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Customer Discussions > The Little Prince forum

Why The New Translation?

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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 28, 2007 4:05:32 PM PST
From the first time I read "The Little Prince" (of course I was an adult when I first discovered this treasure) it has been my favorite book, and to me the only guide one needs to read to understand life. All the books of philosophy ever written, the "Bible" that is so prized as a guide--all fall short of the simple truths enclosed within these pages.

Imagine my surprise when I saw that it has again been translated from the French, but for whatever reason this new translator has chosen to take away some of the poetic language and has shortened some of the beautifully woven and lyrical phraseology.

Why would someone tamper with something that is not only not broken, but is a work of art in itself? I was just wondering if anyone else is puzzled by this. Katherine Woods did a remarkable job and there was no reason to think that a shorter and less descriptive version was needed.

In any case, I always tell people that if they will read only one book in this life, it should be "The Little Prince". Sometimes the greatest treasures come wrapped in the most surprising packages.

Posted on Mar 6, 2009 7:46:22 AM PST
hlew says:
I have not read the new version. But if it is as you say, shorter and with some of the poetic language taken away, then that is really too bad. This is definitely a book that is in my top 10, maybe even top 5. So I will look into this as well. I happen to have the new version but I have not read it yet. Now you have me curious. Yes James this is an important philosophical book. Thanks for pointing this out.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 7, 2012 7:29:28 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 7, 2012 10:44:17 AM PDT
Hi James,

I share your question of "why?" and your frustration with the making of a new (inferior) translation to replace a previous (superior) translation.

I have two speculative answers:

First, the publisher's desire to sell more books to make more money. If it's "new" it must be "better" and you just gotta have it -- right? (No.)

Second, the so-called "taste" (and ideological dominance) of the prevailing opinion-makers and publishers of American poetry, currently, is mostly averse to traditional poetic eloquence and techniques. This "modernism" (and post-modern) poetic "establishment" and "movement" strongly prefers "plain language" and "natural speech" -- and often disparages traditional poetic devices such as alliteration, assonance, consonance, rhyme, meter, and anything that creates "flowery" music, imagery, and "poetic" eloquence.

I think the result of this drastic, restrictive change is that most modern and contemporary poetry is bland, boring, and not poetic. Compare Woods' translation with Howard's. Compare English poetry from 1500 to 1900 with English and American poetry from 1900 to the present. What you see is a modern rejection of traditional poetic eloquence -- and its replacement with modern "plain language," "natural speech," and the mundaneness of ordinary, everyday experience. ("The quotidian," as the modernists hypocritically liked to say. I mean, if you claim that you prefer "plain language," why flout the word "quotidian" instead of just saying "everyday" or "ordinary"?).

Anyway, I prefer Woods over Howard, just as I prefer Shakespeare, Keats, and Tennyson over Eliot, Stevens, and Bishop.

But, as they say, "To each his (or her) own."
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Discussion in:  The Little Prince forum
Participants:  3
Total posts:  3
Initial post:  Nov 28, 2007
Latest post:  Apr 7, 2012

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The Little Prince
The Little Prince by Saint A.;Testot-Ferry, Irene Exupery (Paperback - 1995)