Non-English translations

Any discussion related to Victor's Hugo's Les Misérables, in any language.
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Aurelia Combeferre
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Non-English translations

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Sun Feb 21, 2010 3:24 pm

Ever come across one? Actually own one? Any comparisons you care to make?

As of now, I think I am the only person who is attempting to translate Les Mis into Filipino. I have started with my favorite chapter: What Horizon Can Be Seen From the Top of the Barricade
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Re: Non-English translations

Postby Elwen Rhiannon » Sun Feb 21, 2010 8:09 pm

Uhm, Aurelia, sorry to state something I thought to be obvious [clears throat]... but the fact that out of politeness and for the sake of better international communication we use English (the lingua franca of our times) on the forum, DOES NOT mean, for Victor Hugo's sake, that we're all American/British/Australian!!!

I am Polish, and I'd like to use it to share a kind of curious detail: first Polish translation (done by Sulicki and Faleński) came out in 1862 before the first official French edition of Les Misérables (yes, you read correctly - somebody bought the manuscript from the editor and the translators hurried - if you find it impossible, think of illegal translations of Harry Potter). I personally own a 1900 translation by Zbigniew Zaturski, a Warsaw edition from the time of the partitions of Poland, with imprimatur given by the tsarist censorship: they cut away the character of Feuilly almost entirely, in the famous chapter introducing Les Amis he simply does not appear. So does not Le Cabuc and Enjolras killing him. Then I have a five-volume edition by anonymus translator (found the name, but lost it), edited in independent Poland around 1930, when after pushing away the Bolsheviks in 1920 everything reminding communistic ideals was censored, which in case of this particular book meant geting rid of ca. half of Enjolras' speech on his vision of future and 20th century. The Le Cabuc incident doesn't appear in this one, too. The edition I use the most often is the post second world war edition by Krystyna Byczewska from 1962 (I've just noticed it's exactly a hundred years after the first one!), second edition in this translation, and as much as I can say after comparing it with French unabridged version (yes, I have it, too), a "rather" complete one (would need a critical philological comparision to be sure and I have no time, hence the quotation marks), edited under communistic reign, which meant gloryfying almost everything concerning social movements and revolutions (the barricade part matches original, Enjolras' speeches are not cut, there's Le Cabuc etc.; one can of course discuss the choice of words and the concept of translating names, but it's normal stuff when you translate). I had my hands on at least one more translation (by Wincenta Limanowska, 1881) - bonus of working in the library of Polish Academy of Sciences, and according to my research, there should be at least two editions more. The ones mentioned above are "unabridged" in the meaning that even when censored, they were not drastically shortened (I don't count such ones).

The majority of post-1945 (= end of second world war) editions bases on Byczewska, though there is at least one abridged version by another translator and two books for children about little Cosette and Gavroche, basing on one of other pre-war translations (I have it at work, so can't check now).

I'd provide pictures of my books, but it's night and the lamp light is not bright enough to make good ones.
Last edited by Elwen Rhiannon on Sun Feb 21, 2010 8:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Non-English translations

Postby Frédérique » Sun Feb 21, 2010 8:14 pm

I own a German translation in three volumes by Paul Wiegler and Wolfgang Günther, which I believe is one of only two German translations currently available that has not reduced the text to some six hundred pages (one such abridged edition was sold in the 1950s-60s with the subtitle 'Szenen und Bilder aus dem Frankreich des 19. Jahrhunderts', possibly in order to attract readers of the same publishing house's Balzac edition with its [correctly attributed] subtitles à la 'Szenen aus dem Pariser Leben').
It omits "Argot" as untranslateable but informs the reader of the fact. The other (presumably) full translation (by Hugo Meier) I have not read, though an Amazon review suggesting that it was hard to get through because 'Hugo writes very dryly with a lot of distance, making it hard for the reader to sympathise with any of the characters' makes me suspect that it suffers from a more extreme case of what I am about to complain about.

