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23623
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Hello!

Postby 23623 » Wed Dec 23, 2015 7:21 am

Hello everyone nice to meet you! I discovered this site by chance not long after I was introduced into this fandom by the 2012 movie. However it was not until yesterday that I finally decided to register an account. I hesitated because, first, English is not my native language, and second, I don't have adequate knowledge compared to many other members (quite often I need wikipedia while going through the posts here). So you may have to bear with my grammatical mistakes and occasional silly questions. Thanks in advance for your kindness!

So this is how I became a mizzie if you are interested... Before the movie I knew absolutely nothing about musical theater, and the closest approximation I've listened to was probably the Wall by Pink Floyd (by the way, I've been obsessed with rock music since I was a kid!) I found the idea of integrating music with story-telling exceptionally fascinating and wondered if it could be further developed. Then I watched the 2012 movie in a film study class in high school. My mind was completely blown by the fact that such wonderful thing as musical theater actually exists. And the story itself was amazing. I read the book translated into my native language, but to tell the truth sometimes the translation is a bit weird. I also heard that not all film actors are professional musical theater performers so I started listening to whatever cast recording I could find. So far my favorites are CSR and TAC. It is really a pity that I have never seen a live performance of les miz. So in fact I don't know a lot of actors except some super famous ones. And now I still dream a dream of seeing les miz on stage. Seriously this needs to be done some day!

Besides les miz I also love many other stuff (but surely it's impossible to list them all in a short time). Even before I register I got excited whenever I found someone sharing the same interest with me and now I can officially join you! I don't know if I can post frequently but I'll read the posts if I have time. Again nice to meet you all!

Ilargi
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Re: Hello!

Postby Ilargi » Wed Dec 23, 2015 11:38 am

Welcome to the forum! I hope you enjoy your time here!
I also was introduced to Les Mis by the 2012 film. Then I saw the musical theatre and finally I read the book and my life was officially ruined. :lol:
May I ask you where you are from? I'm curious because your nickname is the number they gave Valjean in the Spanish version of the musical and I'm from Spain myself. :wink: If so, I'd like to know who translated the book you've read. I've read it in French and I'm going to get the Spanish translation by María Teresa Gallego Urrutia for Christmas. I chose that one because I know the translator and I trust her work, but there are a lot of different Spanish translations and some of them (the oldest) censored or changed some parts.

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23623
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Re: Hello!

Postby 23623 » Wed Dec 23, 2015 2:23 pm

Ilargi wrote:Welcome to the forum! I hope you enjoy your time here!
I also was introduced to Les Mis by the 2012 film. Then I saw the musical theatre and finally I read the book and my life was officially ruined. :lol:
May I ask you where you are from? I'm curious because your nickname is the number they gave Valjean in the Spanish version of the musical and I'm from Spain myself. :wink: If so, I'd like to know who translated the book you've read. I've read it in French and I'm going to get the Spanish translation by María Teresa Gallego Urrutia for Christmas. I chose that one because I know the translator and I trust her work, but there are a lot of different Spanish translations and some of them (the oldest) censored or changed some parts.

Hola Ilargi y gracias por tu comentario! Nice guess but unfortunately very far from the truth. I'm from China actually. Surprised? :wink: Pero sí estoy estudiando español. I'm approximately at A2 level. That is to say, I'm certainly not able to read anything like Les Miz in Spanish. But I do plan to re-read it in English once my proficiency in that language allows. I don't think the Chinese translation is bad. I've seen worse translations of other books. I guess it's just because Chinese and French have too little in common to make a not-so-weird translation.
My username does come from "dos tres seis dos tres". I've listened to 2 Spanish versions (1993 and 2010). Personally I prefer the earlier one but back then Valjean was still "dos cuatro seis cero uno", which made me lol a lot! When I registered I just wanted a short and LM-related name but I knew there may be many 24601s here, so I chose this one.
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Re: Hello!

