, nor an entry of “our most feared Lord, Monsieur the King,” nor even a lovely hanging of thieves of either sex before the Palace of justice of Paris. It was also not the arrival of some bedecked and befeathered ambassador, which was a frequent sight in the fifteenth century. It was barely two days since the last Cavalcade of this kind had been seen, as the Flemish ambassadors commissioned to conclude a marriage between the Dauphin and Margaret of Flanders had entered Paris, to the great annoyance of the Cardinal de Bourbon, who, in order to please the King, had been obliged to receive the entire rustic crew of Flemish burgomasters with a gracious smile, and to entertain them at his Hotel de Bourbon with “very elaborate morality plays, mummery, and farce,” while pouring rain drenched the magnificent tapestry at his door.:: Unknown [CreateSpace edition, 2013] ::348 years, six months, and nineteen days ago today, the Parisians awoke to the sound of all the bells in the triple circuit of the city, the university, and the town ringing a full peal. The 6th of January, 1842, is not, however, a day of which history has preserved the memory. There was nothing notable in the event which thus set the bells and the bourgeois of Paris in a ferment from early morning. It was neither an assault by the Picards nor the Burgundians, nor a hunt led along in procession, nor a revolt of scholars in the town of Laas, nor an entry of 'our much dread lord, monsieur the king', nor even a pretty hanging of male and female thieves by the courts of Paris. Neither was it the arrival, so frequent in the 15th century, of some plumed and bedizened embassy. It was barely two days since the last cavalcade of that nature, that of the Flemish ambassadors charged with concluding the marriage between the dauphin and Marguerite of Flanders, had made its entry into Paris, to the great annoyance of M. le Cardinal de Bourbon, who, for the sake of pleasing the king, had been obliged to assume an amiable mien towards this whole rustic rabble of Flemish burgomasters, and to regale them at his Hotel de Bourbon, with a very 'pretty morality, allegorical satire, and farce', while a driving rain drenched the magnificent tapestries at his door. :: and at long last ... ::Il y a aujourd’hui trois cent quarante-huit ans six mois et dix-neuf jours que les parisiens s’éveillèrent au bruit de toutes les cloches sonnant à grande volée dans la triple enceinte de la Cité, de l’Université et de la Ville.Ce n’est cependant pas un jour dont l’histoire ait gardé souvenir que le 6 janvier 1482. Rien de notable dans l’événement qui mettait ainsi en branle, dès le matin, les cloches et les bourgeois de Paris. Ce n’était ni un assaut de picards ou de bourguignons, ni une châsse menée en procession, ni une révolte d’écoliers dans la vigne de Laas, ni une entrée de notre dit très redouté seigneur monsieur le roi, ni même une belle pendaison de larrons et de larronnesses à la Justice de Paris. Ce n’était pas non plus la survenue, si fréquente au quinzième siècle, de quelque ambassade chamarrée et empanachée. Il y avait à peine deux jours que la dernière cavalcade de ce genre, celle des ambassadeurs flamands chargés de conclure le mariage entre le dauphin et Marguerite de Flandre, avait fait son entrée à Paris, au grand ennui de Monsieur le cardinal de Bourbon, qui, pour plaire au roi, avait dû faire bonne mine à toute cette rustique cohue de bourgmestres flamands, et les régaler, en son hôtel de Bourbon, d’une moult belle moralité, sotie et farce, tandis qu’une pluie battante inondait à sa porte ses magnifiques tapisseries.:: Matvei P [2014] ::It was on this day, three hundred and forty eight years, six months, and nineteen days since, that the people of Paris awoke to the din of all the bells ringing out a grand peal from the triple ramparts of the City, the University, and the Town. Yet the 6th of January, 1482, was not otherwise a day that history records. There was nothing remarkable in the event which, all that morning, had set the bells of Paris and her dwellers so astir. It was no invasion from Picardy or Burgundy, no solemn procession of relics to a shrine, no revolt of scholars from the vineyards of Laas, no entrance of our most dread lord the king, no fine hanging of thieves at the Palace of Justice. Nor was it the sudden arrival, so frequent in those days, of some ambassador, richly brocaded and beplumed. It had been two days since the last such parade -- that of the Flemish ambassadors tasked with confirming the marriage between the dauphin and Marguerite of Flanders -- had made its way to Paris, to the great annoyance of the cardinal of Bourbon, who, to please the king, had had to welcome this bumpkin lot of Flemish worthies to his estate and there regale them with mummeries and farces, as all the while a driving rain drenched the magnificent tapestries at his door.