This version represented my first encounter with Vol.s 3 to 5 and I enjoyed it hugely at the time (I would not be here otherwise :D), though in looking back I find that, while its style is enjoyable and its syntax and vocabulary are appropriately and consistently nineteenth century-esque (it is in fact from 1983), its tone is sometimes (not always) different from the French and the early English translations I know in an almost endearingly stereotypical way (which probably has to do with that very nineteenth-century-ness): both the dialogue and the narrator's own voice occasionally seem more earnest, formal, sometimes stilted. It doesn't make it boring or more depressing, it merely sounds out of character here and there.
The first example of this that comes to mind - Marius saying to Cosette 'Je vous fâche peut-être; est-ce que je vous fâche?', translated by Wilbour and Denny as something along the lines of 'Perhaps I'm annoying you; am I annoying you?' is rendered by Wiegler and Günther as an equivalent of 'Perhaps I incur your displeasure. Is that so?', which-- it may be nitpicking, but I think the fact that he uses a fairly simple, single-word verb and repeats it (repeats the entire phrase, in fact) is essential in expressing his state of mind at that moment. He's trying to lay his heart at that girl's feet, not making a polite inquiry!

(One character that for me somehow seems to 'work' better in German than in English ... is Grantaire. His rants flow more naturally, more ... well, not coherently, exactly, but more like a waterfall and less like a rock slide. His manner of expanding on a theme, his way of moving onwards and in circles between themes corresponds to a certain something in the nature of the language. [ETA: Which actually contradicts the 'more formal' impression, doesn't it? Erm.] It's almost a musical question, like Lully's influence is felt more precisely in Bach than in Purcell.)

There are several imprecisions in substance rather than style, too, occasions where the translators missed out on the implications of a turn of phrase and translated it in a more or less literal way that obscured or changed the meaning (for example, Gillenormand's comment re: Courfeyrac's death, 'Ceci est bon!', is given as the equivalent of 'That is good.' - much as in English - suggesting that he approved of it, rather than, as bigR explained a little while back, exclaimed as much as 'That's a good one!'), but no deliberate distortions of entire passages with a noticable agenda (... well, actually that just means I didn't notice it).
Still, in spite of the sixty-page glossary of historical and cultural references, there are lost allusions - 'Oraison funèbre de Blondeau, par Bossuet'/'Blondeau's funeral oration, by Bossuet' becomes 'Bossuets Leichenrede auf Blondeau' ('Bossuet's funeral oration on Blondeau'). What makes that chapter title so amusing is its '[Title], by [author]' format, establishing a connection with dozens of real funeral orations by the real Bossuet that might be thus listed when cited. It's somewhat less obvious in the changed format.
This is ridiculously nitpicky, I know, but it could have easily been kept intact, whereas sometimes there is no way of finding an absolute mot juste equivalent (this may seem obvious, but-- often it would be so easy to stay much closer to the original text without being awkwardly literal) - for example when it comes to distinguishing Enjolras and Combeferre: 'leader' and 'guide' are the same word in German, (the needless to say highly unfortunately connotated) 'Führer', so the German translation calls Enjolras a 'commander' ('Befehlshaber'; the word used in French, 'chef', could have been used in German, too, but would have been anachronistic and a little colloquial) and makes Combeferre the 'Führer', though it avoids the Nazi association by inserting a specifying subclause identifying him as the 'guide' variety (something like 'one who knows his way around the terrain'), which is not included in the original.
Personally I think it would have been very neat - at least for the reading eye - to call Combeferre a Führer and Enjolras an Anführer; the latter can mean only 'leader', not 'guide', and would therefore have explained that the former is to be read as 'guide' without further clarification. It would have been accurate and sounded good! (Or maybe 'Haupt' - head, both as in head-of-tribe and the-thing-your-brains-are-in - and 'Oberhaupt' - head only in the former sense. No, that would imply that Enjolras was lacking in the brains department. Hmm. And in either of these cases it's all good and well having their two definitions etymologically linked, but poor Courfeyrac is left out ... so I suppose it is best to give them three individually distinct 'offices'.) (You are presently getting a very good impression of the reason my own career in translation never went far :P)

What else? Puns or nicknames are usually not translated but explained in parentheses. Joly's blocked nose is slightly more pronounced than in French but not as extreme as in Wilbour's English. Gavroche's 'Keskseksla?' and 'Kekçaa?' are given in a sort of unspecified dialect; it doesn't smell of any particular region, though I've definitely heard the phrases in question ('Wssndas?' and 'Isswas?') used in the Rhineland. Songs and poems are given in loose translations and in verse - rhymes, yes, same number of syllables, no, which is problematic only if one tries to sing them to 'their' tunes (question: did 'Si le roi m'avait donné ...' have a set melody that people would have heard in their heads when reading 'Si César ...'?).
Annoying inconsistency: Louis-Philippe has not been translated into Ludwig-Philipp, but Henri IV is given as Heinrich IV., Charles X as Karl X. ... and Napoléon without the accent, but that is done even by translators who leave all other names in French.
(Really, as far as names are concerned I'm happy as long as Jean Valjean does not become Hans Hiershans. John Theresjohn. Heeeeere's Jean-y.)

