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The Hunchback of Notre Dame

 
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PostPosted: Thu May 28, 2020 6:46 pm    Post subject: The Hunchback of Notre Dame Reply with quote

I bought a copy of this after the terrible fire at Notre Dame (was that just last year - surely longer ago than that) and have at last made a start on it. It's the Penguin translation by John Sturrock, which I chose because, having read Norman Denny's Les Miserables published by the Penguin as well and loved it, I assume that they would also choose someone up to their game for the Hunchback.

I'm not far into it yet, but am beginning to get the feel of it, and while the text is not as rich as LM, it still has those flourishes that set Hugo apart from other authors. In this book he (apparently uses his digressions to expound upon architecture and secret societies, and as these are two subjects I'm very interested in, and I loved the digressions of LM probably best of all, I'm hoping I'm in for a treat!

I'll report back as I progress and hope some of you will join me on the journey.
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PostPosted: Sat May 30, 2020 4:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Last night I read the two chapters that Hugo dedicates to a description of medieval Gothic Paris, with its three distinct areas - the central City with the University to the left and the Town to the right. These two "Bird's eye view of Paris" chapters follow hard on the heels of a description of Notre Dame itself, the multiple changes to which that have been made over the centuries, Hugo considers an almost blasphemous assault on a piece of architecture almost heavenly in its original inspiration. Similarly he considers the Gothic city he describes a thing of far greater beauty than the bastardised and mismatched hodgepodge that it has become and though the chapters are long and not especially easy to read (at least in translated form) by the end they leave one with an almost breathless sense of having truly flown over the roofs, spires and gables of that seething, grimy metropolis. A description of one part, the palace and church regions I think, sounded absolutely magical and one wonders what his scource material was for his so detailed a study.

All in all a magical few chapters that have left me gagging to rush off to Google images of medieval Paris and the facade of Notre Dame. I've said it before and I'll say it again; we could really use a new, live action and seriously done film of this story to put some visual flesh on the imaginative bones that Hugo has laid down.
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PostPosted: Sat May 30, 2020 9:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, I fear that ensuing generation's idea of the Hunchback of Notre Dame is going to be the Disney version... Sad

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PostPosted: Sun May 31, 2020 5:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The thread should of course correctly be entitled Notre-Dame de Paris since this is the actual name of this book, but, probably due to the films always having been called THOND the latter has slid over to cover the book as well.

Last night I read a short interlude in which Claude Frollo's upbringing and adoption of Quasimodo is recounted, and a description of his meeting with Louis Xl, followed by the beginning of the second (I think) big interlude - that in which Hugo explains how he believes that the printed book will/has destroyed the aesthetic of architecture. I don't know if I'm exactly sold on it yet, but I love the way he ascribes the development of building, from the earliest single stones of the stone/bronze age as single letters to the works of scale like the Temple of Solomon to fully furnished literary works, the same purpose as the development of writing - that of conveyance of information. It's a lovely idea that buildings could be 'read' by the initiated, esoteric information being passed down the ages by great facades such as that of the cathedral of the title. I suppose the Roslyn Church 'myth' is part of the same idea, but Hugo brings it to scale with Frollo's study and contemplation of Notre-Dame.
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 01, 2020 1:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm really enjoying your summaries here. The only Hugo I've read is Les Miserables, but I'm thinking I need to add this to my list.
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 01, 2020 8:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ah - I absolutely loved Les Miserables! I've read it twice in translation (I think I said above I read the Norman Denny one) but I'd learn the French language simply to be able to read it in the original!

The Denny version is an absolute work of art in it's own right - a composite work that achieves a perfect blend of sticking to the literal translation as far as is possible but never to the point where the 'art', the spirit if you like, of the original is sacrificed on the alter of a pedantic rule of word for word translation.

Glad you like the posts Rigel - it's going to be difficult not to have any spoilers in it, but I'll do my best to keep them to a minimum. Knowing me, like the great author himself, I'll probably spend more time going off at a tangent than on the actual story itself.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 02, 2020 6:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nothing wrong with a good tangent... Very Happy

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 02, 2020 6:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well THOND seems to be mainly composed of them, the actual story taking up relatively little space. Hugo is an author who is always big on description, never allowing ten words to suffice if a thousand can be found Wink . He describes everything in detail, and in so doing draws you in yourself to the point where all of a sudden you find you are deeply and engrossingly interested in the stipple types found on different gargoyles in various regions of Paris - and have forgotten that there was an original point to your being here at all (to whit, to be told a story). In fact it happens that when you are eventually returned to the tale, it is with no small vexation that you go there, impatient that you have been denied further education on the subject of lime content versus weathering capacity in the formulation of exterior cladding.

Last night's installment told of the common presence in medieval Paris of small 'cells' in which the penitent and suffering would immure themselves, their survival dependent forever after on the charity of passersby to leave food and water at the dismal gratings through which they could be viewed. Often spending years in such seclusion, exposed to the elements, without bedding or clothing to stave off the winter chill, their situation growing ever more wretched, as the years passed. At times of holiday it might be days between the small gifts of charity upon which they survived, and when people did bring these gifts the charity near always ran alongside an aspect of lurid voyerism, with very little empathy involved. Such were the times no doubt - hard times breeding hard people.
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How do you hurt a world that has lost everything? Give it back everything broken.

....and the glory of the world becomes less than it was....
'Have we not served you well'
'Of course - you know you have.'
'Then let it end.'

We are the Bloodguard
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