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Les Misérables
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Les Miserables > Les Miserables - Background/Banter

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Dianne | 9 comments Les Miserables has won the poll! Who will be joining us? What translation will you be reading? I am going to read the 2015 edition of Christine Donougher's translation - note that her version was first translated in 2013, so many comparisons of available translations pre-date her version.

Hope you can join us!


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Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 251 comments I will. Haven't decided what translation yet.


Dianne | 9 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "I will. Haven't decided what translation yet."

fantastic - good to see you back Xan! Let us know what you decide.


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Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 251 comments Thanks. And I will. How long is the read? More than a month, I trust.


Roman Clodia I'm definitely in for this. Last time I read Les Mis it was the full 5-volume French edition - a marathon indeed! This time I'm going with the Norman Denny Penguin translation.

It's worth knowing that different editors/translators take varied approaches to Hugo's digressions and interpolations - he's probably worse than Melville in Moby Dick in this respect. Just something to watch out for.

Looking forward to it!


Dianne | 9 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Thanks. And I will. How long is the read? More than a month, I trust."

I'm leaning towards 4 months? With my version at 1456 pages that would be 91 pages a week. Is that too many pages a week?


Dianne | 9 comments Roman Clodia wrote: "I'm definitely in for this. Last time I read Les Mis it was the full 5-volume French edition - a marathon indeed! This time I'm going with the Norman Denny Penguin translation.

It's worth knowing..."


awesome roman clodia! Yes that must have been a marathon - and in french that's amazing! I think you will be able to provide some great insights on the translation differences, I have read that certain translators took more liberties with the original french, others omitted slang that was used, others moved large chunks to an appendix or two.


Roman Clodia Yes, street slang and prison argot are always a problem for translators, as Hugo himself acknowledged in his mini-essay on the topic: Denny moves this whole sub-section to an appendix, along with a long digression on the abstract idea of the convent. Excluding those two appendices, my edition comes in at 1200 pages.


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Christopher (Donut) | 81 comments I'm for the translators who moved large chunks to apendices (if that's the word I want..)

So, the public domain translation is no good?

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/135


Roman Clodia The Gutenberg translation is by Hapgood which was done in 1887 - I think there are pros and cons to all versions, it's just a case of finding one that you're comfortable with.


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Dianne | 9 comments Christopher wrote: "I'm for the translators who moved large chunks to apendices (if that's the word I want..)

So, the public domain translation is no good?

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/135"


hapgood may well fit the time period better than other translations. Here is a comparison that was written before the version I am reading was available:

C. E. Wilbour Translation

C. E. Wilbour created the first English translation of Les Miserables in 1863, just the following year after the original novel was first published. Wilbour's translation, though a bit archaic in its language at times, stays fairly true to the original French version. Often, however, this includes the word order of the French language, which makes the English version a little choppy or hard to understand. However, if you wish to stay as close to the author's original work as possible, Wilbour's translation may be the copy of the novel for you.

Fahnestock & McAfee Translation

The 1987 translation by Lee Fahnestock and Norman McAfee is similar to the Wilbour translation in that it tries to stay as true to the original French text as possible, and has a similarly formal sound to it. However, it differs in that this translation goes farther to also translate more of the French terms Wilbour does not, such as the argot slang Hugo explores. For those with little or no French background, but who still want to remain close to Hugo's original text, this translation may be the best suited.

Norman Denny Translation

Denny's 1976 translation is thought by most to be a good balance between Hugo's original text and the readability of modern English. While not considered an "abridged" version, Denny does take the liberty of moving two of the less-necessary lengthy parts to the back of the novel, as appendices. The main point of this translation, according to Norman Denny himself, is to capture the original intent and spirit of Victor Hugo, rather than the word-for-word translation of the text. With that said, this translation may be best suited for those who wish for something a little easier to comprehend, with the spirit of the epic story still in tact.

Isabella Hapgood Translation

Isabella Florence Hapgood translated Les Miserables in 1887, and this translation is similar to Wilbour's in that the language used is a little more old-fashioned and fit for the time period Les Miserables was written.


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Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 251 comments 4 months or longer will work.


Dianne | 9 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "4 months or longer will work."

ok thanks! Actually 5 is probably the way to go, that is a reasonable 72 pages a week. I know many of us read several books at one time!


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Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 251 comments I've already got Hapgood, so I will read it.


message 15: by Xan (last edited Mar 11, 2018 07:49AM) (new) - added it

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 251 comments Victor Hugo was also a artist. Here's one link to his paintings

https://www.wikiart.org/en/victor-hugo

Here's another

http://bittleston.com/artists/victor_...


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Stephanie Flynn | 73 comments I am looking forward to it. I've tried once before but got too busy. I don't think I will have to be drug kicking and screaming to read this one though


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Patrick The Julie Rose translation (Modern Library) is absolutely complete, with no excisions, and tries to be as faithful to the French in all its complexity as possible. I think it is the new benchmark translation.