Tyler

Amazing book! Loved the author's view on things. I really felt like I was getting glimpses of a great mind by reading this book. You might want to read it with a highlighter for good quotes. I'm reading Les Miserable right now and again I really like Victor Hugo's writing. There are times where he really goes into depth about history, or something and it is hard to read but if you can get past those parts you will thank yourself because he has some great writing.

Laurele

A tour de force--a melodrama--the stuff of opera--how can one classify Victor Hugo's biography of a work of architecture and of that work's soul, a deformed man with a beautiful heart? The author moves with such a quick, sure foot through the tale with its multiple characters, from beggar to king, that believe him we must, at least with some part of our being. It is not a work to analyze, but certainly one to live.

Ahmed

ببساطه احنا كبشر بنحتاج نمتلك الشفقه تجاه الغير الشفقه اللى ترضى غرورنا البشرى وترجع لنا جزء من انسانيتنا المفقودةوبراعة المبدع انه يكون من عالم مختلف وثقافة مختلفةوزمن مغاير لزمنك ويقدر يأثر عليك بالقدر الكافى.فيكتور هوجو مش محتاج ان حد يمدح فيه فهو من القامات الثابته فى مجال الادب ومن البشر اللى يسجلوا ف قائمة الارقى على الاطلاقواحدب نوتردامهى احب اعماله الى قلبى واكثرها تأثيرا عمل لا تستطيع ان تنسى اول مره قرأته فيه لانك ببساطه كيد بكيت فيه بدموعتسلسل الاحداث عبقرى ونهايته المأساويه اعطت للعمل خلود واسطوريه لا تقارن

Madeline

Okay, I'm glad I read this book, if only to find out just how badly Disney ruined the story for the sake of their embarassing excuse for a film. (the horrendous straight-to-video sequel, which I fortunately only saw previews for, will not be spoken of at all.) Victor Hugo has a gift for the most ungodly depressing stories, but he writes very well when he's not rambling pointlessly to stretch out his page count. But I can't bring myself to give this four stars, and for one simple reason: with the exception of Quasimodo and Esmeralda, every single character in this book is an insufferable dickhead. Frollo, obviously, deserves to be fed to sharks simply for the mind-boggling levels of creepiness he manages to achieve over the course of the story. Phoebus is even more of a fratboy asshole that I'd previously thought, and the way he decides to seduce Esmeralda despite the fact that she's the Gypsy equivalent of a vestal virgin made me want to teleport into the story so I could kick him in the nuts. Frollo's younger brother Jehan is a relatively minor character, but he gets mentioned because in every single scene he appears in, he's constantly yammering away and trying to be clever and witty, the result being that he makes Jar Jar Binks seem terribly endearing in comparison. And Gringoire. I had such hope for him. He starts out promising, but then once Esmeralda gets arrested all he can worry about is the stupid goat, because I guess he thinks she's cuter than his fucking wife who saved his fucking life. When he joins Frollo to get Esmeralda out of the catherdral, he leaves the sixteen-year-old girl with Pastor Pedo McCreepy, and chooses to save the goat. The fucking goat. One final word of advice: skip the chapter entitled "A Bird's Eye View of Paris." It's thirty pages of pointless babbling about what Paris looks like from Notre Dame, and it is impossible to read all the way through without wanting to stab yourself in the eyes with the first sharp object you can reach.I know what you're saying - "Thirty pages? Pfft, that's nothing, I can get through that, I read Ulysses." First of all: you did not. Second: no, you cannot get through these thirty pages. "Mind-numbing" does not do it justice. It is pointless. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Amy

