On this Good Friday in a semi-locked-down Christendom, we present an encore presentation of a Tale for Our Time I did two years ago after the burning of Notre Dame at the start of Holy Week in Paris. In this special edition I read selections from The Hunchback of Notre Dame - or, to give it Victor Hugo's title in French, Notre-Dame de Paris. Because, as much as it's about Quasimodo and Esmeralda, it's also about the building, the cathedral. That's one reason why on Easter weekend 2019 a near-two-hundred-year-old novel was the Number One bestselling book in France.
On the night of the fire, an Ontario member of The Mark Steyn Club, Nicola Timmerman, wrote to remind me of the first page of Hugo's great work, a memory of a forgotten graffito, a Greek word scrolled on the wall of the cathedral - ananke:
With the exception of the fragile memory which the author of this book here consecrates to it, there remains to-day nothing whatever of the mysterious word engraved within the gloomy tower of Notre-Dame,—nothing of the destiny which it so sadly summed up. The man who wrote that word upon the wall disappeared from the midst of the generations of man many centuries ago; the word, in its turn, has been effaced from the wall of the church; the church will, perhaps, itself soon disappear from the face of the earth.
It is upon this word that this book is founded.
What follows is just under an hour in the company of Victor Hugo as architecture critic, as historian, and of course as novelist. Prefaced by my introduction, we take a tour of Notre Dame, survey the history of Paris as seen from its rooftops, take in the bells of the city on an Easter morn, and finally meet the bellringer himself, Quasimodo. Along the way we also hear music from two of the earliest adaptations of the book - Pugni's 1844 ballet La Esmeralda, and Dargomyzhsky's 1847 opera Esmeralda.
To hear me read these selections from Victor Hugo's Notre-Dame de Paris, please click here and log-in.
As I've emphasized since we launched The Mark Steyn Club almost four years ago, our regular content - all my daily commentary, cultural and geopolitical essays, our weekend movie and music features, and all the rest - will always be free to everyone around the planet. In fact, every week we now offer more free content than at any point in our eighteen-year history. But we have spent the last few years letting Club members in on a few experimental features which we might eventually make more widely available. Tales for Our Time is one such experiment: If you're not a Club member (or you are but you've never partaken of this series) you can hear what you're missing in our first-birthday Tales for Our Times sampler, a 75-minute audio special hosted by me and including excerpts from some of the ripping yarns of our inaugural season - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Joseph Conrad, H G Wells, John Buchan, Jack London, Scott Fitzgerald and Robert Louis Stevenson. And, if it whets your appetite, you can find the above authors and three dozen more collected here.
I'm truly thrilled to see that our nightly radio serials have proved one of the most popular of our Club extras these last few years. I did do a little professional story-reading a zillion years ago, so, if these fancies tickle you, we may release them as audio books on CD or Audible a ways down the road. But for the moment it's an exclusive bonus for members. If you've enjoyed our monthly Steyn Club radio adventures and you're looking for a present for a fellow fan of classic fiction, I hope you'll consider our special Club Gift Membership. Aside from Tales for Our Time, The Mark Steyn Club does come with other benefits:
~Exclusive Steyn Store member pricing on over 40 books, mugs, T-shirts, and other products;
~The opportunity to engage in live Clubland Q&A sessions with yours truly (such as last Thursday's);
~Transcript and audio versions of The Mark Steyn Show, Mark's Mailbox, and our other video content;
~My video series of classic poetry (like next weekend's);
~Priority booking for the third annual Mark Steyn Cruise (but hurry - like our first two voyages, it's almost sold out);
~Advance booking for my live appearances around the world, assuming it's ever again legal to hold such things;
~Customized email alerts for new content in your areas of interest;
~and the opportunity to support our print, audio and video ventures as they wing their way around the planet.
To become a member of The Mark Steyn Club, please click here - and don't forget that special Gift Membership. As soon as you join, you'll get access not only to Notre-Dame de Paris but also to four dozen other audio adventures.
One other benefit to membership is our Comment Club privileges. So, whether you like my reading of this special Tale for Our Time or feel minded to burn it to the ground, then feel free to comment away below.