A couple of formal things are more accurate than in English simply because they can be more easily adapted, e.g. the 'vous'/'tu' distinction ('sie'/'du' ... er, one of these ought always to be capitalised; the rules as to which of the two it is change about once every six months), the difference between 'Thénardier' and 'la Thénardier' (who in English due to lack of a specifically feminine article becomes 'the female Thénardier', 'the Thénardier woman', or 'the Thénardiess'), or (very minor detail) Claquesous' line 'Je m'appelle pas-du-tout', which becomes 'Ich heiße überhaupt nicht', thereby retaining both the meaning and the form through the first person active voice - which would not be given in English translations such as 'My name is Not-at-all' or (an inversion of 'I am called ...') 'I am not called at all'! (Come on, that's exciting!)

Good luck with your Filipino translation!
Last edited by Frédérique on Sun Feb 21, 2010 8:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Non-English translations

Postby MmeJavert » Sun Feb 21, 2010 8:39 pm

Elwen Rhiannon wrote:Uhm, Aurelia, sorry to state something I thought to be obvious [clears throat]... but the fact that out of politeness and for the sake of better international communication we use English (the lingua franca of our times) on the forum, DOES NOT mean, for Victor Hugo's sake, that we're all American/British/Australian!!!\


I don't think that Aurelia, who is ALSO not American or British or Australian or from any country where English is the primary language, meant to imply that she thought everyone else was. I am not certain if you realise that occasionally these remarks of yours come out sounding condescending, but this one certainly does come across that way, and I'd like you to please consider that before posting. We have a large number of monoglot-English-speakers here, but we have an equally large number of people who do not live in a primarily-English-speaking country and I'd like to think we all understand and respect that. My understanding of Aurelia's topic was to ask about translations of the Brick that were not into English, because up until now there has been no discussion about, say, translations into German or, yes, Polish. This quoted remark was not quite necessary.
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Re: Non-English translations

Postby Marianne » Sun Feb 21, 2010 8:55 pm

I do not, alas, have any non-English translations--closest I ever came was flipping through an ancient (printed in blackletter!) German edition in my school's library. But OMG, Frédérique, your notes on the German translation(s) are amazing and hilarious. Grantaire as a waterfall not a rockslide! Unfortunate connotations! Hans Hiershans! It's making me wish I hadn't let my German get so rusty.

Still, in spite of the sixty-page glossary of historical and cultural references, there are lost allusions


I now want a critical companion to Balzac entitled 'Lost Allusions.'
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Re: Non-English translations

Postby Elwen Rhiannon » Sun Feb 21, 2010 8:58 pm

MmeJavert wrote: My understanding of Aurelia's topic was to ask about translations of the Brick that were not into English, because up until now there has been no discussion about, say, translations into German or, yes, Polish. This quoted remark was not quite necessary.


Mine was a supposition that this forum consists of people for whom English is a primary language - especially the "ever come across one?" made me think this way, sounding, let's say, protectionally and therefore irritating me a bit - but if you say it wasn't meant to sound this way, we simply misunderstood each other, as I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings more than any person posting wanted to hurt mine, and I really apologise if I did.
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Re: Non-English translations

Postby MmeJavert » Sun Feb 21, 2010 9:03 pm

Which is why I wanted to say something in case it was unintentional -- unfortunately the Internet does away with the nuances of spoken conversation and we only get words that can be reinterpreted many ways. And I took the "ever come across one" as more of a reflection on the fact that we've never discussed it here on Abaissé, than that none of us ever read any other languages.
and to this day, she's glided on
always home but so far away
like a word misplaced
nothing said, what a waste

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Re: Non-English translations

Postby Elwen Rhiannon » Sun Feb 21, 2010 10:18 pm

I've been curious for a long time whether somebody found traces of censorship in other language versions of the Brick. Can anyone help? I don't mean versions shortened for marketing reasons, cuting "boring" digressions away etc. but real political or moral censorship.
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Re: Non-English translations

Postby Frédérique » Mon Feb 22, 2010 1:01 am

How are the names translated in the Polish, Elwen? In a book in which so many people are only referred to by their last names there seems to be a lot less room or reason to adjust names to the comfort zone of the reader.