When I was in middle school, I'd watched and enjoyed the Disney animated version of the story, totally oblivious to how absolutely horribly Disney had "cleaned it up" for the children. Then one day, on the word of the day mailing list I'm subscribed to, one of the words had an example on its use pulled from the book. Just that one except was enough to totally floor me, I knew Disney really frelled with things, but I never remembered it being so extreme before. I had for some reason assumed the movie was more accurate than others because it was actually kinda dark for a Disney animation.This revelation in hand, I went and found myself an unabridged copy of the book to read. I had assumed that since Disney chopped it up so horribly and changed things so drastically, I couldn't trust anyone to edit the story down, and didn't know what I was getting in for. From the start, I was noticing tons of things that Disney either edited out all together or drastically changed. I do think that if I give it another read, I will consider picking up an abridged copy, just because all the detailed descriptions of Paris and its architecture was just a little bit more than I could happily handle. Between slogging through that, the actual storyline was good.The characters were interesting, it was easy to get frustrated with the ones you like because of the stupid mistakes they make, it's also easy to cheer with them if they manage something good. The book is dark, the ending sad, but I still highly recommend it. Don't be ashamed to grab the abridged version if you don't think you can handle chapters of nothing but geography and architecture in the city of Paris though, it was the only thing I regretted about reading the book.

Riley

This book would be a five star one if not for the fact that Victor Hugo insists upon describing everything and everyone in tedious detail, even, and perhaps most especially, when it is entirely irrelevant. I know part of it is probably just the style from back then, so I forgave it a bit. Also having read Les Miserables, I was already prepared for a bunch of details I could just skip in the writing. And skip them I did. As for the actual story, Hugo did not fail to impress me. While it was not, perhaps, as good as Les Miserables, the plot was still good, and the characters (for the most part) very well put together. Disney totally butchered this book, by the way. I tried watching the movie while reading this, and it was like two different stories. Frollo is not the definate "bad guy". Actually, I thought he was the best character, if not a bit weird and obsessive. All the characters are ambiguous. One could easily say that anyone was the villian, and all the others victims. Personally, Pheobus seemed like the villian to me. He was just a player, for lack of a better word.It would have better if Esmeralda had loved Quasimodo, Gringoire, or even Frollo. But as always, the pretty face got chosen before heart, brains, or passion. That's probably why this book is so good. In reality, pretty girls don't typically choose men that are best for them over the ones who are good looking. Which is a shame for all of them, because the story ultimately ends in sadness for all but of course, the hot guy(who deserves to fall off the roof of Notre-Dame or get hanged more than anyone) loses nothing. A lot of people will hate this book because of it's reality and bitterness, but I enjoyed it because of the fact. I have a host of new characters to enjoy (Jehan, Claude Frollo, Gringoire), and another very good classic under my belt. One thing suprised me, I didn't like Quasimodo as much as I anticipated. He seemed like someone I'd enjoy, and I didn't particularly. All in all, a good book. Just skip some of the descriptions, or get an abriged version, and you'll be fine.

