The Hunchback of Notre Dame
By Victor Hugo
(Bantam Classics, Mass Market Paperback, 9780553213706, 384pp.)
Publication Date: February 1, 1981
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Before the huge crowd that packed the cathedral square, La Esmeralda stood between two executioners. Suddenly Quasimodo, the hunchback of Notre Dame, rushed at the executioners and felled them with his enormous fists. He snatched the gypsy girl in one arm and ran with her into the church. A moment later he appeared at the top of the bell tower. Holding the girl above his head, he showed her triumphantly to all of Paris while his thunderous voice roared savagely to the sky: “Sanctuary! Sanctuary! Sanctuary!”
Set amid the riot, intrigue, and pageantry of medieval Paris, Victor Hugo’s masterful tale of heroism and adventure has been a perennial favorite since its first publication in 1831 and remains one of the most thrilling stories of all time.
Victor-Marie Hugo was born in 1802 at Besanon, where his father, an officer under Napoleon, was stationed. In his first decade the family moved from post to post: Corsica, Naples, Madrid. After his parents separated in 1812, Hugo lived in Paris with his mother and brothers. At twenty he married Adele Foucher and published his first poetry collection. Hugo was elected to the Academie Francaise in 1841. The accidental death two years later of his eldest daughter and her husband devastated him and marked the end of his first literary period. By then politics had become central to his life. Though he was a Royalist in his youth, his views became increasingly liberal after the July revolution of 1830: Freedom in art, freedom in society, there is the double goal. He initially supported the political ascent of Louis Napoleon, but turned savagely against him after being denied a role in government following the coup de'tat of 1851. Hugo went into exile in Brussels and Jersey, launching fierce literary attacks on the Second Empire. After the fall of the Second Empire in 1870, Hugo returned to France and was reelected to the National Assembly, and then to the Senate. He had become a legendary figure and national icon.