So now that I am browsing the German version again I keep finding mistakes/imprecisions (really minor, but still: for all that they got the 'Je m'appelle pas-du-tout' so right, they messed up the 'nocturne à deux voix', in which phrase 'nocturne' obviously means this sort of thing and not 'ein Nachttier', 'a nocturnal animal'), though no censorship or adaptation - I'd love to find an 1870s one that's all 'oh wow, look how ill-organised the French are, no wonder we just beat them HAHA' or a Third Reich one that's all 'FOLLOW THE TALL BLOND (AND HIS QUADRIGA OF STARS)' (improbable, that - but I checked: the book wasn't banned). I've just found what must be the first German translation on Google Books (probably the one Marianne saw, or at any rate it's printed in a font that makes 'Kinder' look like 'Rinder' and 'Volk' like 'Wolf', which provides an interesting spin on E.'s verdict on the Rousseau household: he denied his cows and adopted the wolf?). It's in ten volumes. I'll try to see if anything substantial is missing tomorrow.
The one I have actually comes from a now-defunct East German publishing house specialising on translations of international fiction whose publications were subject to censorship, but-- yes, there is nothing missing or deeply distorted as far as I've been able to tell. It's possible that parts cut at first were re-inserted in a later edition: the impressum of my books literally says '7th edition 1996 (complete edition). Copyright of the 1983 German translation by ...'. (OH WAIT. According to Google Books a version appeared at the same publisher's [Volk und Welt Verlag] in 1959 already with only a thousand pages, so possibly that was a censored one.)
However, I never properly read "Fantine" and "Cosette" in the 1983 version (had to make do with Hapgood) so I have no idea how the chapter on the Convent is treated, for instance.
It does show in the glossary: all the Jacobins are given purely positive descriptions. The Terror isn't mentioned in the Robespierre note (just that he 'took the revolution to its highest level'), whereas the White Terror is brought up on every occasion. (They don't even bother mentioning Saint-Just's angelic beauty because they don't mention anything it could be contrasted with.) Charles Fourier gets a lot of compliments for recognising the 'anarchist character of capitalist society' and is then told off for rejecting the notion of class war. Ironically they are not very fond of Joseph Fouché and his 'Spitzelsystem' ('Spitzel' being a derogatory form of 'spy' or 'informer', think 'mouchard'). Presumably they resented his betrayal of Babeuf, who is praised for making the first attempt to establish a communist society. Oh, and Napoléon doesn't get an entry. (Buonaparté does, but only to explain the spelling/pronunciation.)


I now want a critical companion to Balzac entitled 'Lost Allusions.'

I've every intention to write one in a decade or two :D I spent the past two months buried in Balzac and can say very little besides 'WTF' at how vague and misleading and just plain Evidently Not Getting It some of the public domain English translations of his works are (and I think a lot have never been retranslated). There's a passage in "Modeste Mignon" in which a character complains that there are too many virgins mentioned in Byron ... and the translator has the character complain that Byron complains of a surplus of virgins in the world.
And there's a reference that's veritably lost, as in, not merely in translation: Balzac's incroyable spies always wear boots à la Suvorov. I have as of yet failed to find any explanation of what made Suvorov's boots special and when and where they became a fashion because outside of Balzac I've found precisely one mention of them, and that one claims that they became the norm for the musicians of the Imperial Guard in 1810, whereas Balzac mentions them in 1799 and 1803. (He was probably just wrong.)

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Re: Non-English translations

Postby Ulkis » Mon Feb 22, 2010 2:02 am

(question: did 'Si le roi m'avait donné ...' have a set melody that people would have heard in their heads when reading 'Si César ...'?).


I don't think so. In the Julie Rose translation there's a footnote that says Hugo made it up. Plus, they're both set to different tunes in the 34 and 72 films. I'm guessing if there had been a definite tune they both would have been the same.

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Re: Non-English translations

Postby Aurelia Combeferre » Mon Feb 22, 2010 2:31 am

Elwen Rhiannon wrote:Uhm, Aurelia, sorry to state something I thought to be obvious [clears throat]... but the fact that out of politeness and for the sake of better international communication we use English (the lingua franca of our times) on the forum, DOES NOT mean, for Victor Hugo's sake, that we're all American/British/Australian!!!


Not sure where I implied that. I was aware that the lingua franca here on the board is English (when I first joined up, we had a number of active members from other parts of Europe), and I was making a guess that a lot of our discussions and comparisons are based on English translations of the book, since after all this is the language that has had the most translations of the Brick. I just wanted to open up discussion on translations that are not in English.

