“And to think that this multitude had been on the point of rebelling…out of impatience for his work! And now that they had it, they cared nothing about it. This same performance, too, that had begun with such unanimous acclamation! Oh, the eternal tides of popular favor!” (p. 41)
Well, Victor Hugo, you predicted your descent into obsolescence all too well when you wrote that line in 1831. You are certainly not an author taught in most classrooms today, not even a favorite amongst the world’s literary nerds. In fact, the only reason I find myself reading your Hunchback of Notre Dame today is because Disney’s animated film based on the novel is one of my favorite Disney movies of all time.
Perhaps you’ve fallen out of favor because, like your poet Gringoire, your style lacks broad appeal. Now, don’t get me wrong; I frequently fall in love with books that Mr. Average Joe doesn’t even have a hope of understanding. But, even when dealing with the most complex concepts and subjects, to write well one must write simply. This is something you seem to have not understood. Dense, flowery writing full of pretentious words does not engage anyone from the simplest of people to the most intelligent. Why use the word “epithalamium” four times in the course of two pages when “song” or “poem” would work just as well? It turns the reader’s off. Additionally, our eyes begin to glaze over as we read the pages and pages and pages of detailed descriptions of inconsequential things. All of these things have contributed to your unfortunate lack of acclaim.
However, I am still persevering, if only for the sake of my favorite Disney movie. I found that Chapter 4 brought new life into the story. Perhaps that was because I was dying for the slightest of plot activity after thirty-five pages of pretentious, almost entirely insignificant descriptions. However, once I reached Chapter 4, I found your story much easier to read. The entrance of Coppenole, Quasimodo, and Esmeralda was enough to capture my attention. Although I still found your numerous uses of 5+ syllable words distracting from the message, the last twenty pages of Book 1 was an enjoyable read. Since Book 1 didn’t contain enough plot for me to comment on anything but your writing, I cannot say more yet about the characters, story line, or message. However, I do hope with my heart of hearts that the rest of the story remains an enjoyable read. Otherwise, I might find myself unable to finish your classic tale.
Reading this book is a part of a bucket list item, which you can find here.