Notre Dame Cathedral has been through a lot, more than most of us realize.
Among other atrocities, Hitler once slated the great cathedral for demolition. Before that it survived clueless remodeling, environmental decay and revolutionary ransacking, too. And, of course, this week the world almost lost it for good.
In all the many articles about the terrifying fire that nearly destroyed the cathedral on Monday, one in the Washington Post caught my eye. Did you know that in the 1800s Notre Dame was already nearly ruined? Then Victor Hugo used the crumbling structure as the setting for one of his most celebrated novels, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Hugo clearly loved the building, devoting two entire chapters just to description.
(Just an aside. If I ever tried to publish a novel with two chapters of description of anything, even a certified trip to heaven, I would never find a publisher. But I digress.)
Hugo’s novel spurred the renovations and restoration that saw the cathedral into a new century. A Commission on Historical Monuments was formed to return it to its former glory. Hugo saved the day.
After I read the Washington Post story I wondered how many other novels may have changed the world. Finding out wasn’t hard. I simply Googled my question and found some great articles.
9 Novels That Changed the World claims that Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the second best-selling novel of the 19th century after the Bible, started the Civil War. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair was meant to “highlight the plight of the working poor and the deep-rooted corruption of people in power,” but “it also sparked a public outcry over food hygiene.”
Want to know the other seven? Follow the link above. And follow this one at BookBub, which lists thirty-two novels that changed the world.
As for me, I’m off to finish my proposal for my latest novel. Do I expect it to change the world? No, I don’t. But I would like to change somebody’s weekend. In the meantime, how many of the world-changing books that are listed in either article I’ve linked to have you read? I’ve read 14 on the 32 book list. But it sounds as if I have some more reading ahead.
How about you?