The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

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Wordsworth Editions, 1993 - Fiction - 397 pages
2 Reviews
The story and characters in Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre-Dame have resonated with succeeding generations since its publication in 1831. It has tempted filmmakers, and most recently animators, who have exploited its dramatic content to good effect but have inevitably lost some of the grays that make the original text so compelling.
From Victor Hugo's flamboyant imagination came Quasimodo, the grotesque bell ringer; La Esmeralda, the sensuous gypsy dancer; and the haunted archdeacon Claude Frollo. Hugo set his epic tale in the Paris of 1482 under Louis XI and meticulously re-created the
day-to-day life of its highest and lowest inhabitants. Written at a time of perennial political upheaval in France, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame is the product of an emerging democratic sensibility and prefigures the teeming masterpiece Les Misé rables, which Hugo would write thirty years later.
He made the cathedral the centerpiece of the novel and called it Notre-Dame de Paris. (It received its popular English title at the time of its second translation in 1833.) Hugo wrote that his inspiration came from a carving of the word "fatality" in Greek that he had found in the cathedral. The inscription had been eradicated by the time the book was published, and Hugo feared that Notre-Dame's Gothic splendor might soon be lost to the contemporary fad for tearing down old buildings. Notre-Dame has survived as one of the great monuments of Paris, and Hugo's novel is a fitting celebration of it, a popular classic that is proving to be just as enduring.
The Modern Library has played a significant role in American cultural life for the better part of a century. The series was foundedin 1917 by the publishers Boni and Liveright and eight years later acquired by Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer. It provided the foun-dation for their next publishing venture, Random House. The Modern Library has been a staple of the American book trade, providing readers with affordable hard-bound editions of important works of liter-ature and thought. For the Modern Library's seventy-fifth anniversary, Random House redesigned the series, restoring as its emblem the running torchbearer created by Lucian Bernhard in 1925 and refurbishing jackets, bindings, and type, as well as inau-gurating a new program of selecting titles. The Modern Library continues to provide the world's best books, at the best prices.
Jacket paintings: (front) detail from Notre Dame by Paul Lecomte, courtesy of David David Gallery/SuperStock; (spine) Victor Hugo, 1833, by Louis Boulanger of Giraudon/Art Resource, N.Y.

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User Review  - Caroline Laplue -

A thoroughly amusing book: beginning the book with very limited familiarity allowed a very open mind, and I found myself surprised at all places that I had to laugh out loud. While it was not all ... Read full review