Thomas Johnson

This is quite a tome, and it requires both patience and time to get through. Hugo is prone to digressions, some of which stretch on for at least fifteen pages (I was listening to an audiobook recording, and a number of the digressions went on for at least fifteen minutes). The lengthy asides are devoted to describing in elaborate detail the architecture and geography of fifteenth-century Paris, background which imparts the novel with a deeper sense of authenticity than it would have possessed had Hugo kept his narrative focus solely on his characters. Nevertheless, this reader was left wishing Hugo had refrained from sidelining them for as many pages as he did in order to indulge in his love for what he evidently believed to be the height of Parisian artistry.Though these asides – educational as they are – can be tiresome, Hugo’s characters ultimately take precedence in the novel, and it is their struggles which impart the novel with lasting value as a story. His three main characters – Quasimodo, Esmeralda, and the Archdeacon Frollo – are not always sympathetic, but are consistently intriguing because they are motivated by the primal human emotions of lust and love. Through them, Hugo effectively shows the harm which one acting on lust can bring to a person who pursues love at any cost.Quasimodo, the eponymous hunchback, is a character who pursues love at any cost – a love for Esmeralda which is especially selfless because he understands that she will always be repulsed by his deformities. Quasmodo’s devotedness to Esmeralda coupled with his inability to connect to the world around him makes him easily sympathetic, despite his occasionally violent behavior. However, it is this same isolation which make him the least engaging of the three main characters. While Esmeralda and Frollo can verbally spar and passionately express their emotions to one another, Quasimodo can barely communicate and remains in the cathedral throughout most of the story while the action continues below him. He is always compelling when he enters into the main action of the story, at which points he validates his status as the titular character by drastically altering the plot, but it is difficult to feel as strongly about his fate as though characters whom are continually at the reader’s attention.Esmeralda falls in to that category, as she is a character who elicits a strong emotional reaction from the reader, though not necessarily a positive one. Unlike Quasimodo, Esmeralda cannot accept that the person whom she loves – the captain Phoebus who is entirely driven by lust – does not love her. It is this stubbornness which enables the reader to empathize with her while also becoming incredibly frustrated by her. Her cries of “Phoebus! Oh where is my Phoebus?” can become annoying, because they indicate a desperation which is both understandable and uncomfortable to read about. Some might, perhaps rightly, accuse Hugo of sexism in his portrayal of a woman who becomes utterly dependent on a man’s approval and acceptance, but her plight also speaks truthfully to the debilitating power love can have over an person, and to the larger damage a casually cruel person like Phoebus can unknowingly inflict.Archdeacon Frollo’s cruelty, like Phoebus’s, is borne out of lust, but Frollo is more cognizant of the consequences of his choices than is Phoebus. He is arguably the most fascinating character in the novel because he, like Esmeralda, struggles with desire – in his case, a lustful desire – for a person who does not love him, but whereas she only had to fear for her temporal life, he is fully believes that pursuing his feelings will lead him to spiritual damnation. He is given the choice between selfless devotion and self-gratification, and chooses the latter in spite of the consequences to himself and everyone else. Though in this he becomes objectively despicable, the reader continues to be intrigued by and perhaps to feel a remnant of sympathy for him, because he is tormented by such an inescapable and universal emotion as lust. The complexity of his inner torment is arguably the strongest aspect of the novel, and a great example of how good writing can depict a believable villain.While the conflict between love and lust is well depicted, Hugo must also be praised for injecting his story with enough humor to keep the story from becoming melodramatic. The narrator’s occasionally wry tone and mockery of Parisian government provides the opportunity for laughter, though some of the history he references may seem obscure to the modern reader. The character of Gringoire, the pitiful philosopher who tends to value his survival over anything else, is able to provide a steady stream of sarcasm throughout much of the story, as he is free of most of the personal attachments that plague the other characters.By the end of the book, the reader may think he is wisest character of all, because Hugo does not allow those of his characters who love much happiness. In this, his depiction of love could be said to be one-sided, if not untruthful. He presents a powerful depiction of lust foiling love, without accounting for the possibility that in some cases, love might just come out the winner.

Ben

First of all, forget everything you think you know about this story based on Disney films or other adaptions. This is a horrid account of death in the stylings of Shakespearean tragedy offset by brilliant and imaginitive prose.Victor Hugo craftily employs character contrast, metaphor, split narrative, etc to render "Hunchback". Without going to much into detail, I will say these are merely devices by which Hugo drafts the misunderstandings and tragedy that would ensue through the story: Esmerelda misunderstanding Phoebus' "love" and being wrongly accused for a death that did not happen, Claude Frollo misunderstanding how to express love and how to fill the void left in its absence, the parentage of several characters, the King's orders without proper information, etc.Quasimodo seems to be the only character in tune with his own quality, as ugly and mis-shapen as he is. And thusly, like the great cathedral herself, he watches this all unfold and reacts in a fairly dumb, child-like fashion. The final events of the story could have all been avoided had certain social or cultural qualities been eliminated, which is, I'm sure, Hugo's point.It is a fantastic read, but be warned - you will not put the book down feeling good about...anything.

Chelsea

ok... i'll be honest. i hated the first 150 pages and had i not been reading it for book club i would have abandoned it. about 300 pages in i started to think it was okay. around 400... i really liked it. at page 450 i couldn't put it down. i stayed up till 2am last night finishing it. so... is it worth the painful first half to get to the second half? now that i've done it... i would say so. victor hugo could have used a good editor. pages and pages of diatribes and descriptions that made me feel like pulling my hair out - but the story is chilling and wonderful. i understood after reading it why there are so many abridged versions. :) of course its a piece out of history... melodramatic and predictable... but one expects that. all in all... i felt satisfied going to bed last night having read such a great book. still... next time i read Hugo... i will be prepared for a big front end investment.