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Pamela (bibliohound) | 5 comments I have the Denny translation, this will be a good opportunity to read it at last, so count me in :)


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Danielle | 31 comments I am really hoping to join this group read live! I have to study for the LSAT this June on top of work so I may not get to join the active discussions but I will be able to at least read the comments if I am falling behind. This group has some awesome insights and I have enjoyed learning more from all the readers here. :-)


Hummingbirder | 90 comments Good day! The time change has me discombobulated. I thought I was going to bed at eleven; it was actually midnight. That's not going to bed, though. It's going to read. I didn't actually go to sleep till nearly three, and only woke up after noon today. I'll call it the lost weekend.

I am going to read a Hapgood edition as well. I read on my Kindle, so I chose https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B...

There are so many "versions" of many translations, I sort of doubt we will all be on the same page, but this is a gluttonous book, anyway. I honestly didn't know it was such a chunk! I just like the music.

I look forward to this. I'm not reading HOG, but the Moby Dick discussion was fantastic. Bonne chance!


Dianne | 9 comments Here is a GR thread on some of the translations

https://www.goodreads.com/questions/1...


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Christopher (Donut) | 81 comments Hummingbirder wrote: "Good day! The time change has me discombobulated. I thought I was going to bed at eleven; it was actually midnight. That's not going to bed, though. It's going to read. I didn't actually go to slee..."

Hey, HB (mind if I call you HB?)-

I sympathize with the "lost weekend." Losing an hour totally wrecks me. Funny how the one year 'gaining an hour' energized me, was the first year I really 'paid for' the change next Spring.

I guess on a five-month schedule with a free Kindle copy, I will join in. I know I bailed on M to the D, but hey, I made it past the sermon all the way to the chowder house.

I get the impression that Victor Hugo is Dickens on steroids. I think I started a book-tape of Les Mis years ago and only got up to the dramatic conclusion of part.. whatever.. two? One?


Hummingbirder | 90 comments Christopher wrote: "Hummingbirder wrote: "Good day! The time change has me discombobulated. I thought I was going to bed at eleven; it was actually midnight. That's not going to bed, though. It's going to read. I didn..."

Yes, call me HB. Or hb. I used to have that on my Amazon profile to let people address me in short hand. Shorthand? But yes, by all means.


Dianne | 9 comments Great! Hb it is thanks!


Biblio Curious (bibliocurious) | 164 comments I read The Hunchback last year and was laid up for a week afterwards simply because of how amazing it was. I read it with a group on GR, it was a rare case of "gotta slow down", don't finish the whole book in one day, dammit. It's the Signet Classics edition translated by Walter J. Cobb

After my recovery of what Hugo did for words, language, civilization and writing as a theme for a book, I read The Last Day of a Condemned Man. The Alma Classics edition translated by Christopher Moncrieff. It was painstaking to NOT highlight b/c I want to re-read it while highlighting. The 1st read was purely just for the story & psychology of the main character. A quote on the back by Fyodor Dostoevsky "Absolutely the most real and truthful of everything that Hugo wrote." It's every bit as amazing as Hunchback but more intense because the plot is stripped down to mere hours & 1 man's thoughts.

Les Mis .... 5 volumes in the original French O.O I may not see the light of day for the rest of 2018. And it's his most famous work, right?

An illiterate translator can get to work on Hugo's book & it'll still come out amazing ^.^


Hummingbirder | 90 comments Nice post, Biblio.

I find I have more difficulty with translations of modern books. If they're written in the late 20th to 21st centuries, the translations to English come off as terrible reads. No disrespect to the translators, but it seems we have a dearth of translators who can write, and will take the time to write the translation properly. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo excepted.

Lolita is not a chunkster, but darn it, you forget it was originally written in Russian. Know what I mean?

And we are reading chunksters. In Moby Dick (not literally), we had people ahead, a group in the middle, and people behind. Some are just finishing up. Dianne did an excellent job communicating with everyone. I think we'll have an awesome discussion. Or we'll get fatigued and give up :)


Dianne | 9 comments No giving up and thank you HB! I do think house of government may have been a lesson though - perhaps we prefer fiction chunksters?


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Linda | 1378 comments I won't be joining in this read as I read it 3 years ago with this group. I read the Signet paperback, which was translated by Lee Fahnestock and Norman Macafee. I liked that it was fully unabridged and tried to stay true to the language. Not having read another translation of it I can not say how it compares, but I thoroughly enjoyed my reading of this particular translation.

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo


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Stephanie Flynn | 73 comments As for House of Government.....I was so far behind on Moby Dick that I had no chance to keep up on House of Government. Now I need a week break from the heavy reading. I think the sections in House of Government are too long as well making it a little harder to join in on the conversation mid-section. I’m going to start Les Mis next weekend. I’m going to try to start out ahead instead of perpetually being 3-4 weeks behind.