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During the Festival of Fools in Paris in 1482, Quasimodo, the hunchback of Notre Dame, was elected the Pope of Fools for the ugliest person in Paris. They put him on the throne and he was carried around Paris by the rude mob. The poet, Pierre Gringoire, tries to get the crowd to watch his play instead of watching the parade. Archdeacon Claude Frollo appears and stops the parade and he orders Quasimodo back to Notre Dame with him. Looking for something to eat, Gringoire admires the hotness of La Esmeralda, who is a gypsy street dancer, and decides to follow her home. After walking some, she is suddenly attacked by Quasimodo and Frollo. Gringoire rushes to help her, but he is knocked out by Quasimodo as Frollo runs away with her. The King's Archers, who is led by Phoebus de Chateaupers, arrived just in time to capture the hunchback. Later that night, a group of beggars and thieves are about to hang Gringoire, But La Esmeralda comes and offers to save his life by "marrying" him for only four years.
The next day, Quasimodo was put on trial and sentenced to two hours of torture in the Place de Grève. He suffers from both the pain of being stretched and pulled apart and being publicly humiliated by the crowd of people, who hate him for his ugliness. He begs for water, but no one answers him until La Esmeralda comes and brings him something to drink. Nearby, a recluse called Sister Gudule, screams at La Esmeralda for being a "gypsy child- thief" and blames her for her daughter's kidnapping fifteen years earlier. A few months later, La Esmeralda is dancing in front of Notre Dame and Phoebus calls her over to him. She has fallen in love with him and blushes, when he asks her to meet him later that night. Frollo watches them from the top of Notre Dame and becomes insanely jealous and pyscho of Phoebus. His obsessive lust for La Esmeralda has made him rethink God, study alchemy and black magic. In his secret cell at Notre Dame, he plans to trap La Esmeralda. Later that night, he follows Phoebus to his tryst with La Esmeralda and stabs Phoebus repeatedly. He escapes and La Esmeralda is captured by the King's guard.
After being tortured at her trial, La Esmeralda falsely confesses to killing Phoebus and being a witch. She is sentenced to death by getting hung in the Place de Grève. Frollo tells her his love for her while visiting her in jail. He begs her to love him and show him some pettiness basically, but she calls him a "goblin-monk" and a murderer, declining having anything to do with him. Before her execution, La Esmeralda is humiliated in public in front of Notre Dame. Looking across the square, she suddenly sees Phoebus and calls out his name. He actually survived the murder attempt but doesn't want anyone to know that he was injured. He turns away from La Esmeralda and enters the house of his bride-to-be. Just then, Quasimodo swings down on a rope from Notre Dame and carries her back to the cathedral, crying out "Sanctuary!". He had fallen in love with her, when she brought him water, and he had been planning her escape all along.
La Esmeralda is safe from execution, just as long as she stays inside the cathedral. At first, she finds it hard to even look at Quasimodo, but they somehow manage to form a friendship. Even though he is deaf, he enjoys being around her when she sings. Meanwhile, a group of vagabonds tries to save La Esmeralda after hearing that Parliament has ordered that she be taken away from Notre Dame. But when Quasimodo sees them attack the cathedral, he thinks they have come to kill La Esmeralda, and he fends them the best he can, killing a great bit of them. Frollo has used the attack as a cover up to sneak La Esmeralda out of the cathedral. He offers her two choices. She can either say that she loves him or she can be hanged. She demands to be hung, and he leaves her with Sister Gudule. They discover that they are mother and daughter. Gudule tries to protect La Esmeralda, but it is too late.
Back at Notre Dame, Quasimodo goes to the top of


Pierre Gringoire
Master Jacques Coppenole
Kisses for Blows
Tfo Danger of Following a Pretty Woman in the Streets
The Broken Jug
Showing that a Priest and a Philosopher are Different
The Bells
The Two Men in Black
7fo Spectre Monk
The Advantage of Windows Overlooking the River
Continuation of the Crown Changed into a Withered
Leave All Hope Behind

A Wedding Night
Immanis Pecoris Gustos Immanior Ipse
The Dog and his Master
Claude Frollo
One Shall Destroy the Other
The Rat Hole
A Tear for a Drop of Water
End of the Story of the Cake
The Mother
Hunchbacked Oneeyed Lame
Earthenware and Crystal
TAe Key ofhe Red Door
Turn Vagabond
An Awkward Friend
The Retreat in which Monsieur Louis of France says
The Password
Tie Beautiful Creature Clad in White
The Marriage of Phoebus

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About the author (1993)

Victor Hugo, born in 1802 in Besancon, France, was one of the leading French authors of the Romantic movement. Although he originally studied law, Hugo dreamed of writing. In 1819, he founded the journal Conservateur Litteraire as an outlet for his dream and soon produced volumes of poetry, plays, and novels. Hugo's most notable works include The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Miserables. Published in 1831, The Hunchback of Notre Dame appealed to the public's consciousness concerning society and the treatment of outcasts. It was with the publication of Les Miserables in 1862 that Hugo gained international fame. Another tale of outcasts, this story follows the life of Jean Valjean, a man imprisoned for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread. After his release from prison, Valjean is hunted by the policeman Javert. Full of intricate details, the story also describes the famous Battle of Waterloo. (Hugo's father had been an officer in Napoleon's army.) Both of these works have been adapted for the stage and screen many times. These adaptations include the Walt Disney version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and the award-winning musical sensation Les Miserables. In addition to his literary career, Hugo also held political office. In 1841, he was elected to the Academie Francaise. After political upheaval in 1851, he was exiled and remained so until 1870. He returned to Paris in 1871 and was elected to the National Assembly, though he soon resigned. During Hugo's life, he had suffered devastating losses, including the death of his daughter in 1843, his wife in 1868, one son in 1871, and another in 1873. He lived out the rest of his life as a national hero and symbol of excellence, dying on May 22, 1888.

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