Melissa Rudder

I have officially been wooed by nineteenth century French literature. First Dumas and now this. I just finished reading Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, and it was fantastic. The characters, the themes, the literary structures… Ahhh… *swoons*Before I proclaim my love affair with Victor Hugo, I have to mention some negatives. First off: very, very difficult book to get into. I struggled through at least the first hundred pages, and I’m not that hard to please. Secondly, up until this point, I had always thought that abridged novels were ridiculous. How could the editors take parts out and still have the story make sense? Upon reading unabridged Hugo, I understand. The man had complete chapters devoted to discussing the history of Paris or the history of the cathedral, and while I admit that it was a clever way to show off his knowledge and spread his political ideals, it was not what I bargained for.The novel would have been more accurately titled “The Archdeacon of Notre Dame.” (Frollo was not a judge as in the Disney movie. They just tried to secularize him to an equivalent position.) I argue that Frollo was the protagonist. The story spent most of its time with him: his internal struggle, his plotting. And his character was fantastic! He was underhanded, but I pitied him. He was pathetic, but I feared him. He did evil, but I loved him. Frollo was not simply a powerful villain; he was a dynamic, complex character that, at times, the reader could really sympathize with.The other characters in the novel were equally impressive. Esmeralda’s sweet, strong innocence (she was only sixteen) and foolish devotion to Phoebus is heart wrenching. Quasimodo’s strength of body and heart is awe-inspiring. Phoebus’ selfish arrogance is antagonizing. The minor characters, from the old heckling woman, to the foolish young Frollo (the Archdeacon’s brother), to the rambling philosopher, create a motley portrait of a fascinating world.Hugo’s occasional comments on society cannot go unnoted. I especially enjoyed one episode where Quasimodo was being questioned in court. In the novel, unlike in the Disney movie, Quasimodo is deaf, so, as he is being questioned, he tries to anticipate the judge’s questions and answer them accordingly. The irony is that the judge was doing the same thing. Hugo created a deaf judge. Beautiful. Anyway, a funny scene ensued, and Hugo made his point.The best part of the story (maybe, there were just so many good ones) was likely Hugo’s portrayal of love. Love was everywhere: the inexplicable love Frollo had for his useless brother, the love that caused Frollo to accept Quasimodo, the love that broke a mother’s heart at the loss of her daughter, the faithful love that sent Quasimodo to Frollo with his tail between his legs… But the most stunning and provocative of all was the comparison of the three men who “loved” Esmeralda: one man, “loving” her so much that he wanted to possess her; one man, “loving” her for the moment, until another girl came along; and one man “loving” her so much that she went before everything: before his desire to be with her, before his desire to have her, before his own desire to live. *swoons again* Awesome book…When I started reading it, everyone felt the need to warn me that it didn’t end like the Disney movie. I was afraid. I was scared that after stringing me along, Hugo was going to kill it at the end. Don’t worry: he doesn’t. The end is moving and beautiful and fitting and so what if it’s not Disney: it’s great.And, to further please the happy reader, there were a million good quotes. Here you go:“Oh, love!... That is to be two, and yet one. A man and a woman joined, as into an ange; that is heaven!” (Esmeralda).“Great edifices, like great mountains, are the work of the ages.”“He found that man needs affection, that life without a warming love is but a dry wheel, creaking and grating as it turns.”“Alas! The small thing shall bring down the great things; a tooth triumphs over a whole carcass. The rat of the Nile destroys the crocodile, the swordfish kills the whale; the book will kill the edifice” (Frollo).“It is to this setting sun that we look for a new dawn.”“Spira, spera.” (“Breathe, hope.”)“For love is like a tree; it grows of itself; it send its roots deep into our being, and often continues to grow green over a heart in ruins.”“What man orders… Circumstances disorder” (Frollo).“Everyone knows that great wealth is not acquired by letters, and that the most accomplished writers have not always a warm hearth in wintertime. The lawyers take all the wheat for themselves and leave nothing by chaff for the other learned professions” (Gringoire, the philosopher). “A lighted candle never attracts one gnat only.”“That’s life… It’s often our best friends who make us fall” (Gringoire).“The human voice is music to the human ear.”Just a wonderful sample of the jewels contained in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. The novel was difficult, but well worth the effort. I’m just sitting here in awe of it. I can’t write any more.

