‘The Hunchback of Notre-Dame’ tops best-sellers


The inferno that raged through Notre Dame Cathedral for more than 12 hours destroyed its spire and its roof, but spared its twin medieval bell towers. Video captured the cathedral’s damaged interior early Tuesday. (April 16)

In every storm, a silver lining. Even for bookworms.

The tragic burning of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Monday has already brought out philanthropists in the uber wealthy. The billionaires behind L’Oreal, and French luxury companies Kering and LVMH Group, have already collectively pledged over $500 million to the rehabilitation of the beloved cathedral after it was significantly damaged by fire.

That’s perhaps to be expected, seeing as Notre Dame is such a point of French national pride. But the fire has had another, more surprising positive impact: It’s inspiring people to read classic literature.

By Tuesday morning, editions of Victor Hugo’s 1831 masterpiece “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” had shot to the No. 1 spot on Amazon’s best-sellers list in France. Four more versions appear in the top 10.

USA TODAY Best-Selling Books list

That’s fitting, as Hugo is in no small part responsible for modern appreciation of the cathedral. The marvel of gothic architecture, which was begun in 1160 under Bishop Maurice de Sully, was centuries old and in a state of disrepair by the time Hugo was born. He undertook the epic in a bid to bring public attention to, and help save, Paris’ medieval architecture.

Movie: ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ is a love letter to the cathedral and shaped my views of religion

Hugo’s book, about a good-hearted hunchback and church bell-ringer named Quasimodo and his doomed love in medieval France, was a success. The book’s popularity revived popular interest in Notre Dame and ultimately ignited a push for historical preservation and Gothic revival architecture.


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It’s appropriate that Hugo’s epic should achieve popularity again, now, with the cathedral once more in need of saving. Although this time there seems to be no question in its value.

What caused the Notre Dame fire?: What we know about damage at the historic cathedral

More: Notre Dame’s oldest stained-glass rose windows survived; other relics moved just in time


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