Sorry if this was offensive.
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Re: Non-English translations

Postby Elwen Rhiannon » Tue Feb 23, 2010 12:32 am

Aurelia Combeferre wrote:
Elwen Rhiannon wrote:Uhm, Aurelia, sorry to state something I thought to be obvious [clears throat]... but the fact that out of politeness and for the sake of better international communication we use English (the lingua franca of our times) on the forum, DOES NOT mean, for Victor Hugo's sake, that we're all American/British/Australian!!!


Not sure where I implied that. I was aware that the lingua franca here on the board is English (when I first joined up, we had a number of active members from other parts of Europe), and I was making a guess that a lot of our discussions and comparisons are based on English translations of the book, since after all this is the language that has had the most translations of the Brick. I just wanted to open up discussion on translations that are not in English.

Sorry if this was offensive.


All right, it was a misunderstanding (I also simplified, writing about "American/British/Australian" in the meaning of the countries influenced by Anglosaxon culture, with English as an official language (or one of)). I was just surprised by your question, on the forum I've always considered multicultural, if somebody here read Les Mis in a language other than English... my guess was that if we're from different language areas, it's obvious most of us read it initially in their own languages. I quote the book in English only to be understood if I want to talk about the book in general. The language is just a tool.

An interesting topic, anyway - thanks for creating it!

Frédérique wrote:How are the names translated in the Polish, Elwen? In a book in which so many people are only referred to by their last names there seems to be a lot less room or reason to adjust names to the comfort zone of the reader.


Historical characters are traditionally given Polish equivalents of their names, which makes "Andrzej Chénier", "Ludwik Filip" instead of "Louis Philippe", "Karol X" instead of "Charles X" and "Napoleon" with no accent. For novel characters the trend is kept: "Mariusz" for "Marius", "Jerzy" for "Georges", "Jan" for "Jean" (makes me want to hit the nearest wall), "Eufrazja" for "Euphrasie", "Fantyna" for "Fantine", "Eponina" for "Éponine" etc. Though I'd like to get two people in my hands. The first one is an idiot who gave the bishop's prefered name as "Benvenuto" (appears in the 1900 version and is kept since then, though I don't know who came out with this brilliant idea), giving no footnote and making me "see the light" after many years and geting in my hands the original version. The second one is, sad to say as I adore her work, Byczewska, translating "Cosette" as "Kozeta". Not only it sounds awful, but bears a tragical resemblance to the Polish word "kozeta", meaning "big couch". Try to fight amusement while reading... according to my friend, the lecture is even harder when you have a cat, as there's a very similarily spelled word "kuweta" meaning the box with sand, where the cats do their... stuff. :twisted: One of elder translators "translated" the name in a different way, writing it as "Cozetta" (Polish female names ALWAYS end with "a") - acceptable to me, if you have to translate the names.

Frédérique, I found your information on acts of censorship in German editions extremly interesting! If possible, I'd like to know more on that. I'm now curious if there were any differences between editions in East and West Germany. Probably no chance to have a look at the 1933 German translation, online or anywhere else? (speaking of censorship, Wiener edition of Hugo's "1793" from 1939 is something I'd like to see... the post-war fate of Polish editions of this book is interesting, too: one edition in 1957, then looooooong nothing, and then last year).
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Re: Non-English translations

Postby Frédérique » Tue Feb 23, 2010 7:40 pm

'Big couch'! That is about as unfortunate as it gets (feline powder rooms aside). Thanks for the names (you know I eat up these things). Is it only first names, then? But what does it make of Jean Valjean père, whose last name necessarily has to include his first name in order for the voilà to make sense? Or Champmathieu/Jeanne Mathieu? (OH, and: if Jean Valjean is Jan, then so, I assume, is Jean Prouvaire. Does he then choose a medieval version of 'Jan' for an alias?)
Also, how is argot (both the chapter and the use of it in the text) translated? And how do the Polish translators treat Joly's impaired pronunciation when he has a cold, 'il paraît que décidébent Barius est aboureux'/'it is decidedly abberent that Barius is in lub'? (Random note: when I read that line in English it took me roughly fifty years to realise that what he was saying was 'apparent', not 'aberrant'.) I ask mainly because of Wilbour's English translation, which is remarkable on that point in that it radically exaggerates the extent to which his speech is disfigured (French: 'Courfeyrac, tu aurais dû prendre un parapluie.' - Wilbour: 'Courfeyrac, you bust take ad ubbrella.'; ye-es, the English simply includes more letters that suffer from a blocked nose, but the 'must' for one could have simply been translated as 'should have', which would have been perfectly pronounceable).