Gaijinmama

Well, first and foremost, this is not a Disney movie!The title is a misnomer. The original French title is Notre Dame de Paris and the cathedral itself is the star of this show. The unfortunate hunchback is in maybea third of the scenes.I actually wept at the end of Hugo's Les Misérables so I was expecting the same level of brilliance and connection. It didn't happen. This one was sad and violent and just so terribly unfair, but the characters just did not touch my heart the way Jean Valjean did. In fact, more than anything, I found myself cheering for Djali the goat!That said, Hugo's detailed descriptions of his beloved city, the weird Fellini-esque Court of Miracles, and the cynical, verbose, always self-preserving Gringoire the starving poet, make this book worth reading.

Bruce

When approaching and reading this fascinating narrative, the reader is well advised to try and forget the silly Walt Disney film based on the story. This work is far more finely wrought, more complex and subtle, more emotionally wrenching and profound than that ridiculous movie suggests. As with Les Miserables, attempts to dramatize such a long and multi-plotted work inevitably fall short and are best forgotten when one turns to the books themselves.Many historical personages are mentioned in this novel. It is not necessary to know who these people were, but it does enhance the verisimilitude of the narrative and adds to the interest. The work is after all an historical novel, and some knowledge of the times in France is helpful. The dedicated reader might want to review French history in 1482, during the reign of Louis XI, to get a flavor of what the story is about. Few authors have been able so evocatively to conjure a sense of place as Hugo’s late 15th century Paris (many places are very recognizable to today’s reader who has been to Paris and walked its streets). Paris is a primary character in this narrative, and at its center is its omphalos, the Cathedral of Notre Dame in all its shabby grandeur, its mouldering deterioration (Hugo’s description of the cathedral apparently did lead to its restoration later in the 19th century). Everything revolves around the building and its site, and it is an orienting and a brooding presence throughout the novel. The French title for this book is, of course, Notre-Dame de Paris.Hugo has long interpolated chapters in which the author speaks directly to the reader, commenting not only on the action to date but also digressing to speak more philosophically about human trends and human progress, as in a chapter where he discusses the gradual demise of the preeminence of architecture as the mode of human expression and teaching and the rise of literature as the printing press appeared. This transition and transformation was both the product of and also enabled the rise of the democratic and Enlightenment spirit as power and control shifted from the Church and the aristocracy to the populace. Some readers might be impatient with these interruptions; I found them fascinating not only as philosophical ruminations but as reflections of the ideas emerging and coalescing in the early 19th century, an example of the philosophy of ideas continually mutates and evolves. Hugo’s exquisite sense of pace and timing, alternating chapters in such a way that the reader cannot turn aside but submits to the author’s choice of topic and emotional tenor as the strands of the plot unravel one by one, enhances rather than detracts from the novel.The complex plot, which I will not attempt to summarize here, involves the gypsy girl Esmeraldo, the unworthy soldier whom she loves, Captain Phoebus, and the two men who love her, the complex and ultimately maleficent Archdeacon Claude Frollo and the deformed Notre Dame bellringer Quasimodo. Suffice it to say, almost everyone comes to a bad end.Hugo is capable of including almost unnoticed details throughout the course of the text that symbolically tie the narrative together. A single example is Esmeralda’s tiny embroidered infant shoe at the beginning of her life of joy and hope, and the buskin of torture that is the emblem of her fate and death. On the other hand, his control of dialogue, sometimes astute and skillful, can also falter badly. The love talk between Esmeralda and Phoebus sounds stereotyped and stilted, symptomatic of times in the narrative when I felt the tone was unconvincing. Many of his dialogues are weak, out of character for the individuals into whose mouths he puts them or unconvincing in the context of the immediate action.Psychologically he can be more astute, for example in the development of Frollo’s character, a case of asceticism trying to overcompensate for the attractiveness of sensuality. Why is sex always so demonized? Is it due to the apparent loss of control that it produces? Humankind has difficulty letting go, and yet letting go is what ultimately each of us must do, for that is what aging and death cause and require. It is no wonder that the French call orgasm “la petite mort.” In Frollo, Hugo paints a picture of progressive and total alienation from the self, despair that utterly unhinges reason, the sickness unto death. Is Hugo’s depiction essential anti-clerical or can it be generalized beyond that? Certainly the latter.Hugo, in his descriptions and his dialogue, can be frenzied and impassioned, histrionic and wrenching. He can be psychological penetrating and astute, and he can be both subtle and moving. He can also sometimes be maudlin and almost silly, excessive in the detail and the imaginativeness of his descriptions of place, emotions, and behavior. At such times he runs the risk of losing the reader, of causing the reader to recoil from engagement with the narrative and to respond with skepticism. It is a fine line that he treads, and sometimes he steps over it, breaking the reader’s willing suspension of disbelief. Is this always the danger in Gothic historical romance novels? It need not be, I think, but the risk is real.The narrative is an exploration of love, love in all its varieties and dimensions, its tenderness and loveliness, its anguish and extremes and perversions. Each kind of love is personified in one of the story’s main characters, and it is interesting to see such a global emotion or impulse dissected, examined in one dimension or another. Is any character, however, complete? Does any contain all these dimensions within himself or herself in the way each of us truly does? Or does each character simply present himself or herself as a caricature in this novel, rather than as a rounded personality? Perhaps Claude Frollo is the most fully realized character, the character most psychologically complex, the character who develops most dramatically during the narrative.Perhaps even more than love, Hugo’s obsession is with Fate, the Ananká he describes having seen written on an interior wall of Notre Dame. Writing at a time when his political hopes have been disappointed, he turns to the writing of literature to express his understanding of life, its twists and turns. His characters play out this theme, almost all tragically. In this novel, Hugo has woven a tale that is compelling, not a flawless work but one that engages the reader and is hard to forget.

