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Saturday, 26 February 2011

image for Victor Hugo's Notes for Hunchback of Notre Dame Discovered Quasimodo's Pad

Copious notes belonging to famed French author Victor Hugo have been found in a derelict atelier once owned by Pablo Picasso. Pablo who was known to steal things that took his fancy to the extent that Matisse used to hide his paintings when he heard his feet on the stairs may have inadvertently picked them up during a visit to the Louvre. In any case, they throw considerable light on the origins of one of the world's most beloved books.

It seems there really was a hunchback bell-ringer employed by the cathedral of Notre Dame to operate the bells. Although he existed a long time before Hugo put pen to paper. It is also true that he abducted a gypsy dancer called Esmeralda and hid her in his quarters near the belfries. The scandal kept the whole of Paris gossiping for months as the authorities were not able to contravene church law in order to arrest them. Both were later taken into custody as Esmeralda, followed discreetly by her rescuer, made her way by night to a local tavern in order to replenish their wine stocks. They were arrested and brought before the Inquisition that was still very active in 1350; Esmeralda on a charge of being a witch and Quasimodo on a charge of kidnapping. Both charges carried the death penalty.

Hugo got hold of an old transcript of the trial and turned the story into his famous novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame. What follows is an excerpt from the actual proceedings of 1350 as it would have been read by the great French writer.

Cardinal Poirot was counsel for the prosecution and Bishop Leblanc counsel for the defence. The proceedings were presided over by Cardinal Barbique. Their sirname initial is used here to indicate who is speaking.


P: So you deny abducting this...er... girl.

B: Poirot! How many times do I have to tell you the man is deaf as post!

P (shouting). You are a disgrace to the whole of Paris Monsieur. The verb humper (meaning "to hump") has passed into our noble language. Obscene is hardly the word. Did you have sex with this harlot Esmeralda?

Q: I did not have sexual relations with that woman.

P: It is rumoured that every time you had sex with her you flung yourself on the bells and went mad waking up the entire city three or four times a night. You deny this?

Q: I did not have sexual relations with that woman.

L: I object!

Q: Don't call me an object.

L: May I explain to the court that it is quite unthinkable that this humble servant of God could have had intimate relations with this beautiful woman when I myself have not been laid in over a decade. Please Monsieurs, let us allow logic to prevail here.

P: Unless Sir she is a witch and it will be my great pleasure to prove to you that she is. Unthinkable is not the word I would use. It is unpardonable M'Lud that this hunchback, whose physical repulsiveness is the equal of his master Beelzebub's could have had sex with this beautiful wench under the sacred vaults of our most revered and profitable cathedral. I submit that the only adequate penalty be death.

B: I have a hunch you could be right Poirot, but we must proceed. Esmeralda, please take the stand.... very slowly.

P: Esmeralda, how long have you been a gypsy?

E: Seence I wuz born Monsieur.

P: Have you ever practised necromancy?

E: No monsieur, but I can darn socks. Monsieur Quasimodo goes through a lot of socks. Would you pleeze speak up... as I cannot eer too well?

P: Did you bewitch this beast?

E: No monsieur. He does not require bewitching.

P: There you have it M'Lud. A confession!

E: I did not meeen. I meen... Monsieur Quasimodo make love to eeez bells.

P: You... that is worse. You are saying our evensong hymns that summon us to worship are... are...driven by...manic lust? Ye Gads! I call for the execution of both these miscreants M'Lud.

L: I object!

Q: I am not an object! I am a human being. What did she say about my balls?

B: I hereby sentence Monsieur Quasimodo to be flogged in the public square.

P: Why flogged? Why not burn him at the stake?

B: For two reasons Poirot. We cannot execute without a confession. It says it right here on the form. Also, I haven't seen a hump flogged before. It'll be a first.

Q: I did not have sexual relations with that woman. The bells! The bells!

B: Take him away! You Esmeralda, come with me.

L: Gentlemen! This is setting a bad precedent. No hunchback in Paris will henceforth be safe! It is not logical to....

B: Logic be damned! Esmeralda... to my chambers!

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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