The Paris of the great French writers

Thanks to the magic of literature, you can run through the streets of Paris from home while you wait to be able to travel again. It’s time to settle down and immerse yourself in the masterful works of Victor Hugo and Emile Zola, who describe Paris from their own personal perspectives. Happy reading!

Dance like a gypsy girl in front of Notre-Dame de Paris

Victor Hugo, Notre-Dame de Paris (1831)

The fantastic story of Esmeralda, a beautiful gypsy girl, and Quasimodo, the hunchback with a big heart, is known and loved all around the world. We meet an archdeacon tempted by the pleasures of the flesh (Claude Frollo), a captain of the fickle guard and seducer (Phœbus de Châteaupers), a king of France, jugglers, madmen, acrobats, crooks, theologians, and of course the immense namesake cathedral, finished less than a century before Hugo’s novel is set. Published in 1831, Notre-Dame de Paris remains one of Hugo’s most famous novels, and one of the most adapted, into films, musicals and cartoons. The intrigue of Notre-Dame de Paris has become part of popular culture like no other classic work.

Get a thrill in the first Parisian department stores

Emile Zola, Au Bonheur des Dames (1883)

Paris, around 1860. Newly arrived in the French capital, Denise Baudu is hired at Au Bonheur des Dames, a large Parisian store dedicated to women’s ready-to-wear fashion, which flourished in 19th-century Paris under the influence of Baron Haussmann. As a reader, you’re immersed in the Bon Marché of the time, the Galeries Lafayette of the 19th century, and Le Printemps as it was yet to exist. At the heart of this new hive of activity, Denise Baudu discovers the depravity of the saleswomen and their customers, and plunges to the core of humanity in this most ‘everyday’ of settings.