The Quotes

‘It was an inhabited spot where there was no one; it was a desert place where there was some one; it was a boulevard of the great city, a street of Paris; more wild at night than a forest, more gloomy by day than a cemetery.’

‘…..there could be seen, at that epoch, a mean building, which, at first glance, seemed as small as a thatched hovel, and which was in reality, as large as a cathedral…Nearly the whole house was hidden. Only the door and a window could be seen.’

‘…by day it was ugly; in the evening melancholy; by night it was sinister.’

Gorbeau Hovel 2

My Impressions

What I wrote in Paris

Another site no one seems quite sure about. Hugo lists all of the monuments of the time in the book but not surprisingly these have disappeared long ago. The Avenue des Gobelins is a road he refers to so we tried there and I found a sort of hovel in the middle of the back streets between the Avenue des Gobelins and Boulevard de Hopital. The Gobelins factory is they made carpets, we discovered, but later than when the book in written. Difficult to imagine to come here to escape view but I suppose it’s less central and the streets are larger and in the small streets you can here birds singing. The houses are almost all 3 or 4 storeys from after the time that Hugo was here. (Lovely Bakery!)

On Reflection

This is a site that not many internet bloggers seem to know much about in terms of where the actual building was located. Hugo lists many localities of the time such as the Salpetriere (a hospital for the mentally ill and impoverished) in the book but not surprisingly these monuments disappeared long ago. The Avenue des Gobelins or the Rue de la Barriere des Gobelins is a road he refers to as being opposite to the house so we tried there as a possible location. The first thing that strikes you is how different the area is now compared to what it was then. Hugo describes it as the place where ‘…Paris disappeared.’ He describes the area saying ‘It was no longer solitude, for there were passers-by; it was not country as there were houses and streets…’ which is a way of describing suburbia he experienced then. Today, however, this is far from the truth as it is full of mainstream shops and the hustle and bustle associated outer limits of a city. Very few buildings are less than four storeys high but I found a sort of hovel in the back streets between the Avenue des Gobelins and Boulevard de Hopital. The back streets are in sharp contrast to the expansive Avenue as the Avenue feels spacious with trees lining the both sides of the street. As I wandered around the streets in the centre of the two main boulevards, I wondered whether if Hugo was writing it now, he might have written Valjean and Cosette to live in a grotty apartment block as an alternative to his one storeyed hovel. You can hear birds twittering away there too, acknowledging the fact that you are definitely far from the centre of the city. We discovered the Gobelins factory, where they made carpets on the Avenue, but later than when the book is set. Although it is difficult to imagine coming here to escape public interest, I know that when Hugo set it here it was a very different place and that now it has been changed into the modern place we see today.

Avenue des Gobelins
Boulevard Trees 1
Boulevard Sign 2
Flats
Gorbeau Hovel
Avenue 2

You are viewing the text version of this site.

To view the full version please install the Adobe Flash Player and ensure your web browser has JavaScript enabled.

Need help? check the requirements page.


Get Flash Player