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A 'Hunchback' by Any Other Name: It's a PC Quasimodo

June 29, 2002

The story may sound familiar: A deformed man named Quasimodo works at the Notre Dame cathedral and pines for the love of a beautiful gypsy woman.

But the title may come as a surprise: "The Bellringer of Notre Dame."

Yes, it's an adaptation of Victor Hugo's famous novel. But producers at Oddsocks Production, a British theater company, have retitled it for its current staging to avoid offending those who suffer from Quasimodo's "hunchback" disability (curvature of the spine).

Producer Elli Mackenzie told BBC Radio 4's "Today" program that the company did not want to "reinforce any prejudice that might be there."

Russel King, a lecturer on Hugo at Nottingham University, told the London Daily Mail that the decision "smacked of the most silly political correctness."

"Everybody in the world knows the work by the 'Hunchback' name, so why on earth change it?"

Mackenzie argued that "hunchback" was not part of Hugo's original title, "Notre Dame de Paris," but was added later in an English translation.

"We are a family organization, and our aim is to introduce the classics," Mackenzie said. "There are a lot of children in the audience and they would receive the message that it is OK to use that label."

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