PARIS: Victor Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” shot to the top of the Amazon bestseller list on Tuesday as firefighters doused the embers of the blaze which ravaged the ancient cathedral. The original French version of the gothic novel, “Notre-Dame de Paris”, became the fastest selling book in France and is also a number one bestseller worldwide in English in two sub-categories of historical fiction.
The Disney animated movie version of the story also rocketed into the top 10 of family films. When Hugo began his sprawling 11-volume tale in 1829, Notre Dame — the “majestic and sublime edifice” which he adored — was crumbling and neglected.
But his epic about the tragic fate of the Gypsy girl Esmeralda who captures the heart of thehunchback Quasimodo help-ed mobilise the mammoth 19thcentury restoration of the monument. Incidentally, sales of the American writer Ernest Hemingway’s ode to Paris in the 1920s, “A Moveable Feast”, soared after the November 2015 Paris attacks.
Hugo set his high-blown romantic story in 1482 during the reign of Louis XI, but much of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” is a rumination on the architecture of the building itself. Many critics have argued that the cathedral is in fact the novel’s central character. In another famous passage from the novel, Hugo bemoans how the medieval landmark at the heart of Paris has been left to crumble.