David

Talk about being seduced by a classic. I was really not enjoying this book at first, but slowly it grew on me. Notre-Dame de Paris, or "The Hunchback of Notre-Dame" only becomes exciting in the last third of the book or so, but the first few hundred pages are a long, slow build-up that demands your patience and attention, and gradually you will realize what a masterful writer Victor Hugo was. The main character is not Quasimodo, nor is it Esmeralda, the beautiful gypsy dancer: it is the cathedral of Notre-Dame, which at the time Hugo wrote this novel was considered something of a medieval eyesore by the citizens of Paris. Hugo's book is part grand historical epic in the tradition of Sir Walter Scott, whom he admired, and part plea to his contemporaries to preserve the great architectural masterpieces of Paris.But you don't need that background to be sucked into the story. We are given a relatively modest cast of characters (there are probably a few dozen named characters, but less than a dozen have really important roles) and a few main plot threads which Hugo skillfully couples together. At the heart of the story is a priest, Dom Claude Frollo, whose passion is ignited when he first sees Esmeralda, a gypsy dancer, and he becomes so obsessed with her that he sends his minion, Quasimodo, a deaf and deformed hunchback whom he took in as a foundling, to abduct her. Quasimodo is foiled by Captain Phoebus of the King's Guard, who thus becomes a shining knight in Esmeralda's eyes. She is so taken with the handsome, dashing captain that even though he betrays and neglects her again and again throughout the novel, she remains hopelessly smitten with him to the end.Esmeralda is by turns kind and sweet and shallow and foolish; unlike some of the film versions, she's actually a young maiden of sixteen in the book. Quasimodo is hated and feared by the citizenry, which has turned him into a bitter misanthrope himself, but Esmeralda's kindness seduces him, too. However, this is no Beauty and the Beast. The entire novel is a story of misplaced and mixed loyalties, betrayals, ironies, and fatal misunderstandings. Besides commenting on history and architecture, Hugo also makes some sharp points about human cruelty and injustice, barbaric punishments, and the death penalty. He uses a surprising amount of humor, especially in the character of Pierre Gringoire, the poet-turned-Truand and Esmeralda's erstwhile husband of the broken crock. Captain Phoebus is also something of a comic figure, though I disliked him so much I never found him very funny, but the most comical figure of all is Louis XI, a king for whom Hugo paints a most unflattering portrait, even though he only appears personally in one chapter to set in motion the fatal events of the climax.I can't do this book justice in such a short review, but suffice it to say that I loved it, and that it is well worth wading through Hugo's occasional long expository passages (entire chapters about medieval architecture and long dialogs about taxes and speeches that go on for pages!) and seemingly unconnected subplots that go off on tangents. It all fits together in the end and is a great reward for the patient reader, who will be swept away by this powerful, passionate, sometimes grotesque and tragic novel. This was one of my biggest surprises of the year in my recent resolution to read more classics: I think The Hunchback of Notre-Dame has become one of my favorites. I didn't expect to love it like I love some British literature, but Victor Hugo is now rivaling Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, and Anthony Trollope for my literary affections.A long, slow read but easily a 5-star one. Do not settle for a movie version - they all suck compared to the book.

