Best translation for a beginner?

Any discussion related to Victor's Hugo's Les Misérables, in any language.
Angeline
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Best translation for a beginner?

Postby Angeline » Tue Jul 12, 2016 12:12 am

I've never read the Brick before, and I'm having trouble deciding which translation to start with. I have copies of the Wilbour and Denny translations at home, and I've already decided not to start with Wilbour, but I'm having trouble choosing between reading Denny's translation or F/M; I've heard good things about both of them. I think the overall experience is the most important thing I'm looking for in my first readthrough. Anyway, I've heard Denny's flows well, but I know F/M has some explanation of the slang Hugo uses while still being an easier read than Wilbour -- man, I'm having a hard time with this. :lol:

I'd also like to mention that I'm 16, if that's important (my dad doesn't seem to think so, he was pushing me to buy a copy in the original French :lol: I'm currently trying to convince him to take up a bet with me over how hard it would be for him to read the untranslated version himself, haha).

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Acaila
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Re: Best translation for a beginner?

Postby Acaila » Tue Jul 12, 2016 11:54 am

Wilbour was my first (at 14) and I still consider it my favourite. It has very good translations that retain character more than the Denny.
Like when Courfeyrac asks Marius what his politics are, Denny has Courfeyrac's following comment as "A wary compromise", whereas Wilbour has the far better and more dismissive "A quiet shade of mouse colour".
The Denny isn't awful (that's the Rose) and it's less archaic that the Hapgood. It's a decent read, just lacking in some of the fun, and a lot of people hate on it for moving a couple of sections to the appendix. It does have all the important bits though.
To be fair though I haven't read the F/M and a lot of people do like that one.

Do check out Havvy's thread on translations as she is far more comprehensive: viewtopic.php?f=26&t=2219
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deHavilland
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Re: Best translation for a beginner?

Postby deHavilland » Tue Jul 12, 2016 1:54 pm

In contrast to Acaila, I prefer the F/M. Largely because I lost all respect for the Wilbour version after the Modern Library edition misspells Grantaire in his introductory paragraph as "Grataire." Weak.

I would say that if heavy classical literature is your cup of tea, then by all means go for the Wilbour. It's a reflection of its time period, and having been published in 1862, it reads the closest to the kind of language that Hugo himself used. But, if you want something that you know you can get through that still retains the tone and intention, then the F/M is the way to go. It's just as accurate as Wilbour, but easier on the modern reader.
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Angeline
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Re: Best translation for a beginner?

Postby Angeline » Tue Jul 12, 2016 7:24 pm

I actually did read through that thread, it's why I decided to join. It was very informative!

I think I may start with the Denny since it's what I have; I'm really busy at the moment and I think the Wilbour would be more fun to read when I have more time on my hands. Acaila, I can't believe you read it at 14! I tried to back then, my brain couldn't handle it. I'd like to give it another go now that I've read more 19th-century literature.
I did look for the F/M at my local Chapters, but they only had the Denny translations. Maybe I could try a used bookstore? I didn't expect it to be so hard to find since I know a lot of people favour it.

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Acaila
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Re: Best translation for a beginner?

Postby Acaila » Thu Jul 14, 2016 1:39 pm

Do not underestimate the willpower of someone completely obsessed with the musical (and with a certain London Enjolras of the time <3), To be fair, I read Lord of the Rings at 9, and the Silmarillion at 11, so I was already used to trudging through doorstoppers!
Could you ask someone to get it online for you?
I really must pick up a copy of the F/M at some point myself.
Revolution: like Christmas come early only with more death
Abaisse Chief/Chef
"Les Amis Fun Package - The Awesome Traits of Each"
"She's basically Enjolras meets Amy Pond"
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Ursula_F
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Re: Best translation for a beginner?

Postby Ursula_F » Fri Jul 15, 2016 2:33 am

I read the F/M and liked it. It had a formal, old-fashioned feel (which felt appropriate), but not SO archaic that it was hard to read. It was about at the level of Jane Austen (in terms of formality/old-fashioned-ness/reading difficulty level).

Haven't read the others, so can't compare and contrast, but I liked it.

Angeline
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Re: Best translation for a beginner?

Postby Angeline » Tue Jul 19, 2016 12:42 am

Ah, I wouldn't want to bother anybody about it. I'm currently waiting for a friend to pick up a copy of the book anyway (misery shared is misery halved, so they say :) )

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ThatInspector
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Re: Best translation for a beginner?

Postby ThatInspector » Sun Jul 24, 2016 4:17 am

When I was at the bookstore choosing which translation to buy, I read through several different chapters to compare and contrast, and found that F/M was really the way to go. Donougher, though it had extensive footnotes, was far too modern, whereas Wilbour was too archaic. I think F/M strikes that perfect balance -- old fashioned, yet still readable (and keeping everything in the correct order, which Denny really doesn't). You can find lots of different ones online, though, like Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
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