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General > Planning for Les Miserables

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message 1: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Les Miserables will be our group read after our short foray into Emmerson's Self Reliance.

Two issues arise.

One is how long for the discussion.

The other which translation.

We scheduled ten weeks for Don Quixote, which is 960 pages in one translation I have. Les Miserables is 1460 pages in the Signet edition, but smaller pages, so perhaps about 10% or so longer in toto?

Ten weeks would take us to December 1st. I wouldn't want to go much further than that into December; maybe one more week, but after that people I think get so tied up in holiday planning, parties, and activities that reading may go beyond the board for a bit. So do people think we can handle the book in 10 or 11 weeks? (If 11, I would probably schedule five weeks of reading, one week of catch-up, and five more weeks of reading. Then we would of course leave the discussion open if people wanted to keep talking about it. Does that sound possible? Or too rushed? Or too strung out?

On translations, first off everything I read says that the abridgments are not the way to go. Yes, it's a long book, but worth it. If you're going to read it, read it all.

Up to this year, the translation most people seemed to recommend was the Fahnestock/MacAfee translation. Unfortunately, as a book it's not pleasant to read, being a paperback of 1,463 pages; I'm not sure whether my copy will physically survive a full reading (I may strengthen the spine with book tape before I start).

Just recently a new translation came out, as wiwat noted, by Julie Rose. It has gotten much praise, but also some criticism for being too "hip" and trying too hard to use contemporary images and language. I found this review from the Times Literary Supplement interesting.

I have noticed recently a number of translations which try, in my humble opinion, to be hip or use more casual language than the original author used, apparently to appeal to a modern audience more than to be true to the character of the original. It sounds to me a bit as though Rose is in this mode, though I hasten to add that I haven't done more than skim her translation, so that's a hasty opinion, not a considered opinion.

Anyhow, it probably isn't a bad thing if we use several translations. There are enough chapter breaks that we should be able to find each other's references easily enough.

Oh, and Laurel -- the unabridged reading by Frederick Davidson is 66 plus hours. Better get listening! (Though if we go for 10 weeks, that's just under an hour a day. Not impossible, I suppose!)




message 2: by Eliza (last edited Aug 25, 2009 10:26AM) (new)

Eliza (elizac) | 94 comments I voted for Canturbury Tales but I'm really excited about Les Mis. I tried to read it once in high school after I went to see the musical and got hopelessly bogged down so I'm glad for a reason to give it another shot. I agree that unabridged is the way to go. I already have the Signet Classics version. I think I'll read that instead of buying the newer translation. It might make for interesting discussion though if others are reading different translations.


message 3: by Evalyn (new)

Evalyn (eviejoy) | 93 comments Sounds good. I havn't read it and don't know enough to give an opinion about the different editions but I'm excited about reading Les Mis. In Texan that's Le Miz :).


Everyman wrote: "Les Miserables will be our group read after our short foray into Emmerson's Self Reliance.

Two issues arise.

One is how long for the discussion.

The other which translation.

We sche..."


Eliza wrote: "I vated for Canturbury Tales but I'm really excited about Les Mis. I tried to read it once in high school after I went to see the musical and got hopelessly bogged down so I'm glad for a reason to..."




message 4: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Everyman wrote: Oh, and Laurel -- the unabridged reading by Frederick Davidson is 66 plus hours. Better get listening! (Though if we go for 10 weeks, that's just under an hour a day. Not impossible, I suppose!)

And I've used up all 24 of my credits already! An hour a day is not bad at all.


message 5: by Kit (new)

Kit Dunsmore I think wrapping up by December is a good idea. And dragging it out won't help any, I think. I got bogged down in DQ and am racing to catch up/finish on schedule.

Thanks for the info on the translations available. It's nice to be well informed before buying...


message 6: by Foppe (last edited Aug 25, 2009 02:17PM) (new)

Foppe (0spinboson) | 11 comments Extant translations of the unabridged book:
1: Charles Wilbour (1862)
2. Fahne/Macafee (based on Wilbour) (Signet classics, a.o.; 1987)
3. Norman Denny (Penguin, 1976; slightly abridged/reworked)
4. Julia Rose (2007)
I've added the translator info to the more popular editions on Goodreads, so you can easily pick a readily available version.
There's an additional, unknown translator's translation available, as well as another 19th-century english translation that probably are of little interest to people, so I've left those out.
Jstor translation comparison for those who can access it, published 1959 (so doesn't include information on the more recent attempts)


message 7: by Kinga (last edited Aug 27, 2009 02:18PM) (new)

Kinga I can add another translation, but alas, it's in Hungarian :D At least it is just 1130 pages or so.

