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Les Miserables (Penguin Classics) Paperback – April 29, 1982
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Victor Hugo’s tale of injustice, heroism and love follows the fortunes of Jean Valjean, an escaped convict determined to put his criminal past behind him. But his attempts to become a respected member of the community are constantly put under threat: by his own conscience, when, owing to a case of mistaken identity, another man is arrested in his place; and by the relentless investigations of the dogged policeman Javert. It is not simply for himself that Valjean must stay free, however, for he has sworn to protect the baby daughter of Fantine, driven to prostitution by poverty. A compelling and compassionate view of the victims of early nineteenth-century French society, Les MisÃ©rables is a novel on an epic scale, moving inexorably from the eve of the battle of Waterloo to the July Revolution of 1830.
Norman Denny’s introduction to his lively English translation discusses Hugo’s political and artistic aims in writing Les MisÃ©rables.
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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.
I will not comment on the work of the masterpiece itself, but I will talk about the book quality.
It is highly disappointing, the hardcover is extremely cheaply made beyond what I could imagine. If there isn't an actual dust cover to it, YOU WOULD IMAGINE that they would spend a couple cents making a good keepable cover. The horrible colouring on the cover (The red birds on the twigs as pictured) can be taken off progressively just by picking up the book. Not intentionally, not by scratching at it, but literally, GRIPPING the book will erode away the red colouring on the cover.
Next, the sticker, it came with a warehouse inventory sticker that was on there for some amount of time. As you would imagine, since even touching the book will whittle away at it, the sticker has done considerable damage to the back cover as I took it off out of the box. No, I did not have to scratch off the sticker, I did not rip it and leave behind the white paper stuck to the book, no, the sticker came off just as ideally as I could want and it did a ton of cosmetic damage to the back cover.
Third, the size. I seen the size and I was skeptical of the quality, and I was right. The book is rather stiff, just as all hardcovers start, but the bad part is how small the book is in width. It is utterly uncomfortable to read until you basically break the book as you read it because of its cheapness.
To conclude, buy a damn e-book rather than this edition. It will probably save you 16 dollars or you can get it for free at Gutenburg.org. I was completely dissatisfied with getting a throw-away-after-you-read quality book I paid twenty dollars for. This is the last time I buy on Amazon and I advise others to do this as well. The site is behind the times with its integration of reviews to one book instead of one edition and I am often dissatisfied with the utterly cheap products I receive from book publishers.
I am asking for my money back after I post this review. I may respond to it with my results...
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