"In our penal cells, and in the shame of our streets." pontificated Hugo, "is to be found the stuff of which angels are made." Out of this stuff he shaped his hero, Jean Valjean, ex-convict on the run reclaimed for God by a saintly bishop and pursued for years by the rigid policeman Javert. His conversion is psychologically interesting, but the book declines into a crude cops-and-robbers epic, and drips with sentimentality when Valjean saves and sustains a child waif, daughter of a virtuous but wronged prostitute who dies pathetically on a paupers' bed.
Schmerg_The_Impaler wrote:I usually like the Wilbour translation more, because when I read descriptive passages in anything else, they always seem fragmented and choppy. And sometimes, I get really mad when translations drastically change something-- in the Fahnestock-MacAfee, it says Enjolras is capable of being 'intimidating' rather than 'terrible,' and it says that Javert says, "Mother, you have a beard like a man but claws like a woman." Bleh. They have Éponine call Marius a 'good guy' and have Gavroche call the two little boys 'kiddos,' both of which feel a bit jarring.
Usually, the reason a translator would use a drastically different word is because the word in French has different connotations from the English loan word--in English, French loan words and other Latinate borrowings tend to become intensified or a lot more formal than they would be considered in their original language, or they just plain change meaning. (To give a common example, 'demander' in French simply means 'to ask,' not 'to demand.')
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