Trying to play the catch-up game w/ DQ (as usual - that's one of the reasons for not commenting on it - yet) but am extremely excited about the Hugo-book (I might even have voted for this, can't remember now). And yes, yes, yes, please let us read the UNabridged version - otherwise I honestly can't see the point...


message 8: by Peregrine (new)

Peregrine I've ordered the Signet Classics edition. The price is right and, after having read the linked article on the Rose translation, I think I'll like the Signet better.


message 9: by Kit (new)

Kit Dunsmore I bought the Signet Classics edition today as well. It seemed like the best option on the shelf.



message 10: by Dawn (new)

Dawn | 28 comments I may be courting a blasphemy indictment here, but does anyone have a link for an eBook version of the Fahnestock/MacAfee translation? Amazon's Kindle store has many Les Miserables selections, but most do not identify this translator (or any, for that matter).


message 11: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Dawn wrote: "I may be courting a blasphemy indictment here, but does anyone have a link for an eBook version of the Fahnestock/MacAfee translation? "

No blasphemy at all -- I looked for it myself, but couldn't find it, and assumed they didn't have it since there was an invitation to ask the publisher to approve a Kindle version. But you could email Amazon and see for sure.



message 12: by Kinga (last edited Aug 27, 2009 08:09PM) (new)

Kinga Well, I have wanted to try out BookGlutton since I first heard about it.

I have found Les Miserables in feedbooks.com (public domain), and uploaded it onto Bookglutton just in case.

(Dawn: feedbooks.com supposedly has the Kindle version as well and identifies the translator as Isabel F. Hapgood; no clue if it helps or not.)

Would you like to try out as a group project?

(For those who haven't heard of BG: it is an online reading tool where a group of people can take notes in the same "book" on the margins, highlight parts, "meet" at the book live and chat about it next to the pages, etc.)

Here is the BG address:

http://www.bookglutton.com/

And here is Les Mis that I uploaded (translator: Isabel F. Hapgood - dont't know if it is good or bad, but if we want to do this, it works I guess, and everyone has their own fav copy at home anyway)

http://tinyurl.com/nbmffl

I am going to use it to take notes for myself anyway, and if you like the idea, jump right in.




message 13: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Kinga wrote: "Well, I have wanted to try out BookGlutton since I first heard about it."

That's an interesting idea, but for myself I'm not sure I'll have time for it with all my other reading obligations. But if others do, let us know how it works out.



message 14: by Kinga (new)

Kinga I haven't figured out BookGlutton totally so if you are experiencing some rude action coming from me there (like accidentally kicking out somebody from reading the book because I click on the wrong button) it is totally a mistake, I apologize in advance. You can always shoot me an email too.


message 15: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) I'm going to compare your BookGlutton version of Les Miserables with the Rose edition. So far, yours works fine. At the beginning of the read, my notes will be more comprehension than perception.


message 16: by thewanderingjew (new)

thewanderingjew | 184 comments Thank you Kinga, it sounds like a wonderful thing to check out.



message 17: by Peregrine (new)

Peregrine So I ended up getting the Penguin edition, because the bookstore had it in stock. Also because it's trade paperback size and not mass market, so easier on the hands. Norman Denny is the translator.


message 18: by Evalyn (new)

Evalyn (eviejoy) | 93 comments With all the discussion on editions, I've lost track of when we are beginning Les Mis. Do we have a set date? I am trying to get a copy from Half-Price Books, my home away from home.


message 19: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Evalyn wrote: "With all the discussion on editions, I've lost track of when we are beginning Les Mis. Do we have a set date? I am trying to get a copy from Half-Price Books, my home away from home."

Les Mis will start on September 23rd. The schedule isn't finally set yet, but it will probably run 10 or 11 weeks.



message 20: by Paula (last edited Aug 31, 2009 09:00AM) (new)

Paula | 63 comments I already own the Signet Classics version, so will stick with that translation. Also, since it was only $0.99 I ordered the same version on Kindle - the translation that syncs up with the Signet paperback version is here (sorry for the long url):
http://www.amazon.com/Les-Miserables/...

Unfortunately an unexpected project took me away from DQ, but I really appreciate that the discussion will be left open, as I still plan on reading that book and then going back to the comments from the group. I'm going to skip the shorter interim read in an effort to catch back up the group. Apologies for not being a very involved member thus far!

