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Notre-Dame of Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) Paperback – October 26, 1978
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About the Author
Victor Hugo (1802-85) was a forceful and prolific writer. He became a committed social democrat and during the Second Empire of Napoleon III was exiled from France, living in the Channel Islands. His body is now buried in the Pantheon.
John Sturrock has translated many Penguin Classics, including Proust. He has written on Jorge Luis Borges and Structuralism.
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Firstly, this novel is nothing like the many film and television versions that have been made over the years. It is set in medieval Paris, a very tough time to be alive, and although Quasimodo plays a central role he is by no means the central figure.
The central figure is Notre Dame itself ,all the human characters are involved with it and the story revolves about it.
I found that there are very few remotely likable characters in this story, Quasimodo is probably the closest but he gets much sympathy because of his deformity which has made him totally rejected by society.
Esmeralda is a rather silly little girl, which she is of course she is being in her mid teens and then there is Archdeacon Frollo, who even though he saved Quasimodo as a baby and raised him is evil.
In the middle of the novel, Hugo digresses into an essay arguing that prior to the invention of the printing press architecture was how man expressed his learned knowledge from other cultures to the masses i.e incorporating designs noted on travels and brought back from military campaigns. ( This explanation is mine and is wildly simplifying what is argued)
He then states that the invention of the printing press is the greatest of all inventions. (An argument that still stands today). With the printing press knowledge became available to more than the religious orders, observations from afar were able to be described simply,ideas were argued,messages spread and therefore the demise of architecture across Europe began to decline.
After this essay the story returns to the characters we have have been introduced to, as stated the majority are unlikable and their fates didn't elicit any sympathy from myself with the exception of Esmeralda who was treated rather harshly which is probably a wild under statement
My fun fact from the novel was learning the true meaning of "Truant" -i.e. someone who chooses to be a beggar rather than someone who begs out of necessity.
This is a great novel, uplifting its not probably because the characters are so obviously human with all their faults and vanities its like looking in a mirror.
However, around halfway through, the editing issues became so prevalent, it would have been comical if it wasn’t so frustrating. To show a few examples:
-Grammar: whole paragraphs went on without any capitalization (and if you know the length of a Hugo paragraph, that is saying something).
-Misspellings: tiiunderous (thunderous), Por re-Rouge (Porte-Rouge), drought (thought) and flip-flops of ‘though’ and ‘through’ all over the place.
-Nonsensical sentences: “It was there he was to the.” & “I’m going to tell you frankly what ray plan is.”
Again, the translation is lovely, I’m just at a loss as to why the editor gave up before finishing.
Speaking as a Kindle reader, however, I am disappointed by the complete lack of indexing. The hyperlinked Table of Contents gives you the appendices, the introduction, and the entire novel as a single link. You cannot jump to a specific chapter. There are workarounds for this (such as bookmarking the first page of each chapter), but you expect more navigability and ease of reading from a publisher of Penguin's stature.
It is a highly intriguing story by an immensely talented author. I give it five stars mostly because of Hugo's ability. However, it does not compete with Les Miserables (there aren't many novels that do)that was written quite a few years (30) later. I would highly recommend it.