Thursday 18 July 2019

'Hunchback of Notre Dame' sells out in Irish bookshops after Paris fire

Meredith Raico and Matt McLoughlin reading The Hunchback of Notre Dame next to St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. Photo: David Conachy.
Meredith Raico and Matt McLoughlin reading The Hunchback of Notre Dame next to St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. Photo: David Conachy.
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

Irish booksellers have reported a run on copies of The Hunchback of Notre Dame as people seek solace between the pages of Victor Hugo's romantic classic following the fire that devastated Notre Dame Cathedral.

With its description of the Paris landmark's famous rose windows and Quasimodo joyfully swinging from the gigantic brass bells, the tragic love story is said to have given people "a rush of blood to the head".

In France, the novel has reached the top of the bestseller list this weekend, while Penguin's edition of the book is currently out of stock in Amazon's US store.

Hugo's novel, set in 1482, tells the story of Quasimodo, the bell-ringer of Notre Dame Cathedral, with his twisted body, bent legs and droop to his lower lip, as he spends his time locked away in a tower with just gargoyles for company, only for a chance encounter with the enchanting gypsy Esmeralda to set his heart on fire.

This weekend booksellers told the Sunday Independent they can't keep the classic on the shelves.

"We have run out of copies this week, so we are reordering it in again," said Brian Mulvihill, of Hodges Figgis in Dublin. "We will have it in again this week.

"I guess people are picking it up again because it's iconic and is so focused on the cathedral itself. They want to get a sense of the building again and to read about its place in the city.

"The great romantic novels of the 19th Century were the soap operas of their day -they pull the reader in - and, even though it's a huge book, people have gotten a jolt and decided to commit to it again."

On D'Olier Street, Louisa Earls of Books Upstairs said the store had also sold out. "A lot of the articles on the fire referenced The Hunchback of Notre Dame so people have been moved to read it again to get a sense of what has been destroyed," she said. "It's been a strange rush of blood to the head for some. It's on reorder and we will have it in stock very soon."

A spokesperson for Chapters Bookstore on Parnell Street also reported the book had been "selling well over the last few days".

Eason, on O'Connell Street, has no copies left in store, while Sarah Kenny, of Kennys book store in Galway, said she had also noticed the trend. "Any current or topical issues that are in the news always see an uplift in the corresponding book, and when an author dies we often see the same," she said. "I guess that's when a book really takes on a new meaning for people. We are sold out now but people can order with us online."

The novel itself is peppered with lines that have taken on new meaning following last Monday's blaze. As Hugo writes: "The greatest products of architecture are less the works of individuals than of society; rather the offspring of a nation's effort, than the inspired flash of a man of genius..."

Individuals, companies and institutions have donated or pledged €845m, to rebuild the damaged cathedral, which has stood for more than eight centuries.

"Each euro that is given for the reconstruction of Notre Dame will be used for that, and nothing else," French prime minister Edouard Philippe has said.

Sunday Independent

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