All that being said, I like the timing proposed by Everyman, especially ending in early December. Thanks!


message 21: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Paula wrote: "Unfortunately an unexpected project took me away from DQ, but I really appreciate that the discussion will be left open, as I still plan on reading that book and then going back to the comments from the group. I'm going to skip the shorter interim read in an effort to catch back up the group.

I fully understand. My own reading of DQ has, I fear, lagged a bit since I have had to do an unexpectedly copious amount of work (enjoyable, but time consuming) helping get my daughter's school ready to open this week, on top of involvement in preparations for a niece's wedding this weekend.

But you might not want to skip the interim reading. It can be read in an hour or two, though it merits more time if one has it available, but it's a fascinating essay that, as we discussed earlier, tends to hit one quite differently as an adult than it did as a youngster. I think it will be an interesting discussion!




message 22: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 180 comments Peregrine wrote: "Also because it's trade paperback size and not mass market, so easier on the hands. Norman Denny is the translator."
----------------

Thanks for the tip, Peregrine. I find the trade size easier on the eyes. I never read paperbacks anymore.






message 23: by Paula (new)

Paula | 63 comments Everyman wrote: "Paula wrote: "Unfortunately an unexpected project took me away from DQ, but I really appreciate that the discussion will be left open, as I still plan on reading that book and then going back to th..."

You're right - I went back and looked at "Self-Reliance," and realized how short it is; I really have no excuse to miss the discussion! :) Thanks for posting the links to increase its accessibility!


message 24: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments The reading schedule for Les Miserables has been posted in a new folder which will contain all the discussion postings.

Happy reading!

But don't shortcut the end of Don Quixote and the interim discussion of Self Reliance in your haste to get to Les Miserables!


message 25: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Laurele wrote: "Everyman wrote: Oh, and Laurel -- the unabridged reading by Frederick Davidson is 66 plus hours. Better get listening! (Though if we go for 10 weeks, that's just under an hour a day. Not impossible..."

I'm a fifth of the way through already, and I have a feeling I won't be waiting for the rest of you. This is really good stuff! I've read parts of it before and knew the basic story, but filling in all the dots is great fun.


message 26: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Laurele wrote: "I'm a fifth of the way through already, and I have a feeling I won't be waiting for the rest of you. This is really good stuff! I've read parts of it before and knew the basic story, but filling in all the dots is great fun."

I'm not that far, but I've listened to the first two books of Fantine and read the first book (I'm doing both alternately, but had an off-island trip where I listened ahead) and yes, it IS really good stuff! I was frankly not looking forward that much to this choice, but I'm entranced by it Yes, it's long, but if it keeps going as well as it's started, it's going to be a great read.

And a great discussion! Tons and tons of stuff in here to talk about -- I'm salivating as I wait for the discussion to start next week.




message 27: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Everyman wrote: "Laurele wrote: "I'm a fifth of the way through already, and I have a feeling I won't be waiting for the rest of you. This is really good stuff! I've read parts of it before and knew the basic story..."

If it goes as well as the DQ discussion went, we'll have a whopping good time.


message 28: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Laurele wrote: "If it goes as well as the DQ discussion went, we'll have a whopping good time. "

I think Patrice may not be able to make it because of her heavy reading schedule for school, but I'm sure everybody else will be posting vigorously with fascinating discussion points, and maybe Patrice will find the time to slip some Hugo into her day after all.



message 29: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Everyman wrote: "Laurele wrote: "If it goes as well as the DQ discussion went, we'll have a whopping good time. "

I think Patrice may not be able to make it because of her heavy reading schedule for school, but I'..."


Great. You're doing a wonderful job here, Everyman.


message 30: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Laurele wrote: "Great. You're doing a wonderful job here, Everyman."

Blush.




message 31: by Andrea (new)

Andrea | 113 comments My library had the Wilbour translation in a hardcover modern library edition. But since I won't be able to finish it before it's due back at the library, I may need to switch translators midstream, which should be interesting. For now, I've started into the Wilbour translation and am finding it very readable. Plus, the hardcover stays open,which makes it nice to handle. Will be interesting to see if different translations lead into any discussion questions.


message 32: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments I hope somebody in this group reads French, even better knows something about French culture and history, and best of all has been to France and knows about the geography and places Hugo talks about.

My edition has no notes (other than a few passages that Hugo himself translated), and I'm sure I'm missing a lot of his references. The chapter on 1817, for example, that talked about all those people, I'm sure they all meant something to his readers but they meant nothing to me. And the book is so long that my Goodreads reading time is all committed to it, and I don't have time to chase down the references. (If it were an English novel, I would know most of that stuff, but not French.)