Frédérique, I found your information on acts of censorship in German editions extremly interesting! If possible, I'd like to know more on that. I'm now curious if there were any differences between editions in East and West Germany. Probably no chance to have a look at the 1933 German translation, online or anywhere else?

Well, I don't really have much information yet, but I'm working on it :D
The 1863 and 1983 versions are the only ones whose text I have at hand, and, as it turned out, only the first seven volumes (out of at least ten) of the former are actually on the internet. There are random white blocks on some of the pages (like so); I'm not sure whether that's censorship or an error in digitalising - anyway I've not noticed any particular pattern. At any rate, it doesn't seem to be missing any large amounts of text (the complete Bishop story is there, "Parenthesis" is there, "Waterloo" is there and, as far as I can tell, without Prussian bias). Argot is translated into Rotwelsch (a German equivalent also used in translations of Balzac and Sue) and re-translated into gutbürgerlich German in footnotes. (I can't help but notice that several of the 'incomprehensible' 'criminal' expressions of 1863 are part of my daily vocabulary. Not sure whether that says more about the development of the language or about my socialisation.) It's really a surprisingly satisfying translation, all in all, especially considering the market for translations of French literature wasn't huge (the people who cared to read French books read them in French) - many of Hugo's Romantic contemporaries weren't translated (or, well, translated and published on a large scale; I suppose there've always been circles of nerds who gathered and went at it with the dictionary ... or at least I like the idea) until the twentieth century (and then usually in a philological context rather than for the broad masses), others never.
There are a handful of translated names, but very few (because obviously there is no equivalent of the likes of Éponine, whereas names such as Marius are exactly the same in German and 'normal' French names - i.e. Jean or Charles - are/were something the pronunciation of which most Germans would have been familiar with, especially in the areas that were under Napoléonic rule/organisation [the translation was published in Mülheim, which would have fallen into that category]; it's still quite common in my neck of the woods for men named Hans or Matthias to be nicknamed 'Schang' or 'Mattschö', i.e. 'Jean' or 'Mathieu'): for example, Fantine's neighbour Marguerite becomes Margaretha. Unfortunately, the translator also seems to have thought that 'ou Laigle' was Lesgle's title (or something):

Image

HAHA. Note the footnote explaining the ABC/Abaissé pun. It omits a number of other puns, though, such as the mon calme/Montcalm one. 'Observe my calm' is there, the response is not.

HOWEVER. I have got colossal news re: 'Wiegler/Günther': they never existed as a tandem*. Paul Wiegler actually died in 1949 and Wolfgang Günther 'reworked' his translation for the 1983 edition. Having discovered this I now have to see the 1959 edition, since that one presumably includes only Wiegler's work, and see what is missing. Something must be: the 1950s and 1960s editions never amount to more than a thousand pages. (Perhaps, if there are passages that were left out by Wiegler or censored at the time and added by Günther, that could explain why the tone seems off only sometimes!)
HOWEVER (II). Apparently the Wiegler translation first came out in 1952 (and at Aufbau, not Volk und Welt [where it landed in 1959], which is especially interesting since there is a 2001 Aufbau "Les Misérables" which uses another translation and is even shorter), which means, if he did die in 1949, that it spent at least three years on a shelf. (It also means he worked in a political climate completely different from the one I assumed he worked in, immediately post-war rather than cold war. According to Wikipedia, he was 'neutral' towards the Nazis.) Or maybe he had written a complete translation and it took the censors three years to wade through it and make enough sense of it to decide what had to go.

For other editions I've little to offer but page numbers. Between 1930 and 1950 the book grew progressively shorter:
a)a 1929/1930 version has 766 pages
b)a 1934 version has 578
c)a 1940 version has 550; it was both translated and shortened ('zeitgemäß'ly, that is, 'appropriate to the time') by one Ernst Richard Ecker and is possibly the same as the 1934 one
d)a 1950 Austrian edition has 429.

This is terrible. (What is less terrible is that they're all sold on the internet. I'm definitely going to pick up the 1930 one and the 1934 one in the nearish future to see how they compare.) There is also a 1900 version in at least six volumes of circa two hundred pages each and a version from circa 1920 with 480 pages. Taking into account that the Gothic print was widely used until the 1940s that's really not a lot.

