The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

The Hunchback of Notre-Dame


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Hugo's grand medieval melodrama tells the story of the beautiful Esmeralda, a gypsy girl loved by three men: Archdeacon Frollo, his adoptive son Quasimodo, bell-ringer of Notre-Dame cathedral, and Captain Phoebus. Falsely accused of trying to murder Phoebus, who attempts to rape her, Esmeralda is sentenced to death and rescued from the gallows by Quasimodo who defends her to the last.

The subject of many adaptations for stage and screen, this remains perhaps one of the most romantic yet gripping stories ever told.
The Hunchback of Notre-Dame is an epic of a whole people, with a cast of characters that ranges from the king of France to the beggars who inhabit the Parisian sewers, and at their center the massive figure—a character in itself—of the great Cathedral of Notre-Dame. Quasimodo, the deformed bell-ringer of the cathedral; his foster father, the tormented archdeacon Frollo; and the beautiful and doomed Gypsy Esmeralda are caught up in a tragedy that still speaks clearly to us of revolution and social strife, of destiny and free will, and of love and loss.

The only widely available hardcover edition of Victor Hugo's masterful historical novel of medieval Paris—one of the most beloved of world classics.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307957818
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/07/2012
Edition description: New
Pages: 504
Sales rank: 115,523
Product dimensions: 5.33(w) x 8.27(h) x 1.22(d)

About the Author

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 Hovasse

Date of Birth:

February 26, 1802

Date of Death:

May 22, 1885

Place of Birth:

Besançon, France

Place of Death:

Paris, France


Pension Cordier, Paris, 1815-18

Read an Excerpt

From 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, the ‘supreme suzerain of the Realm of Argot’ and the King of France, namely Clopin Trouillefou and Louis XI.
Hugo had nevertheless slipped an astonishing remark into his critique of Quentin Durward, which he wisely removed when the essay was republished in 1834:
As Frenchmen, we do not thank Sir Walter for his incursion into our history; indeed we are somewhat inclined to reproach the Scotsman for it. True, the man who, setting aside Charlemagne, Philippe-Auguste, Saint Louis, Louis XII, François I, Henri IV and Louis XIV, selected from all our kings the figure of Louis XI, must necessarily be a foreigner. This is truly the inspiration of an English Muse.
Five years later, Louis XI with his archers and iron cages occupied the foreground of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Against all expectation, here was the origin of the book. In so far as we can decipher Hugo’s notes, it had first been intended as a theatre piece on the death of Louis XI; the outline of this draft followed Quentin Durward quite closely. The English muse thus seemed to wipe the floor with La muse française, which (in the form of that journal) had long since retired from the scene. True to his habits, Hugo entirely surpassed his model. In Swinburne’s famous and telling analogy, Walter Scott’s portrayal of Louis XI looked, beside Hugo’s, like a Van Dyck portrait alongside one by Velásquez. ‘The style was a new revelation of the supreme capacities of human speech,’ Swinburne added, and ‘the touch of it on any subject of description or of passion is as the touch of the sun for penetrating irradiation and vivid evocation of life.’

When in late October 1828, Charles Gosselin, the French publisher of Quentin Durward, contacted Hugo, his principal motivation was, he said, the resemblance he detected between Hugo and Scott. Was this a subtle hint or something that had struck Gosselin while reading Hugo’s novel of 1823, Han d’Islande? In either case, Hugo was receptive to the suggestion: he now had a large household to feed – a wife and three children along with two domestics – and unlike most of his author friends, he had no resource but his pen. On 15 November 1828, he signed a contract with Gosselin for his complete works – at the age of twenty-six – including a two-volume novel to be delivered in six months’ time, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. This ‘historical novel’ was announced as nearly complete. In fact, it consisted of two pages of prose and fifty lines of telegraphic notes scribbled down between two poems.
Six months later, when Hugo was expected to submit his manuscript, the novel was no further advanced. But Hugo spared no pains to disguise the fact. In the preface to his book of poems Les Orientales, published by Gosselin in January 1829, he span a long metaphor comparing his work with a medieval city in which the ‘old gallows’ stood in the background and ‘at its centre, the great Gothic cathedral’. His critics would, he said, ‘find him reckless and foolish to desire for France a literature that [could] be compared to a medieval town. No madder fantasy could be entertained; it [meant] actively seeking disorder, profusion, bad taste and the bizarre.’ These were not qualities much appreciated in the land of Racine and Voltaire. But it is sometimes forgotten that this was also the land of Corneille and Rabelais, and Hugo openly drew on Rabelais for inspiration. It was from the top of the towers of Notre-Dame that Gargantua’s stream of urine drowned 260,418 Parisians ‘besides the women and children’; Quasimodo sent ‘two jets of molten lead’ from the very same towers to similar effect on the cathedral’s beggar-assailants. But as the historian Michelet remarked, Quasimodo’s tenancy of Notre-Dame wholly eclipsed Gargantua’s:
Someone has marked this monument with so powerful a hand that no one will ever again dare to touch it. From now on it is his object, his fief; it is Quasimodo’s entailed property. Next to the old cathedral he built a cathedral of poetry and its foundations are as solid and its towers as high as those of the original.

