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Les Misérables (Modern Library Classics) Paperback – July 14, 2009
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“A new translation by Julie Rose of Hugo’s behemoth classic that is as racy and current and utterly arresting as it should be.” —The Buffalo News (editor’s choice)
“Lively, dramatic, and wonderfully readable.” —Alison Lurie, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Foreign Affairs
“Splendid . . . The magnificent story [is] marvelously captured in this new unabridged translation.”—Denver Post
“Rich and gorgeous. This is the [translation] to read. . . . If you are flying, just carry it under your arm as you board, or better still, rebook your holiday and go by train, slowly, page by page.” —Jeanette Winterson, The Times, London
From the Inside Flap
A THRILLING NEW TRANSLATION BY JULIE ROSE Sensational, dramatic, packed with rich excitement and filled with the sweep and violence of human passions, Les Misérables is one of the greatest adventures stories ever told. It is a novel peopled by colourful characters from the nineteenth-century Parisian underworld; the street children, the prostitutes and the criminals. In telling the story of escaped convict Jean Valjean, and his efforts to reform his ways and care for the little orphan girl he rescues from a life of cruelty, Victor Hugo drew attention to the plight of the poor and oppressed. Les Miserables is a masterful detective story, a comic and tragic story of romance and revolution and, ultimately, a tale of redemption and hope.
WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY ADAM THIRLWELL --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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A number of interviews with Rose are available online, in which she discusses her work, and her work on this novel. The novel has a lengthy and detailed Translator's Preface, in which she discusses the novel, the translation process, and her approach to it. You also can find online some independent articles about this translation.
The great translator of Spanish language literature, Edith Grossman, said:
"I can't say what makes a book translatable, but I do think that all texts can be translated. The question of whether or not a work is "translatable" stems from a mistaken and widely held notion that a translation is really a one-for-one set of equivalences with the original--a straightforward lexical problem--when in fact it is a rewriting of the first text. Some, of course, are immensely difficult (they're usually just as difficult in the original) and challenge the translator's sensitivity to nuance, levels of meaning, and artistic impact in both languages. I see my work as translating meaning, not words."
Rose has spoken similarly about her work.
"I think the essential difference is that...and I'm not saying that translators always have to do this, there are reasons for departing a little bit further from a writer's text where it just won't work in English. I found on the contrary what really worked better in English was to follow Hugo much more closely than anyone else seems to have done. So I've actually followed his syntax as closely as possible, I've followed the rhythm of his sentences and I've actually broken it up the way he has and stuck more closely to what he says." -- Julie Rose, interview, 2009
She's translated more than thirty French works into English -- plays, poetry, novels, genre fiction. She worked on Les Miserables for three years. She has been awarded three international prizes for her translations. I'm willing to take the leap of faith -- she is "fluent in French." I recommend others accept the facts in plain sight, and do likewise.
I stopped reading works in translation in the early 1980s, and didn't start up again until around 2005. The reason I stopped was that I concluded that I could not hear the author's voice in the translated work. The reason I started again was that Rose, Grossman, and some others showed that they understood this challenge, accepted it, and that it is possible to capture the author's voice in a translation, by actually listening to the author's intent.
According to one account, the Rose translation is almost 100,000 words longer than the 1976 Denny "translation" -- that's how much material he excised from the novel to "improve it." Denny, in fact, is on record as saying that Victor Hugo was a terrible writer, and needed some "tidying up." If you're just looking to pad your reading CV with another of the "great books," then it doesn't matter which one you read. Might as well go with a shorter one. If you're looking to read the translation of Les Mis, that will make you feel like you are reading the original, hearing Victor Hugo's voice, then pick up Rose's translation.
