Set in medieval Paris, Victor Hugo’s powerful historical romance The Hunchback of Notre-Dame has resonated with succeeding generations ever since its publication in 1837. It tells the story of the beautiful gypsy Esmeralda, condemned as a witch by the tormented archdeacon Claude Frollo, who lusts after her. Quasimodo, the deformed bell ringer of Notre-Dame Cathedral, having fallen in love with the kindhearted Esmeralda, tries to save her by hiding her in the cathedral’s tower. When a crowd of Parisian peasants, misunderstanding Quasimodo’s motives, attacks the church in an attempt to liberate her, the story ends in tragedy.
“What a beautiful thing Notre-Dame is!” —Gustave Flaubert
Catherine Liu is an associate professor in the cultural studies and comparative literature department at the University of Minnesota. She is the author of Copying Machines: Taking Notes for the Automaton and a novel, Oriental Girls Desire Romance.
Elizabeth McCracken is the author of Niagara Falls All Over Again and The Giant’s House. She lives in Massachusetts.