Bookish spots of Paris: Victor Hugo

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Guess what? There are tons of bookish places in Paris related to Victor Hugo. In fact, I am sure there are many more than I had the opportunity to visit. After this last weekend in California with my husband's family (in which we watched the 25th anniversary Les Mis DVD 1.8 times, listened to the new CD recording 2.6 times, and quoted the songs 2,394 times) I have an even deeper love for Victor Hugo. The Disney version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame enchanted me in elementary school, I struggled through Les Miserables for the first time my sophomore year of high school, and I read The Hunchback of Notre Dame my first few weeks in Paris. I love this author. Here are just a few of the places paying homage to him.

This is a statue of Victor Hugo by Rodin. I loved Rodin's home and work and was very excited to see his tribute to Hugo.

I went to Victor Hugo's house while I was in Paris. None of these photographs are phenomenal because we weren't allowed to use flash, but I had to capture his writing desk. I also bought a book by Hugo in the museum shop - the only one I could afford (or hope to decipher in French) - a book of his poems, Les Contemplations. I planned to read one poem a day to keep up my French. This did not happen, but now that I'm thinking of it I want to try again at some point.

When I was in Paris I developed an obsession with chandeliers. So I took this picture of Victor Hugo's chandelier. Behold.

Hugo's house was full of art - pieces from his own collection (many of which were disturbing and featured Hell or Sodom and Gomorrah) and renditions of characters from his books. I took quite a few pictures but most of them didn't turn out very well. This is Esmerelda.

We of course also paid (many) visits to Notre Dame. Rather than favoring you with an awkwardly taken, squinty picture of a tiny me in front of Notre Dame, I thought I would just give you a few aspects of the cathedral other than the familiar structure. This is the big bell that Quasimodo loved and could feel even though he was deaf. Being so close to this huge bell was pretty awe-inspiring.

There were beautiful plaques as a tribute to Hugo throughout the cathedral. Once the city of Paris planned to tear down Notre Dame - it was decrepit and mostly abandoned. Hugo wrote The Hunchback of Notre Dame to save the cathedral. I can't decipher the whole plaque (should have transcribed it when the memory was fresh, not two years later) but the gist of what it says is this: he defended very expressively describing (something illegible) the walls, the sound of the bells, something about the towers, etc.

This is the most photographed gargoyle of the cathedral. Here is my picture of it. Hooray!

My favorite part of Notre Dame wasn't lighting a candle or attending mass (an interesting experience for me because I am not Catholic!). It was climbing the towers and looking down on all of Paris. My friends and I didn't want to come down and did all kinds of crazy things like ballroom dancing with brooms on the roof. Of course, now I am much too mature to behave in that manner (right...).

This is Victor Hugo's place in the Pantheon. (And Alexandre Dumas' as well, incidentally). It was awe-inspiring to know that I was in the same place as Hugo's body - I haven't spent much time in cemeteries and to think that on the other side of the stone was what remained of this heroic author is still unbelievable to me. Although his body lies in the Pantheon, his soul is immortal in his writing.


  1. SO COOL. This totally wants me to watch the Disney movie again. Unfortunately, I haven't found the courage to try one of Huge's novels yet... someday.

  2. @Sarah - I need to watch the movie again too. Seriously so awesome. And a lot happier than the book, for sure. None of the characters are quite as happy or kind in the book.

  3. I just all of this last week :D <3 But the Bell Tower times 5, lol :P


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