I have always been moved by the story's theme of morality based on law versus morality rooted in love. This book is unquestionably worth reading!! The development of the characters and their struggles are so rich that I found myself crying during parts of the book. While the musical is a moving and touching story , it is nothing compared to the book itself. The best compliment I can give to a book is that touched my life and that its main characters shall live on within my heart. My life is richer for having read this book. The many sections that I have highlighted I shall revisit over and over for years to come.
ourselves is whether we are worthy and knowledgeable enough to turn the gilded pages of Victor Hugo's masterpiece that drips with words of gold in every page. Much to my astonishment after concluding my second read with buckets of tears (I am sentimental but am moved only by giant geniuses like Hugo) it dawned on me that I really have not read it at all 30 years ago. But I remember clearly that I turned to Hugo chiefly to escape my wretchedness (pun intended) in the 2.5 years compulsory military service. Given my youth then, I had not chalked up enough life's hard experiences yet to have full empathy for much of the suffering and the depth of french history especially the french revolution to grasp all the nuances Hugo would have wanted his readers to appreciate. Today, with >30 years of life's heavy baggage accumulated, I am less unworthy and more adequate a reader because I have imbibed so much more of Hugo's spectacular offering of humanity at its worst and best. There are diamonds in every page of his over 1500 pages novel (English version, the French is >1900 pages). I wish I could read Hugo's work in French, but like all illiterates in French, we appreciate the great work of translations. To say the least, Les Misérables translated by Christine Donougher is a brilliant new, faithful and unabridged version I believe ( leap of faith since I haven't read it in French) of Victor Hugo's thrilling masterpiece, with an introduction by Robert Tombs. The annotations and footnotes are exceptionally brilliant. Cross checking them all as one reads along is essential to know the historical characters and the circumstantial events revolving the story with the French revolution being the chief most tumultuous and had the most far reaching impact on social divide and inequality. It led to the overthrow of Monarchy and establishment of the Republic. The citizen was born with a new hope in a society based on Liberté, égalité, fraternité. Hugo left no stone upturned, no plant not described, no object of the barricade unmentioned when he described the French landscape of past. Such was Hugo's meticulous style but welcomed minutia on details, none more so than his detailed description of the Paris sewer system. So convincing was Hugo in portraying the subterranean maze as a treacherous stinking route of escape that it was an impossible escape and rescue mission for any human. Thus heightening the immense task undertaken by our hero in carrying an unconscious full grown man to emerge alive at the end after navigating 4 miles of slimy putrid ditches in pitch darkness most of the journey. In comparison, Shawshank would have been a walk in the park. And our hero didn't even like the man he was rescuing because he knew his sole happiness in life would be taken away by this unconscious young man. But he did it because he was superhuman and an angel. My first read nearly 30 years ago was a translation by another fabulous woman, Isabella Hapgood, before kindle and digital books were in existence. Going to the annotations then was a chore and was often neglected which inevitably hampered my level of appreciation for the book. Despite that, my first read shook me to the core by the breadth and depth of Hugo's masterpiece on the wretched human condition and the hand of God in redeeming His elects, Jean Valjean chief amongst many in the book. Desiring a second enjoyment, I researched and sampled the various translations on offer after a 30 years gap, this time round on digital by kindle. For translations I always go to the reliable and more expensive Penguin publishers first before looking at other publishers. Les Misérables with the unique English title "The Wretched", convinced me to be the best after some comparisons of the first chapter of various translations. A Penguin yet again. The audacity of translating the title "Les Miserables" to "The Wretched" was ingenious and original to set itself apart from the other translations. As a genuine connoisseur of literature of the finest kind that I consider myself, I cannot emphasise enough to all non French speaking readers on the careful choice of the best translation and to spare no expenses for the best experience one must have. Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables" is the finest of them all. Its the top notch Beluga caviar and it is the finest of the finest brandy ever distilled. As you would pay top dollar to enjoy them so too should you for the pride and joy of classic literature, the world (Hugo in this case) has to offer to the universe. Hugo's fine work must undoubtedly be also the pride and joy of God since it showcases His will on mankind. God has already shown in the story of Job, the finest men can be inflicted with life's greatest catastrophes and grief, and in the gospels that the most perfect man must walk the hardest road. Hugo's premise in Les Miserables was exactly that providence is responsible for the wretchedness in our lives. Providence can also lift the wretchedness from the most wretched and turn them into the greatest salt and light of the world. There are many wretched characters in Hugo's les miserables. Once you have read them, you can play the game of picking the most wretched of them all. The drama of "road to Damascus" was played out several times in the book. Like the Jew persecutor, Saul transformed into fiery apostle Paul, so too was a hardened ex convict touched by the hand of God and was transformed into a loving angel to the world of wretched souls that crossed his path.
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This has the poetic and romantic cultural feel she wanted.
I wanted the full version in French, as advertised.Read more