Biblio Curious (bibliocurious) | 164 comments That's a good plan, Stephanie!

We'll miss you on this one, Linda!

Translators take a lot of heat. More often than not, they're criticized for their work rather than thanked for sharing non-English works with us. (I wonder if this happens in other languages also?)

Pushkin Press published a great translation of the Ukrainian writer's book: The Librarian By Mikhail Elizarov. An exception, perhaps. I haven't read a lot of new release works in translation, so *kicks a stone* that's all I've got.


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Julie | 33 comments The jury's out on this one for me too. I got so incredibly far behind with Moby that in order to try and keep up I ended up relying on other members comments who had read much further ahead! I did expect this to happen which sort of dampened my enthusiasm for the book and I felt quite guilty about not being able to contribute to the discussion. Maybe these ultra long books just aren't for me.


Dianne | 9 comments Do you guys think the proposed schedule for les mis with about 70 pages a week is doable? I don’t want members to fall behind if the schedule is too aggressive! I think the House schedule was, oh well, live and learn!


Dianne | 9 comments Also for those that voted for House and couldn’t keep up, I will not discount your next vote - if the schedule was too aggressive that was my fault. Apologies!


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Hugh (bodachliath) | 189 comments Mod
Sorry - I don't think I can fit this one in...


Biblio Curious (bibliocurious) | 164 comments Does 50 pages a week sound better for folks? I'm ok with the 70 also.


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Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 251 comments 50 - 70 sounds right to me.


Hummingbirder | 90 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "50 - 70 sounds right to me."

Ditto. In my opinion, reading a chunkster should be an indulgence, not hurried, and I always re-read some passages to refresh my memory or just because I enjoy them so. I dost!


Dianne | 9 comments I’m good with 50, I want to keep you all with us! I’ll post a reading schedule soon. Will be a fun saga with you guys! I think the leisurely approach should work well for this one.


Paula (paula-j) | 388 comments Dianne wrote: "I’m good with 50, I want to keep you all with us! I’ll post a reading schedule soon. Will be a fun saga with you guys! I think the leisurely approach should work well for this one."

I won't be joining in on this one because I've read it twice and don't have a third in me. I felt it was an easy read, a real potboiler, so you guys can always adjust the speed later. That's a lot of months for this book. 😳


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Stephanie Flynn | 73 comments 50-70 sounds good. Whatever the chapter breaks dictate.


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Dan House of Government, was (is) a “highly overpopulated narrative” (NYT). And not much shorter than Miz with its small font and margins. And we allowed six or eight weeks. I don’t the know we need to overcompensate: 4 months is probably enough and 5 should be plenty.


Dianne | 9 comments It’s a good point dan. I’ll post it tomorrow and shoot for approx 5 months. Like with Moby dick, people can catch up if they have to. Or start ahead! I’m starting this weekend :)


Hummingbirder | 90 comments Dianne wrote: "It’s a good point dan. I’ll post it tomorrow and shoot for approx 5 months. Like with Moby dick, people can catch up if they have to. Or start ahead! I’m starting this weekend :)"

I'm hoping we'll finish Nostromo (another group) by April. Either way, I'll be there somewhere along the trail.


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PS I started and gave up on HoG and MB – both great books but I got distracted by other stuff. My library has the Denny translation, so that's what I plan to read. I love that it's a 4-5 month read.

I've seen the movie (it's been six years so I don't remember much!). As for the historical and political context, everything I know about French Revolution is from The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy ha ha!


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Dan My 1.99 Delphi Complete Hugo uses the Hapwood translation for Les Miz, which looks fine and has that nice 19th century style which some like, especially for 19th century novels. I splurged and bought the new C. Do pug her as well.


Roman Clodia Sofia wrote: "everything I know about French Revolution is from The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy ha ha!"

Just to clarify, Les Mis isn't about the French Revolution - that was in the eighteenth century, starting 1789... and the revolutionaries won.

The barricades in Les Mis are from the June Rebellion or Paris Uprising of 1832, about forty years later. :)


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PS Thanks for clearing that up!


Biblio Curious (bibliocurious) | 164 comments That Delphi collection was tempting for sure ... but I went with a paperback for this one.

A Penguin Classics Deluxe, translated by Christine Donougher *kicks a stone* and the cover art is beautiful too.


message 50: by [deleted user] (new)

Hi, I'm new to this group (although I think I was a member about 5 years ago and read East of Eden). I would like to join in on this read, I like the idea of 50 pages a week although I do find reading schedules hard to stick to as I often end up putting off that weeks reading in favour of a shorter book!

I will give this a good go, looking forward to it. I think I will try the Christine Donougher translation


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