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Cyrano de Bergerac: by Edmund Rostand translated by Anthony Burgess Paperback – February 1, 2000

4.0 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Applause Theatre & Cinema Books; Reprint edition (February 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1557832307
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557832306
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.4 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #589,924 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
If there's one thing that has me miffed, it's those ridiculous academic critiques of this play. Yes, it's unrealistic, yes, it's energetic to the point of insanity, yes, the character of Cyrano is particularly vulnerable to the ridiculous Freudian analyses that Lit. professors are obsessed with. But the essence of this work, what makes it breathe, are the very qualities so mocked by elitists: its color, its flamboyance, and above all its wonderfully unashamed idealism.

First of all, this is entertaining reading at its best: a combination of witty repartee and laugh-out-loud humor, balanced with emotional depth that is subtle yet wrenching in its intensity. With just a few lines the scenes come alive, with characters whose brash gallantry is reminiscent of Dumas' Musketeers.
All this virtuoso treatment finds a focal point in the character of Cyrano, who is at once comic and tragic: his biting wit provides a facade for a soul in torment, for his sensitivity to beauty makes his own ugliness that much more painful. Yet there is so much fire and pride in Cyrano that never once does he beg for our pity, and endures the pain of thwarted love with the same charisma and bravery with which he does battle.
The contradiction between Cyrano as he is inside--a veritable furnace of eloquent passion--and his markedly ugly exterior, is his tragedy. Through the vehicle of this contradiction, Edmond Rostand explores the nature of love, particularly regarding how much of it is dependant upon exteriors. Yet this theme does not smother the tale, which is such a heady mixture of beauty, hilarity and subtle insight that it fairly intoxicates. My only complaint, upon finishing it, was that it had to end.
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Most readers and performers are probably more familiar with the translation of Cyrano by Brian Hooker. Hooker's translation has much to recommend it but it fails to capture the poetic power, whimsy or grace of Rostand's play. I feel the Burgess translation better represents Cyrano to a modern reader. One previous reviewer suggested that there was something almost absurd about Cyrano as he is portrayed by Rostand. Burgess himself had qualms about translating the play into rhyme. But this convention is powerful because it suggests that the men and women of Cyrano's dramatic world (even the lackwits) were impressed by cleverness, grace and beauty. It is set out in the play that Roxanne is one of the literary precieuse. The type of cleverness that Cyrano portrays in rhyme would appeal to her. At the same time, Cyrano is not a fop but a man of action whose mind is not stilled even by combat. Also this translation shows that Christian's "military wit" was something Cyrano could appreciate for its poetic appropriateness as well as for its courage. I think in some ways Cyrano's chivalry and heroism, as well as the more unrealistic elements of the play, are actually made more vivid and convincing by the use of rhyme. Burgess transports us to Rostand's imagined world of poetry and chivalry directly. . . and does not relent for a moment in portraying it. I think the real Hercule Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac would have appreciated the flair of it all. And if you don't buy that?-- Well, the fight scenes are STILL cool. Happy reading.
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Format: Paperback
Literary translation requires a balancing act between word-for-word interpretation and more liberal paraphrase. Anthony Burgess has gone farther than that, concocting an English version of "Cyrano de Bergerac" that is better classed an adaptation rather than a translation. He excises characters whom he doesn't like, reduces Roxane's appearance in the play, implants poems and speeches which were never in the original, and generally reworks the play into something other than the original. But worse still is the language - snotty, excessively erudite, and giving Cyrano an extremely bitter and obnoxious tone. I've read five other English versions of "Cyrano," and frankly this is my least liked, as if a surgeon unnecessarily cut off the legs of a healthy patient.
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Format: Paperback
Cyrano -loosely based on the actual Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac, an early predecessor of science fiction- is a swordsman for the French King Louis XIII. He is also a man with an extraordinary gift for poetry and versification, as well as the owner of an extremely large nose. He is deeply in love with his cousin Roxanne, but she happens to love Cyrano's friend and colleague, Christian. So, being a good fellow and having a quixotic nature, Cyrano accepts to speak of love to Roxanne, impersonating Christian. Under her window, in the dark, Cyrano recites love poems so well crafted, that Roxanne falls even more in love with Christian, who is the supposed lover. After that, both men leave to fight at war. Roxanne shows up at the siege of Arras, to bring food to the soldiers. There, for reasons I won't spoil here, their love affair comes to an abrupt end, leaving their relationship unfulfilled. What comes next shows the true heroic nature of Cyrano, his strength of character, and his loyalty to his friend, but also to his eternal love for Roxanne. This play, which has originated at least a couple of good movies and several tv interpretations, is a homage to the Romantic spirit so rare in our greedy and selfish times. It is full of beautiful images and scenes, and Rostand's writing is perfect for the task. Read it first, and if you haven't seen the movies, watch them. Cyrano is a grand character that will remain as an epytome of chivalry, loyalty, and emotional strength. Not to forget.
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