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Hunchback of Notre Dame 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 57 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Amazing book. It was rather boring in the beginning, but later on it really adds to the novel. The story was so vivid and heartbreaking once I started I couldn't put it down. It isn't a happy book, so be warned. But it is a masterpiece and will always be one of my favorites.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is so far the best book yet classic ive ever read. But when disney made this into a film. Of course thell be some minor changes but disney always has to do a happy ending. Spoiler alert!!!!! For example the lovely esmeralda gets to be hanged along with the archeadon who falls and quasimodo who apearently jusr died from a heartbreak that esmeralda has caused. But no disney has to make phoebus and esmeralda fall in love. Quasi finally is welcomed to the town and of course dom claude dies from falling. Still love the book ok w the movie
MissBoyer3 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Contrary to popular opinion the novel Le Notre Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo is not primarily about the deformed bell-ringer Quasimodo. Quasimodo's role is actually surprisingly small in the story, which makes you wonder why the English translater's chose "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" as the translation for the title. Actually, as the original French title would indicate, it is the cathedral itself that is the focus of the book. This is why in the unabridged editions of this book you will find numerous chapters that seemingly have nothing to do with the plot of the story. This is the books weakest point, and it may turn many people away from the book. Once you get into the plot, however, it is iimpossible to put the book down. The characters are intriguing: composer Pierre Gringoire, archdeacon Dom Claude Frollo, once a paragon of virtue now tormented by his corrupt love for a gipsy girl, L'Esmerelda, the naive gipsy dancer, Phoebus, the selfish, egotistical captain of the guards, and of course Qausimodo, a deaf, deformed bellringer. The relationships between these characters are complex and dark but they make an unforgettable story. The story is never, from front to back, a happy one, so if you are looking for a book that makes you "feel good" this is not the one for you. If, on the other hand, you are looking for a good book to read, that is unafraid to deal with the darker side of reality, I highly recommend "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."
Wanderlust_Lost on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing. It\'s more about the conflict of old vs. new, of architecture vs. literature, than it is about man vs. man. It\'s beautifully written and deeply tragic. I loved it.
Dufflepuds on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A good classic but somehow drifted off away from the real plot. I know that the descriptive language was suppose to make you imagine that you're in that place but somehow I find that less enjoyable.
RebeccaAnn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The infamous story of the disfigured bell ringer and his guardian, the priest, who both fall in love with a beautiful, young gypsy. When Quasimodo tries to save Esmerelda from the gallows, the story ends in tragedy. Disney immortalized these characters and their lives, but Disney got it wrong. There isn't just one bad guy and bunch of good people. Here, no one's innocent and no one gets a happy ending.The name of the book is a bit misleading, I think. Having seen the Disney movie, I figured the protagonist would be Quasimodo. As odd as it is, though, the book doesn't really have a protagonist. Hugo kind of flits you from character to character in what seems an almost random pattern, often leaving one character at a vital point of the story to go visit the King and his clerk as they discuss how much everything costs. It can be very odd at times and honestly, it wasn't really a style of writing I wholly enjoyed. But then again, I was well aware of Hugo's tendency to go off on tangents before I started the book so it didn't come as a shocker and for the most part, it didn't detract too much from the story.One thing I wasn't expecting going into the book, however, was an approximate 100 page discription of Paris about a third of the way into the book. Hugo's prose is delightful, but even so I had a hard time getting through this section. However, I could see the relevence before I'd even finished the book. Paris is described as a huge city, branching out from a central location with random buildings connected to other random buildings of little to no similarity. Hugo jumps from one building to another to another, and in the end, he sums the entire description up nice and tidy in about a page. This is the same relationship as the characters. All the characters, who seem to have no relation to the others for the most part, are all connected and each character affects the fate of the others. They all interlock, even though they don't see it themselves. It's very impressive when you sit back and view the grand scope of the story.All in all, I heartily enjoyed this book and will be purchasing it for myself at some point in the near future. I recommend reading it, but don't expect to walk away feeling happy. The end is tragic (and a few scenes - namely one particular death scene - are very disturbing), no one gets their perfect, Disney ending, and the gargoyles, sadly, do not sing and dance ;-)
sariebearie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Extremely underrated. Hugo's most famous work is without a doubt Les Mis but I can never figure out why. Hunchback is beautiful and tragic and lovely and heartbreaking. Richly detailed but not to the point of tedium. Dramatic characters but still beleivable. It's a kaleidoscope of emotion and fulfills everything you could want in a book. My all time favourite.