The one I mentioned with the 'Szenen ...' subtitle is from Goldmann (I think it has about five hundred pages: for comparison, an unabridged "Les Chouans" in the same format has three hundred and fifty, annotations not counted) and was published at a time at which the company was seated in Munich, so it's 'a Western edition' that came out while the GDR was getting its thousand page version. The translation contained is by Edmund Theodor Kauer (who at some point was editor in chief of an Austrian communist daily newspaper), though again I am not sure if Kauer himself abridged the text in translating or whether the abridged version was made on the basis of his translation. (The unabridged international classics Goldmann published in cheap pocket book format at the time are generally new translations, but their selections from Rabelais, for example, are based on an 1832 translation by Gottlob Regis. It's probable enough that the Kauer translation is relatively old because he was translating Stendhal as early as 1930; however, he lived until 1973, and I haven't found any mention of a pre-1950s edition that uses his translation.) At any rate a Kauer translation is still in print (via Aufbau, see above) and still only six hundred pages long (... and still readers complain that it is full of 'Geschwafel', i.e. gobbledygook, rigmarole, blabber!), i.e. probably the same as its Goldmann incarnation; it came out when the 2000 adaptation was broadcast on TV, i.e. at least today its reduced length is attributed to an attempt to make it 'digestible' rather than 'appropriate'.
The one-volume complete (presumably) translation by Hugo Meier (between 1300 and 1800 pages, depending on print and binding) first came out in 1968 in Switzerland.
HOWEVER (III), a five-volume edition of the Wiegler/Günther translation was published by Diogenes (also seated in Switzerland) in the 1980s. A total of 1804 pages (including an afterword and a translated Baudelaire essay, but ... apparently not the glossary?) ... with the subtitle 'the first complete German translation', which, if it's still missing "Argot", is simply not true.
Argot in the text, incidentally, is usually translated by Wiegler/Günther with appropriate terms from Rotwelsch, sans footnotes. The biscuit, meanwhile, inexplicably morphs into a biscotte, c'est à dire: a zwieback.

A propos of subtitles: the three-volume version I have comes with the adorably long-winded 'Nach diesem Roman entstand der Musical-Welterfolg "Les Misérables".', i.e. 'It was on the basis of this novel that the internationally successful musical "Les Misérables" was created.'
See, anywhere in the world they would have just put a sticker on it saying 'THE BOOK BEHIND THE HIT MUSICAL!'. Not in Germany. In Germany they deposit a full sentence in the middle of the cover. And not in small print, either. (Well, the 2001 edition comes with so large a sticker about the mini series that you practically see 'DEPARDIEU' before you see 'Hugo'.)
Correspondingly, if you buy Vidocq's 1829 mémoires in French, you get something called "Mémoires de Vidocq, chef de la police de Sûreté, jusqu'en 1827", or, at best, that plus "aujourd'hui propriétaire et fabricant de papiers à Saint-Mandé". If you buy them in German, you get "Aus dem Leben eines ehemaligen Galeerensklaven, welcher, nachdem er Komödiant, Soldat, Seeoffizier, Räuber, Spieler, Schleichhändler und Kettensträfling war, endlich Chef der Pariser Geheimen Polizei unter Napoleon sowohl als auch unter den Bourbonen bis zum Jahre 1827 wurde". (It makes reading the book quite redundant.) And that's not even mentioning the paper business.


*Which sadly rules out an explanation I had come up with for another mistake I found - the Masons in "Enjolras et ses lieutenants"! Wiegler/Günther make/s them the wall-building sort of masons ('Masons' can be understood without 'Free-', given the 'lodge' context, but 'Maurer' is 'Maurer' is 'Maurer') and, what is actually strangest in that it could almost pass for a misinterpretation due to a typo if the 'typo' did not only occur in the German itself, they speak of the 'Lage' at the rue de Grenelle-Saint-Honoré rather than the 'Loge', i.e. the 'situation' rather than the 'lodge'. My only explanation for this had been that one of the gentlemen translated the passage by hand and the other couldn't read it. But maybe it is deliberate? Get more workers in? Feuilly and Poland are completely intact, by the way, apart from the 'nest-ce pas' line.