Postby Ilargi » Wed Dec 23, 2015 4:55 pm

_23623_ wrote:Hola Ilargi y gracias por tu comentario! Nice guess but unfortunately very far from the truth. I'm from China actually. Surprised? Pero sí estoy estudiando español. I'm approximately at A2 level. That is to say, I'm certainly not able to read anything like Les Miz in Spanish. But I do plan to re-read it in English once my proficiency in that language allows. I don't think the Chinese translation is bad. I've seen worse translations of other books. I guess it's just because Chinese and French have too little in common to make a not-so-weird translation.
My username does come from "dos tres seis dos tres". I've listened to 2 Spanish versions (1993 and 2010). Personally I prefer the earlier one but back then Valjean was still "dos cuatro seis cero uno", which made me lol a lot! When I registered I just wanted a short and LM-related name but I knew there may be many 24601s here, so I chose this one.

Sí, estoy sorprendida. :D Let me know if I can help you with Spanish!
I'd ask you more about that translation (I find these things very interesting because I'm a translator), but unfortunately I can't speak Chinese, so I would hardly understand your explanations. :(
I haven't heard the whole 1993 Spanish version yet, only a few songs on Youtube and I preferred the ones from 2010, but I think it's because those are the one I listened to and enjoyed live. I should listen to the old songs more carefully and then compare.

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Re: Hello!

Postby 23623 » Thu Dec 24, 2015 5:14 am

Ilargi wrote:
_23623_ wrote:Hola Ilargi y gracias por tu comentario! Nice guess but unfortunately very far from the truth. I'm from China actually. Surprised? Pero sí estoy estudiando español. I'm approximately at A2 level. That is to say, I'm certainly not able to read anything like Les Miz in Spanish. But I do plan to re-read it in English once my proficiency in that language allows. I don't think the Chinese translation is bad. I've seen worse translations of other books. I guess it's just because Chinese and French have too little in common to make a not-so-weird translation.
My username does come from "dos tres seis dos tres". I've listened to 2 Spanish versions (1993 and 2010). Personally I prefer the earlier one but back then Valjean was still "dos cuatro seis cero uno", which made me lol a lot! When I registered I just wanted a short and LM-related name but I knew there may be many 24601s here, so I chose this one.

Sí, estoy sorprendida. :D Let me know if I can help you with Spanish!
I'd ask you more about that translation (I find these things very interesting because I'm a translator), but unfortunately I can't speak Chinese, so I would hardly understand your explanations. :(
I haven't heard the whole 1993 Spanish version yet, only a few songs on Youtube and I preferred the ones from 2010, but I think it's because those are the one I listened to and enjoyed live. I should listen to the old songs more carefully and then compare.


You work professionally as a translator? That's amazing! I'm also interested in modern languages but I'm too busy to research into them :cry:

I see how it is difficult for someone who doesn't speak Chinese to imagine what I mean by "weird". Basically, although I believe the translation is accurate, vocabulary- and grammar-wise, I don't think it sounds natural because either I just don't speak or describe things that way or the translation doesn't make as much sense as the original. Here are 2 examples but I'm not sure if my explanation is clear enough. Also note that the English or French I refer to are actually what I think the original might be according to the Chinese translation I read. And please feel free to correct my mistakes!

1. If I remember correctly this is somewhere before the revolution failed. In French the word "observer" has 2 meanings, "to watch" and "to obey". So if you read in English or French "some people observe rules as they observe the stars, always from a distance" you can get the irony here. However, in Chinese "observe" only has one meaning which is "to watch". And we don't use such expression as "obey rules from a distance" to describe someone who doesn't follow rules. So the Chinese translation becomes "some people obey rules as they watch the stars, always from a distance", which is grammatically correct but strange.

2. This is from Thenardier talking about saving Marius' father. In French, "merci" rhymes with "Pontmercy". So when Thenardier said "I wanted to know his name but all I heard was merci" you understand that he mistook it as a thanks. Chinese translators don't keep foreign names in the original language. Instead they look for Chinese words with similar pronunciation to replace every syllable of the names. So the name "Pontmercy" becomes a combination of Chinese words and you may just think it as ... "blablabla". And "thanks" in Chinese is another word which doesn't rhyme with "blablabla" at all. Thus the Chinese translation becomes "I wanted to know his name but all I heard was blablabla" (or "all I heard was thanks") and all the drama is gone.

Admittedly this may be a problem (imo it's a problem while many others don't mind it at all, maybe I'm just too picky :oops: ) faced by the translation from any language to another, but the extent of "weirdness" can vary. I guess it may be more comfortable to read an English or Spanish translation of Les Miz than a Chinese one because European languages share more similarities in vocabulary, grammar, sentence structure and speaking habits. However it is even more difficult to prove the last two to you if you don't speak Chinese.

I don't have the full recording of 1993 version either and my preference is only based on what I've listened to. And you saw Les Miz live? Oh my God I'm so envious of you now :twisted:
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Re: Hello!

Postby Chantefleurie » Sat Dec 26, 2015 5:49 pm

Hi, and welcome, 23623!

I know what you mean about translations. I have no inkling of Chinese (though I hope to amend that one day), but I've read Les Mis in Russian, which also changes the way things sound, though not as much. The sentence structure is similar, but words and phrases sometimes must be changed. However, my translation opted to do the exact opposite - they translated things literally, and then added side notes to explain how things were supposed to sound in French and what they actually mean. So they kept merci and Pontmercy phonetically the same, and made a note to explain that merci means thank you.

But with the number of puns Hugo puts in his names and his phrases, I think any translation really would be suffering the same fate! Things like Joly's four wings or Grantaire's big R only make sense in French, and any other language would need an explanation of that pun.

I suppose there is some advantage to an English translation, though. I chose to read the Russian one because in general I trust Russian translations more than English ones, and because I've already read some Victor Hugo in Russian. I was very happy with it, but I noticed later that some things were lost which were still retained in English. For instance, somewhere in one of the barricade speeches, someone - I believe Enjolras - says something about fatality and fraternity (which is the same in French, just with an e instead of a y at the end). It has a ring to it. But in Russian these words are nothing alike, and the power of phrasing is lost.


Edit: out of curiosity, I checked how the Russian version translates the sentence about observing stars and rules. They avoided breaking the pun by saying it slightly differently: "Some people are familiar with rules of honour as astronomers are familiar with stars - only from afar."
C'est tellement mystérieux, le pays des larmes. ~Le Petit Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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Re: Hello!

Postby 23623 » Sun Dec 27, 2015 10:33 am

Hello Chantefleurie! May I ask are you a native Russian speaker? To me Russian is one of the most difficult languages. Its grammar and pronunciation can easily kill me.

The Chinese translation does the same thing with the "Pontmerci" joke. It explains how the rhyme is supposed to work in French in the footnote. But indeed understanding the pun using the reader's own knowledge of French language and by reading the footnote provide different experience. And thanks for reminding me about R and Joly. How could I forget them when I first posted! Chinese translators also make corresponding explanations in footnotes. But to tell the truth, I still can't fully understand what is so amusing about "Jolllly" even after reading the footnote; I don't know how to correctly pronounce "Joly" in the very first place :oops: I do get the humor of R's name though.

And I suddenly remember something notable in Chinese translation. I don't know if this is common practice in other translations but if circumstances allow some names are translated according to meaning rather than pronunciation. For example, Chinese translators translate "M. Le Blanc" into "Mr. White" ("white" as the color white) At least in this case they are not ruining Courfeyrac's humor by remaking the name syllable by syllable. And "white" is actually a common surname in China as well. Another example is that they translate Montparnasse as if he were a mountain called "Parnasse" :shock: So they replace the syllables of "Parnasse" and translate "Mont" into the Chinese equivalent of "mountain". The Le Blanc example is too obvious and maybe insignificant but I really want to praise Chinese translators for a truly great translation (not LM-related though). The Star Wars translators translate "Skywalker" into "someone who walks in the sky". It makes more sense and fits the film setting better while only taking 3 Chinese characters, 1 less than a syllable-by-syllable approximation.

And...wow, this suddenly becomes a translation discussion thread. Again please feel free to correct my mistakes. Ilargi and Chantefleurie you are so lucky to have read good translations in Spanish and Russian (but I don't have the fortune to appreciate them :cry: ) And yes, the Russian translation of stars and rules sounds great to me! I only wish I could know more languages other than Chinese and English *sobs*

*EDIT* I delete a paragraph about the early Chinese translation of LM because I haven't read the said version myself. I'm afraid my views may be biased as I make judgments based on what I've heard, not what I've read.
Last edited by 23623 on Mon Dec 28, 2015 3:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Hello!

Postby Vignetta » Mon Dec 28, 2015 12:34 am

Hi _23623_!
I'm not on here alot because I have a lot of school things to do, but I was checking to see what I missed.
I'm also a Chinese speaker! 你好! But I'm not that fluent, although I grew up in a Taiwanese American Chinese-and-English-speaking household.
The Chinese translations of Les Mis names are very interesting. I like how they translated M. Le Blanc, because it keeps the original meaning while making sense to Chinese speakers. (I know a couple of 白先生s myself) Also, I think the translators were correct in translating Montparnasse's name. "Montparnasse," as well as being a neighborhood in Paris, means "Mount Parnassus" in French which is a mountain in Greece. I still have no idea why his name is a mountain though.
Also, about "Jolllly," the footnote in my English translation says the pun is in how the letters are pronounced, like the pun in Grantaire = R. "L" is pronounced similar to the French word for wing, "aile," and when Jolllly has four Ls (ailes) he can fly far? I think that's what it means, if you were wondering.
I also got into Les Mis through the movie! It was almost exactly three years ago, on New Year's eve when I saw it. I have since spiraled into a black hole of musical theatre and along with the constant Les Mis, I am currently going through a Hamilton phase.
I recently read an article about musicals in China, and it said that the musicals Avenue Q and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying were given Chinese language productions in Shanghai and were very popular. It also said that Man of La Mancha is the next one to get a translation. Have you heard of those? (Random translation fact: In How to Succeed there is a scene about football that they changed to basketball. My mom laughed when i told her this because she said that Chinese people don't care about football and they love basketball partly because of Jeremy Lin. ???)

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Re: Hello!

Postby 23623 » Mon Dec 28, 2015 3:58 am

你好, Vignetta! I've never thought I could met other Chinese-speaking people here so you really surprise me! I'm also a miserable student :cry: but I'm on holiday now so I can come here everyday for the time being :wink:

Thanks for the explanation of Parnasse's name! I never knew that before. My point was that the translation of his name was quite interesting indeed :D The footnote in Chinese translation basically says the same thing about Joly's name, but I fail to get it because I don't know the French pronunciation of "Joly" or "aile".

And guess what, I watched the Chinese production of Avenue Q on stage last year and it was AMAZING!! I can go on and on forever about that production. Since we are on the topic of translation, I guarantee you they've done incredibly well. Because I had watched the English version prior to that (and could almost memorize every song word by word), throughout the show I was constantly thinking "Oh my God what a clever translation!" Here is part of their great creativity that I want to share:

1. The protagonist's name, Princeton, was translated into "Tsinghua". Thus the irony of an unemployed top university graduate was retained and localized.
2. The topic of "everyone's a little bit racist" was changed from racial discrimination to jokes about different regions in China (e.g. people from Shanghai think they are richer than others; people from Beijing consider themselves superior, etc.) Another successful attempt at localization.
3. When Rod says he meets a guy in the subway, he will apply the name of a subway route of the city where the show is currently on (which also reminds me that when I watched POTO in Hong Kong last year, the old manager said he went to Macao instead of Germany :lol: )

If I remember correctly MOLM was the company's first production and they are doing it again this year. H2$ came after AQ. Because of the success of AQ I have confidence in them and I'm going to see H2$ and MOLM when it's convenient. It's true that football (as the American "football", not soccer) is less popular than basketball in China but I don't think it's because of Jeremy. Before him, Yao Ming had played in NBA for a long time and I guess he may be a larger influence. In addition some fans (like my father) seem to be very familiar with even earlier players like Jordan. I have no idea why fewer people are interested in football though.
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Re: Hello!