xvpatchvx on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great! Fast paced and terrific! See and then watch the movie for a different interpretation!
gbill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
¿Notre-Dame de Paris¿, the actual title of this book, is from Hugo¿s early phase; it was published in 1831 when he was only 29. Quasimodo the hunchback, La Esmeralda the gypsy dancer, and Claude Frollo the archdeacon are all unforgettable. Bear with it in the beginning, as Hugo takes his time setting the stage of Paris in 1482. Less philosophical and learned than his later works, but enjoyable nonetheless.Just one quote, on love:¿That little brother, without father or mother, that infant which dropped all at once from the sky into his arms, made a new man of him. He perceived that there was something in the world besides the speculations of the Sorbonne and the verses of Homer; that human beings have need of affections; that life without love is but a dry wheel, creaking and grating as it revolves.¿
johnthefireman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A beautiful and tragic book.
loralu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Yet another great read by victor hugo. So much underlying meaning that still transforms to today alongside a great story on the surface. The struggles of inner vs outer beauty and acceptance will always be relatable, no matter the generation.
aikon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I like the fiction but I don't like the story because it was sad and I couldn't understand the mind.However, I want the person who I can love as Quasimodo.
SaraPrindiville on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Some parts were tough to get through, especially the chapter called "Bird's Eye View of Paris". Good, compelling story. How it was made into a Disney movie is beyond me though. It's about "forbidden love" of a priest for a 15 year old girl who he kills for. The emotions of the characters could have been pursued farther, but a good story.
Ricky21 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I reallly liked this book, despite the fact that the ending was so sad, and completley not what I expected or wanted to happen. I loved the Disney version of it, but I knew that the book would not end like the movie. The writing was well written, and the story pulled me in. I liked Quasimodo. He was made to be a repulsive creature that no one could love, but he was kind of endearing. He just wanted to love and be loved by someone. Esmeralda was kind and beautiful, but kind of stupid. All she could think about was Pheobus, who didn't even love her back. Pheobus was a ladies man, and basically didn't care about anything. All in all, the book was very good. I just didn't like the ending. The only good thing was Pierre saved Djali
deebee1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A hunchback, a gypsy, a mad priest. A church and a scaffold. Paris is not exactly the city of lights. Peopled by colourful characters, depraved creatures, hopeless beings, the architecture of the city, however, is a sight to behold. And the church of Notre Dame is the most magnificent of all.I enjoyed very much Hugo's writing, including the digressions on the evolution of architecture as a form of ¿writing¿ and immortality, as well as the portrayal of the center of the city, street by street. I didn't enjoy the story very much, though ¿ it was carrying martyrdom too far. The priest was vile, the soldier petty, and Esmeralda not just cloying but downright foolish, too. Quasimodo, however, made up for all that ¿ pity he didn't live a happier life. Though it doesn't hold a candle to Les Mis, I'm still glad to have read this, as I greatly admire Hugo's ability to paint images with words.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My niece is reading the classics again, and wanted to read this. Had to buy The Hutchback of Notre-Dame so that she could read it again and again. That is how we enjoy the classics. A must read for teens as well as adults.
Tryion on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very detailed and hard to get through at times. Great ending!
Crewman_Number_6 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Could this book be anymore slow and boring? I think it took about 4 chapter just for him to walk down the street. Maybe I am just a victim of the modern literary style, but I like the author to get to the point. If I wanted to know every last detail of Paris, I would read a history book.
Irisheyz77 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hugo is too long-winded and overly detailed. I was majorly bored with his heavy detail on a building or a many details that they often detracted from the story.
daizylee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of my all-time favorites. Sadly underrated and overlooked. I think it's Hugo's best, most full work.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am literally still wiping the tears from my eyes after reading this book. My review will not do it justice. So many summary I don't think the theme is so much about FATE, but rather an expose on the ridiculousness of humanity and what I would describe as a 'comedy of errors'. I laughed, I cried, I groaned and hung on every word, finishing the entire text in 2 days!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In the disney movie, youd think Quasimodo woukd sound.. more deformed. Instead he sounds like a perfect person. Like if you heard his voice but you couldnt see him, youd picture a normal person but when you saw him you'd be all,"Wwho is he! He's ugly." I like the "Hellfire"song from the movie. Frollo sounds like a total jerk and i wanna slam his face in the mud. Luckily he dies in the end. :) If you agree with anything in this post, speak out! - #DRAGONIA :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago