Les Misérables – A Look at Translations and An Invitation for a Read-Along

In my last post, I was beginning to share thoughts from my first week of reading Les Misérables. However, as I was typing, I needed to look up something and ended up discovering that the book I had was an abridgement; despite the fact that it said “Complete and Unabridged” on the front cover. I want to read an unabridged translation. So I started researching the most recommended translations.

First, this is the book I already had:

Abridged Book of Les Miserables

As you can see on the cover, it clearly states it’s complete and unabridged. However, this is not true. I compared the page count to just a couple of different translations and found that this book fell anywhere from around 400-800 pages less. That’s a huge page count difference! That’s just too much of the story left out for me. I realize when we’re talking about books in translation, many could still be considered slightly abridged just by the fact that translating into a different language can mean certain words might get left out that may not be able to be translated, etc. But to me, hundreds of pages left out is a totally different thing. And that’s not what I want. I want to find a translation that is as close to the original as possible but that also knows how to make the story flow as the author intended in the translated language. And so that’s what I set about to find out with the different translations of Les Misérables. I finally settled on the Fahnestock and McAffee translation.

So first, let me show you the immense difference between this translation and the abridged version I already had:

Two Translations of Les Miserables

Huge difference!

Now back to the different translations. As I researched, three translations tended to stay at the top:  the Wilbour translation, the Denny translation, and the Fahnestock and McAffee translation.

 

The Wilbour translation is said to be very close to the original. However, I read that because the translator tended to keep the original French order of wording, it makes the English version harder to understand at times. It’s more formal sound may also pose a problem for some. The formal wording is not so much a problem for me; but a clunky read because of keeping the French order of wording would probably make it more difficult for me to enjoy.

The Denny translation is said to be probably the most readable translation for modern English. It is my understanding that this translator tried to keep to the original but at the same time, keep the spirit of the author’s intent with the storyline. Therefore it is probably more readable in the English language. I read that Denny did leave out some portions but included those omitted sections in the back of the book.

The Fahnestock and McAfee translation is based off of Wilbour’s translation and tried to stay true to the original. I read that it still retains some of that more formal sound as the Wilbour translation. However, one of the big differences is that it is said that this version has more of the French terminology translated than the Wilbour translation; therefore, it is better for those who have little experience with or understanding of the French language.

For me, the two that rose to the top was the Denny and the Fahnestock and McAffee translations. I decided that I would be fine with getting either one. I was leaning towards the Fahnestock and McAffee mainly because of the fact that Denny omitted parts, even though those parts were still included in the back of the book. So I could still read the omitted parts. But in the end, I felt the Fahnestock and McAfee would just be a smoother read because I wouldn’t have to flip to the back for the omitted parts. Purely just a preference on my part.

What it really came down to was availability for me to purchase either of these translations at our local bookstores. I decided that whichever my local bookstore(s) carried, I would go with that. If they didn’t have either, then I would order it online and go with the Fahnestock and McAfee. In the end, one bookstore only had the Wilbour. So that was out. But then yesterday, my family and I stopped at the other local bookstore and they had the Wilbour, yes, but also ONE copy of the Fahnestock and McAfee. I snatched it up right then and there and bought it.

Les Miserables Fahnestock and McAfee

The Fahnestock and McAfee Translation

I started reading it last night and so far, I find this translation very readable. Hopefully that will stay true for the whole book! Also, I have already read parts that weren’t in the original abridged book I already had. And as I read those parts I kept thinking, why would they leave that out??!!

Would you like to join me in reading Les Misérables? I would love to have others on this reading journey with me. We can do this as a read-along. I don’t plan to do anything formal. I’m just planning to read the book and share passages and quotes and some thoughts here and there along the way. I would love to have others to discuss the book with in the comments! My plan is to post once a week if possible. I can also plan out an approximate number of pages to read per week if there is any interest. 🙂

A Few Introductory Thoughts on Les Misérables

Before diving into Les Misérables, I took some time to read some introductory material on both the book and the author, Victor Hugo. Reading about Hugo was very interesting. Hugo was born in France in February of 1802. Not only is it said that he is the most widely read author of all time, but he is also considered to be one of the most influential leaders in the world of literature.  He was a huge political advocate and was very involved in the various movements of his day. In fact, he eventually became a Senator and worked to accomplish his literary ideals. It is said that he became a national hero in France. According to what I read, Hugo is still considered a symbol of democracy and freedom not just in France but around the world.

