The Guardian

Victor Hugo gave Notre Dame life as the vibrant heart of France. It can be reborn | Bradley Stephens

The rise of The Hunchback of Notre Dame to the top of France’s bestseller list shows how much the spirit of the cathedral still matters
‘A democratic rather than simply religious icon.’ The Notre Dame cathedral fire. Photograph: Julien Mattia/Le Pictorium

Victor Hugo was not enamoured with the title of Frederic Shoberl’s English translation of his 1831 novelNotre-Dame de Paris. For the future “great man” of French literature, the book’s main attraction was the gothic cathedral itself, not its hunchbacked bell-ringer. Hugo thought that Notre Dame’s sublime features could take us to new heights, both physical and spiritual, from which we could sense a fervent connection to our world and to one another. Nearly two centuries later, his words still compel us to consider the cathedral with awe.

This is not to discount the Hunchback of Notre and . Moving performances from actors such as Charles Laughton and Anthony Hopkins have helped to solidify Quasimodo’s place at the story’s centre (even if they were more than twice as old as a character who’s barely in his 20s), and no less than three different versions using the “Hunchback” title have been announced by , , and over the past year alone.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Guardian

The Guardian5 min read
Sebastian Maniscalco: The Record-breaking Comic Who Impressed Scorsese
The world’s fifth highest-earning comedian talks about going from serving Robert De Niro drinks to co-starring with him on screen
The Guardian3 min read
So We’d Be Happier As Empty-nester Parents? That’s Rubbish | Simon Hattenstone
My children are adults, and the house is buzzing with life. Even thinking of them leaving fills me with a sense of loss
The Guardian3 min readPolitics
Greenlanders On Trump: ‘We Are Neither For Sale Nor Can Be Bought’
Guardian readers from Greenland share their reactions to Donald Trump’s idea to buy the country