Postby Ilargi » Mon Dec 28, 2015 10:35 am

"Les misérables" is full of puns, so it's terribly difficult to translate it, even to languages that are close to French. A good translator would try to adapt them or create a new pun in the target language and only use footnotes when absolutely necessary. But again it's so hard to adapt each and every pun, and sometimes it's not only up to the translator, it may happen that the editor wants a more literal translation and asks for the puns to be explained in footnotes.
As for the pun with Joly's name either, I read the book in French and I understood the word play, which Vignetta has perfectly explained. However, I still don't understand why it's supposed to be funny. I mean, yes, "l" sounds like "aile", but why do Joly's friends change his name so he "has wings" and why precisely four? I'd be very grateful if someone explained it to me.
Since we're talking about translations, the Spanish translator explained the pun with Grantaire/R in a footnote, but she invented another pun for Joly: "Cuatro eles para que las uses como cuatro alas". Literally it means "Four L's for you to use as four wings", and the joke is that the words "eles" (L's) and "alas" (wings) are similar in Spanish.

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Re: Hello!

Postby 23623 » Mon Dec 28, 2015 1:37 pm

Ilargi wrote:"Les misérables" is full of puns, so it's terribly difficult to translate it, even to languages that are close to French. A good translator would try to adapt them or create a new pun in the target language and only use footnotes when absolutely necessary. But again it's so hard to adapt each and every pun, and sometimes it's not only up to the translator, it may happen that the editor wants a more literal translation and asks for the puns to be explained in footnotes.

Agreed. I love it when translators make adaptions and necessary modifications so that the audience can understand. Personally I want as few footnotes as possible; sometimes they're a bit annoying to read :oops: I'm only genuinely willing to read them if they're intended to explain necessary historical background.

As for the pun with Joly's name either, I read the book in French and I understood the word play, which Vignetta has perfectly explained. However, I still don't understand why it's supposed to be funny. I mean, yes, "l" sounds like "aile", but why do Joly's friends change his name so he "has wings" and why precisely four? I'd be very grateful if someone explained it to me.

That's exactly what I'm thinking now! I always assume that Joly's pun must have something crucial to do with the pronunciation and thus blame my ignorance of French language for failing to get it. Then I guess... is it possible that Hugo just randomly writes a joke and there are no obvious reasons for doing that? If there are significant meanings behind the specific choice of the object and number, maybe the translators should have told us in footnotes (e.g. wings may be an idiom to describe certain personality traits). But that's just my guess anyway.

"Cuatro eles para que las uses como cuatro alas"

Jaja, es interesante. Me gusta mucho :D
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Ilargi
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Re: Hello!

Postby Ilargi » Mon Dec 28, 2015 3:33 pm

_23623_ wrote:As for the pun with Joly's name either, I read the book in French and I understood the word play, which Vignetta has perfectly explained. However, I still don't understand why it's supposed to be funny. I mean, yes, "l" sounds like "aile", but why do Joly's friends change his name so he "has wings" and why precisely four? I'd be very grateful if someone explained it to me.

That's exactly what I'm thinking now! I always assume that Joly's pun must have something crucial to do with the pronunciation and thus blame my ignorance of French language for failing to get it. Then I guess... is it possible that Hugo just randomly writes a joke and there are no obvious reasons for doing that? If there are significant meanings behind the specific choice of the object and number, maybe the translators should have told us in footnotes (e.g. wings may be an idiom to describe certain personality traits). But that's just my guess anyway.


Mmm... I don't think Hugo would write a pun just for the sake of it. I mean, why bother? He usually uses those word plays to comment ironically a historical fact, a social situation, something about a character... For example, he says Grantaire signs with an R when he's introducing all the Amis, so I see there a personality trait of that character: Grantaire likes joking, he even makes fun of his own name. In the case of Joly, it may not be just about him, but about his friends, because they call them Jolllly, it's not something that he chose. Could it be an affectionate way to make fun of his personality? But in what sense? I don't know, I feel I'm missing something, but I refuse to think it was random.