After writing the above, I went to look up some information and have discovered that the version of the novel I have is actually an abridged version….even though the cover of the book says complete and unabridged. So….I’m left with trying to decide if I want to just continue on with the book I have that I’ve already started reading, or stop where I’m at and try to buy a different translation and start over. Ugh. I did a bit of research and find two particular translations recommended the most:  Rose and Denny.

Any thoughts?

Autumn Is Around the Corner and Other Musings

 

It’s incredibly hard for me to believe how much time has passed since I last posted here on the blog. So much has been going on. And honestly, a few times I’ve wanted to write….but the words just eluded me. I couldn’t seem to write anything. In my family, my husband is the gifted writer. He can get an idea for a story and sit down and write several chapters in one sitting. Just like that. I think I’m a bit jealous. LOL It takes me awhile to write. What might take my husband 20 minutes to write, would likely take me at least a week (or longer!). Anyhoo…..

Right now, though, I’m just writing. Putting pen to paper – or in this case fingers to the keyboard – and sharing. Not worrying if it flows or if it’s grammatically correct or if it’s not good writing. Just writing. 🙂

Fall Leaf Border

Where we live, it seems like it takes FOREVER for Autumn to arrive. It’s mid-September and we are still having 90 degree temperatures. Ugh. But I know that Autumn is just around the corner. And I CANNOT WAIT! Fall is my favorite season of the year. I love all things fallish – apple pie, baked apples, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pancakes, hot apple cider, sweatshirts, falling leaves, and all the beautiful colors the trees display.

Autumn Leaves

I don’t know if it’s the thought of Autumn coming soon or not, but I’m in the mood to tackle another long classic. Which classic you may ask? Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. It’s been on my classics-to-read list for a good while. However, Masterpiece Theatre (PBS) recently made a new mini-series production of it and I really wanted to try to get the book read before watching it. But there just wasn’t enough time. My husband and I did watch the series and it ranks up there with my favorite productions of this novel. I just finished up reading The Two Towers by Tolkien on Sunday night so I started reading Les Miserables last night:  first reading an introduction that talked about the book and the author Victor Hugo, and then reading a couple of chapters.

I think there’s something about the cooler weather that’s coming soon that invites me to begin reading this long classic. Have you ever felt like tackling longer books in the fall and winter?

Fall Leaf Border

I know I also need to do an update of what I’ve been reading this year. Maybe it would just be easiest to list my titles here and just share a brief note here and there on the books I read for myself. That sounds good. So let’s give that a go. My last update was back in the first of February where I shared what I read in January. Wow! So here’s what I’ve read since then. If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you know that I read a lot of children’s books because I have a kiddo who is an avid reader. So my list of children’s books is lengthy. Some are books I pre-read (and not all books I pre-read get passed on to my daughter. That’s why I pre-read. 🙂 ) Other books in this list we did as read-alouds.

Ok. So first is the list of books for me that I read, then follows the list of children’s books I read. In my first list of books I read for me, classics are listed first then non-fiction then contemporary fiction.

My Reads

Classics

  • Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes – For the most part, I enjoyed Book I. It is very humorous! However, I felt like Book II fell a little flat. Mainly I think because it felt like it was just one episode after another repeating itself and therefore felt a bit monotonous. Still, it is well-written and I am glad I read it.
  • The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim (re-read) – Love this book! 4 stars
  • Excellent People by Anton Chekhov (short story)
  • Expensive Lessons by Anton Chekhov (short story)
  • The Princess by Anton Chekhov (short story)
  • The Aeneid by Virgil – I chose this as an ancient classic to read for my own personal reading challenge.
  • Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie – This was my first Agatha Christie novel and I did enjoy it for the most part. I’m not a huge detective story reader but I felt this one was well-written and would consider reading another Christie novel.
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (re-read) – This is my favorite Austen book I’ve read so far. I listed it as one of my favorite reads of 2016.
  • The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien – I really like this series by Tolkien so far. This particular one is probably not my favorite but still very good. So far, I give the whole series 4 stars.
  • The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis
  • The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis
  • The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis – This was my least favorite of the whole Narnia series. But I still give the whole series 4 stars!