I'd be very interested in learning more about the novel's changing fates in imperial and Soviet Russia - as far as I know its official publication was prohibited on (probably) personal order from Aleksandr II, but Hugo had prominent fans ranging from Tolstoy and Dostoevsky (whose fluency in French did not prevent him from making bizarre grammar mistakes when letting his characters quote Voltaire) and practically all the 1860s/70s writers and intelligentsia (except the longlongterm expat Turgenev, who thought Les Mis was 'everywhere a lie from start to finish, all false, every feeling expressed from the first to the last [...] In our literature you won't find that! Our imagination is weak and we are often boring, but we do not remove ourselves so far from vital truths as do the French.') who praised him in their revues on a weekly basis, so (while, much as in Germany, everyone with half a claim to sophistication spoke French anyway) translations must soon have been circling underhand. (His other works up to that point were legally translated, but it was understood that any pro-Polish or anti-clerical sentiments had to be ignored or glossed over.)


I don't think so. In the Julie Rose translation there's a footnote that says Hugo made it up. Plus, they're both set to different tunes in the 34 and 72 films. I'm guessing if there had been a definite tune they both would have been the same.


Made what up? The specific lyrics are Hugo's, but the framework is from a sixteenth century song that's already (supposedly) 'old' when making its appearance in "Le misanthrope" (Alceste sings it near the end of I,2).
At any rate, I found what claims to be 'the tune' to the original. At the first line I thought it was roughly the same that's used in the 1934 film, but ... well, either it isn't, or I'm tone/tune-deaf, or the 1934 Combeferre is (there's got to be something he isn't good at!).

Ulkis
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Re: Non-English translations

Postby Ulkis » Tue Feb 23, 2010 8:28 pm

Made what up? The specific lyrics are Hugo's


That's what I meant, the lyrics. I assumed since the lyrics were Hugo's, there probably was no corresponding tune.

Drat, the website with the tune won't work for me.

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Elwen Rhiannon
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Re: Non-English translations

Postby Elwen Rhiannon » Wed Feb 24, 2010 11:09 pm

Frédérique, that was impressive - ever thought about scholar career? Anyway, if you're not bored, I'd be more than interested in learning about what you find out.

Frédérique wrote:what does it make of Jean Valjean père, whose last name necessarily has to include his first name in order for the voilà to make sense? Or Champmathieu/Jeanne Mathieu? (OH, and: if Jean Valjean is Jan, then so, I assume, is Jean Prouvaire. Does he then choose a medieval version of 'Jan' for an alias?)
Also, how is argot (both the chapter and the use of it in the text) translated? And how do the Polish translators treat Joly's impaired pronunciation when he has a cold, 'il paraît que décidébent Barius est aboureux'/'it is decidedly abberent that Barius is in lub'? .


His mother's name is "Joanna"... And yes, Prouvaire is "Jan" as well, which I'm in stubborn denial of. Yet all translators I know of keep the alias as "Jehan" and thanks all gods of literature for that, because the medieval equivalents Abelarda and I thought of - "Jaśko" and "Janko" - were Lovecraftian scary... Argot is translated in an readable way, I wonder how much of actual slang of her own period the translator used, but I've never been attracted much by the literature based on its modern forms. Yet it's not a pain to read, and some expressionssound familiar, so I guess the translation is OK here. And poor Jolllly speaks in a manner matching Hugo's ("(...) stanowczo Bariusz busi być zakochady"), with pronuniation replacing "m" with "b" and "n" with "d" - such phonetical deformation made by people with a cold is written in Polish in the same way as in French.

A research on editions and reception of the Brick in Soviet Union would be veeery interesting, but sadly I don't know Russian (hey, native speakers or people reading Russian well - come out from wherever you are!). Here's a list of Hugo's works edited in Russian in the years 1917-1991 according to WorldCat http://www.worldcat.org/search?q=au%3Av ... first_page Basing on my colleague's knowledge and politeness, the Brick had a two-volume edition in 1958 and 1979 and a full (?) one in 1960... matching in a very interesting way the short "thaw" after Stalin's death, equaling a similar trend in Poland in the very same years, when they were also quickly editing what was not published since war; not a surprise, when I think about it now, that Byczewska's (first post-war full) translation came out in 1956 (what a year for this book!) and "1793" followed two years later (so did, by the way, suddenly "remembered" and later "forgotten" for the rest of the century works of Saint-Just et alt.)... not a coincidence in my eyes (matches too well equally sudden trend in Russian editions from the same years) but I'd have to get a printed copy of the 1956 edition to check the year when it was "left to be printed" (= given to the censor) and "signed to be printed" (= accepted by the censor).

Speaking about censorship, our beloved Brick was on the Roman Catholic Index of Prohibited Books till 1959... http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/indexlibrorum.html
"Believe in the future. Combeferre does."


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