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Re: Hello!

Postby 23623 » Tue Dec 29, 2015 5:01 am

Ilargi wrote:For example, he says Grantaire signs with an R when he's introducing all the Amis, so I see there a personality trait of that character: Grantaire likes joking, he even makes fun of his own name.

This is a thoughtful observation on character development. When I read this I just thought "haha what a naughty name" and let it pass :oops: Thanks for enlightening me Ilargi, you are indeed a careful reader :D

Could it be an affectionate way to make fun of his personality? But in what sense? I don't know, I feel I'm missing something, but I refuse to think it was random.

Haha, I admit to consider it as a random joke is a lazy way out. I don't think Hugo likes telling jokes for nothing either. It would be better if the translators could tell us something, otherwise we'd need a time machine (plus a babel fish for me) to interview Hugo himself :wink:

The urge to re-read the brick grows stronger and stronger each day but I don't think my broken English is ready for this challenge *sigh*
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Re: Hello!

Postby Ilargi » Tue Dec 29, 2015 10:05 am

_23623_ wrote:Ilargi wrote:
For example, he says Grantaire signs with an R when he's introducing all the Amis, so I see there a personality trait of that character: Grantaire likes joking, he even makes fun of his own name.

This is a thoughtful observation on character development. When I read this I just thought "haha what a naughty name" and let it pass Thanks for enlightening me Ilargi, you are indeed a careful reader

Don't think so well of me, haha. I didn't think about that the first time I read it, it dawned on me later. At first I had too much information to deal with, and I couldn't imagine the students would be so important to me. :oops:

_23623_ wrote:Could it be an affectionate way to make fun of his personality? But in what sense? I don't know, I feel I'm missing something, but I refuse to think it was random.

Haha, I admit to consider it as a random joke is a lazy way out. I don't think Hugo likes telling jokes for nothing either. It would be better if the translators could tell us something, otherwise we'd need a time machine (plus a babel fish for me) to interview Hugo himself

Yes, please, a time machine! :D Just to be sure.

_23623_ wrote:The urge to re-read the brick grows stronger and stronger each day but I don't think my broken English is ready for this challenge *sigh*

I think you should try! I also was a little bit afraid to read it in French, since although my level is good, it's 19th century literature, more than 1000 pages, Victor Hugo… and I even thought: what if I get bored? what if I don't like the book? (can you believe it? :lol: ) But I tried and I achieved it. Of course, there will be a lot of words you don't understand, but you have dictionaries and even the translation to compare it with. And if you find it's still too hard for you, at least you'll know how it is like and you'll always have the chance to try again when your English has improved. :wink:

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Re: Hello!

Postby 23623 » Tue Dec 29, 2015 3:32 pm

Ilargi wrote:At first I had too much information to deal with, and I couldn't imagine the students would be so important to me.

Exactly. Hugo writes about everything. He teaches me French history, how to use slangs and how to orient oneself in Paris sewers, all kinds of stuff :lol: I didn't pay much attention to the amis before I read the book, mainly due to the simplification of the musical. For God knows how long I didn't even know Enjolras' name. Maybe I'll find these little schoolboys more interesting when I read again.

I think you should try! I also was a little bit afraid to read it in French, since although my level is good, it's 19th century literature, more than 1000 pages, Victor Hugo… and I even thought: what if I get bored? what if I don't like the book? (can you believe it? :lol: ) But I tried and I achieved it. Of course, there will be a lot of words you don't understand, but you have dictionaries and even the translation to compare it with. And if you find it's still too hard for you, at least you'll know how it is like and you'll always have the chance to try again when your English has improved. :wink:

Muchas gracias :D Oh dear, what made you think you won't like the book? Actually I've read some long novels in English (LOTR, Monte Cristo, etc), but I have the same concern about LM: it's Victor Hugo's encyclopedia! I plan to re-read it after I finish what I'm currently reading and hopefully before school gets in the way. And I'll remind myself "Come on Ilargi has read it in FRENCH!" whenever I want to give up :wink:
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