Non-Fiction

  • How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler
  • Becoming by Michelle O’bama
  • Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham – I love the show Gilmore Girls, so this was a fun read for me.
  • Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl – I didn’t care for this one as much as I thought I might.
  • The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida – This book is all about what Naoki’s autistic world is like, told by himself.

Contemporary Fiction

  • Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson – I only gave this one 3 stars. But I think I might want to read it again sometime after having listened to the author speak about the book.
  • A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline (re-read) – This is a 4 star read for me.
  • I’ll See You In Paris by Michelle Gable – I really enjoyed this one.
  • 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff – This was just okay. I was a bit disappointed with it, being that I really like the epistolary form of writing.
  • The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – I gave the whole Hunger Games series 5 stars. I have seen the movies and my sister had told me awhile back that I really should read the books. She said the books really give so much more context to the movies. So I finally bought the books and decided to read them. I’m pretty picky with what books I give 5 stars too. But The Hunger Games series has earned it’s spot with my 5 star books. This series is not easy to read. It is heavy, intense, and emotionally charging. But the writing is compelling and I didn’t want to put the books down. If you like the dystopian genre, I highly recommend these books.
  • A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn – I did enjoy this one but may not read any more in the series.
  • Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry –  I really enjoyed this book. It is a good example of a well-written character-driven novel.  4 stars
  • Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly – Another historical fiction I gave 4 stars
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng – I read so many good reviews of this book but I just wasn’t that impressed with it.
  • The Gown by Jennifer Robson – Loved this book! If you are a fan of the Netflix series The Crown, you will probably like this book. 4 stars

Children’s Books

  • Greenglass House by Kate Milford
  • A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
  • Who Was Alexander Graham Bell? by Bonnie Bader
  • Who Was George Washington Carver by Jim Gigliotti
  • Where is the Amazon? by Sarah Fabiny
  • Red Sand, Blue Sky by Cathy Applegate
  • Black Ships Before Troy by Rosemary Sutcliff
  • The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket (A Series of Unfortunate Events #4)
  • The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
  • One Voice:  The Story of William Wilberforce by Amy Lykosh
  • By the Great Horn Spoon! by Sid Fleischman
  • Freedom Train by Dorothy Sterling
  • Shades of Gray by Carolyn Reeder
  • Sing Down the Moon by Scott O’Dell
  • Old Yeller by Fred Gipson
  • Helen Keller by Margaret Davidson
  • The Wright Brothers by Quentin Reynolds
  • Hero Over Here by Kathleen V. Kudlinski
  • George Washington Carver by Janet and Geoff Benge
  • The Seventeenth Swap by Eloise McGraw
  • Plain Girl by Virginia Sorensen
  • Henry Reed, Inc. by Keith Robertson
  • Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright
  • Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
  • Of Courage Undaunted by James Daugherty
  • Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham

Fall Leaf Border

This year has been a year of no reading challenges except for the one I created for myself. And I have to say, I’m a bit behind in trying to complete my own reading challenge! Ha! But it’s been a pretty good reading year so far overall. I still have a couple of books I’d like to tackle before the year is out, but that may not happen. I am definitely seeing that I tend to be a mood reader. Which isn’t to say that I only read what I’m in the mood for. I definitely read books that I have scheduled out. And of course I still read a lot of children’s fiction. I also have book club titles to read as well. But reading Les Miserables is a prime example of me picking up a book because I am feeling drawn to read it. I have a number of books I’ve wanted to tackle this year but have decided they can wait while I pick up Les Miserables. 🙂

Les Miserables

So to get myself back in the swing of writing here on the blog again hopefully more consistently, I think I will blog my way through Les Miserables by simply sharing quotes from the book each week as I read it. Maybe I will add some thoughts here and there. But mainly just share quotes from the week’s reading.

What are some of your favorite longer classics (or any books 🙂 )
to snuggle up with in cooler weather?