Nemo

** spoiler alert ** Historian, Philosopher and PoetIf I can quote one passage from Hugo's books that best reflects the author, the focus of his passions, the style and architecture of his novels, it would be the following:"There he was, serious, motionless, absorbed - all eye, all ear, all thought. All Paris was at his feet, with the thousand spires of its buildings, and its circular horizon of gentle hills, with its river winding beneath its bridges and its people pouring through its streets, its cloud of smoke, and its mountain chain of roofs crowding close to Notre-Dame with their double slopes of mail. In this whole city the Archdeacon's eye sought just one point of the pavement, the Place du Parvis, and among the whole multitude just one figure, the Bohemian."Hugo referred to himself as a historian, philosopher and poet. He studied history, contemplated human destiny, and expressed his ideals through his writings, i.e., through the struggles and voices of his heroes, for whom he prepared the whole world and history as the grand stage.Ecce Notre-Dame, Ecce HomoThis book can be divided into four Parts, like four movements of a symphony, with mini climaxes in the second and third movement.Part I: Festival of Fools (Book I-II)Hugo introduces all the main characters in the dramatic setting of a festival in the streets of Paris in 1482. It's in the late Middle Ages, a year before the birth of Martin Luther. One of the characters is a poet, who is the thread that runs through the entire novel and at whose expense Hugo showcases his self-deprecating humor.Part II: Ecce Notre-Dame (Book III-V)The view zooms out, so to speak, and Hugo describes a bird's-eye view of Paris and its history as immortalized in its architecture, the centerpiece of which is Notre-Dame de Paris. Here is the most beautiful chapter of the book, a symphonic description of the life and architecture of Paris.To paraphrase Hugo, Notre-Dame is the expression of the world. Its architecture, a transition from Roman style with its low circular arches and heavy pillars to Gothic style with its pointed arches, is a reflection of the progress of society since ancient times, from unity and hierarchy to democracy and freedom.Hugo proclaims, "Architecture is dead". Architecture, as a means of expression for mankind, will be replaced by printing, which is cheaper and more convenient, and therefore provides more freedom of expression. If Hugo were alive today, he would perhaps predict that digital media would replace their analog counterpart, e.g. electronic books would replace printed books, and something like Wikipedia would be the new Tower of Babel.Part III: Ecce Homo (Book VI-VIII)After setting the historical stage, Hugo zooms in on the main character of the novel, i.e., the human face of Notre-Dame, the Archdeacon and the bell-ringer. To me, they are one person. The physical deformity of the latter illustrates the spiritual deformity of the former, and the residual tender loving-kindness in the former is magnified in the latter. (If I might add, a similar device is used in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and The Picture of Dorian Gray.)The conflict is unrequited love. The Archdeacon's passionate but deadly lust for the Bohemian girl, the bell-ringer's tender but primitive devotion to her, and the Bohemian girl's love for her idol. In contrast, there are also exhilarating moments when love triumphs over lust, over baseness and over the condemning laws. When the ugly and pitiable becomes august and beautiful.However, there is a deeper meaning underneath the conflict of unrequited love, and that's the reason, I think, why the book was once banned by the Catholic Church.The Archdeacon represents the Church, more specifically, the religious hierarchy and laws of the Church, and the Bohemian girl, the unbeliever. The Church pursues the unbeliever, but because the religious laws bring nothing but shackles and death, the latter shrinks from him and pursues her own idol, Phoebus "the Sun god". This is made poignantly manifest when the Archdeacon claimed that only he could save the Bohemian from death and demanded her to choose between him and gallows, and she chose the latter.Part IV: The Siege of Notre-Dame (Book IX-XI)Finally, the view returns to the bigger stage, when the tension between hierarchy and freedom mingled with lawlessness becomes unbearable, there broke out the siege of the Notre-Dame, a figure of the siege of the Bastille. Ironically, the siege was instigated by the Archdeacon himself and the poet, signifying that revolts against the Church have their roots in its own corruption through lust. Alas, there was no freedom or deliverance except through death.

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