Friday, March 17, 2017


I read The Hunchback of Notre Dame a few weeks ago, and forgot to write about it. I was about halfway through before I realized that was reading an abridged version. After finishing, I might be glad it was abridged. A little too repetitive, if that's the right word. Seems like every time it looked like La Esmeralda is going to catch a break, she falls back into it. And that seems to be the case with all of the main characters. ah! oooh... ah! oooh... ah! oooh. like a hundred times

Written by Victor Hugo in 1831; translation by Lowell Bair in 1958. This is an old Bantam paperback that has been kicking around for a while. Looks like the type of book that was handed out to high school students in the 70s by the millions.

I'm not sure what was abridged out of this story, but it certainly seemed like there was plenty of fat left. This could have been a wildly successful novella, but then maybe the fault lies in the translation; what do I know.

La Esmeralda is a young gypsy girl, living in Paris, in the 1400s. She can be found dancing with her trained pet goat in the plaza before the Notre Dame cathedral, where she has caught the eye of a holy man (who should know better) and his adopted foundling son, Quasimodo,* who lives and works at Notre Dame as the bell ringer.

There are thieves, kidnappings, hangings and public torture, uprisings, alchemy, stabbings, weddings, unfaithfulness, corruption, malfeasance, knavery, assault, insanity, loss, blasphemy, unrequited love, obsession, and... repeat.

So I guess you could read it, if you have to. If you do, and you read a different translation, I'd love to hear about it.

*  Quasimodo gets his name from the day he was found: Quasimodo Sunday, or the Octave of Easter. It comes from the first two words (in Latin) of the prayer for the day: "Quasi modo..." which means, basically, "like this."

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