And can somebody remind us of the chronology of Bonaparte and the monarchy and the various revolutions? None of my quick reference books are doing me much good other than in 1799 he became first counsel, in 1804 named himself Emperor, was pretty much at war constantly for until the disastrous Russian campaign in 1811-12, was defeated and exiled to Elba in 1814, escaped in 1915 and was out for about 100 days before being defeated at Waterloo and exiled this time to St. Helena where he died in 1821. But I don't know why 1817 is a notable year.


message 33: by Peregrine (last edited Sep 21, 2009 08:28PM) (new)

Peregrine Everyman wrote: "I hope somebody in this group reads French, even better knows something about French culture and history, and best of all has been to France and knows about the geography and places Hugo talks abou..."

Here is one thing I found: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concorda... Putting that together with the Ultramontane vs. Gallican struggle, it seems that there was a lot going on about the separation of church and state, how much, and how. The Ultramontanes wanted the church to be under the pope's authority; the Gallicans wanted the church responsible to the state. I found this out by wiki'ing. As far as that string of other names, though, I'm at a loss too. Bossuet was an influential 18th C churchman; Cartouche was a thief. After that, I gave up looking up names, lol. I don't know if it's pertinent to Les Mis, but Provence (Languedoc, Midi), was the site of the Cathar "heresy" in the 12th and 13th centuries. There's an historical North/South separation in France, culturally and politically. I don't know more than bits and pieces, though.



message 34: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 180 comments
Everyman: My edition has no notes
==================================

My edition doesn't have notes either. :(

Though I did follow someone's advice here and bought the large trade size. My eyes want to thank you !

Before I bought the trade, I was hoping that there was a Norton Critical edition. I LOVE Norton Critical's Their footnotes and commentary are priceless when reading classics, imo. But alas they don't have one.

http://www.wwnorton.com/COLLEGE/engli...


message 35: by Peregrine (new)

Peregrine Alias Reader wrote: "
Everyman: My edition has no notes
==================================

My edition doesn't have notes either. :(

Though I did follow someone's advice here and bought the large trade size. ..."


C'etait moi! Bienvenu(e).




message 36: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 180 comments C'etait moi! Bienvenu(e).


===========================

:)



message 37: by Betty (last edited Sep 21, 2009 09:34PM) (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) Everyman wrote: "I hope somebody in this group reads French, even better knows something about French culture and history, and best of all has been to France and knows about the geography and places Hugo talks abou..."

Apparently, Everyman, you are not the only reader to feel consternation about the French year 1817 in the novel, according to this comment on the internet:



"The only section of “Fantine” that really made me question my resolve to read the unabridged version was Book III, “The Year 1817.”  This is the section in which Fantine’s sordid past history is discussed in plenty of detail.  It wasn’t so much the details about Fantine and her boyfriend and friends that I found so trying; it was the details about French history that were completely lost on me." 






message 38: by Peregrine (new)

Peregrine I can read French a bit, not enough to read Les Mis in the original, but enough to translate some things. If anyone has the footnote containing the untranslated "Meme quand l'oiseau marche on sent qu'il a des ailes" (sorry, I don't know how to do accents on the computer), it means "Even when the bird walks, one feels that it has wings."


message 39: by [deleted user] (new)

I decided to go with the Rose translation, just out in paperback. I am glad I did, particularly because it has extensive footnotes. I will try to look things up for people if you can cite the specific Section/Book/Chapter where it occurs.

I can't imagine reading the book without the aid of the notes. My sense so far is that there are lots of places where I can live without knowing the reference, but there are an equal number where taking the time to look it up fills in an important piece of history or makes the reading richer. I am still trying to find the right balance between keeping the flow of the writing and digging into the background.

Anyway, feel free to ask away.


message 40: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) Peregrine wrote: "I can read French a bit, not enough to read Les Mis in the original, but enough to translate some things. If anyone has the footnote containing the untranslated "Meme quand l'oiseau marche on sent ..."

One way to access language marks on the MAC is through the toolbar that runs along the top of the screen. Click Edit, then scroll down to Special Characters. Another way is through the USEnglish flag also in the toolbar. Click the flag and see what languages have been pre-set. Mine has a choice of English or French, the keyboards for these languages, as well as the same Special Characters from the Edit. A third way is through About.com which uses Alt on a regular PC plus a Number.


message 41: by Peregrine (new)

Peregrine Asmah: By gum, I can make that work! Thanks for contributing to my computer literacy!


message 42: by Alias Reader (new)

Alias Reader (aliasreader) | 180 comments Everyman: My edition has no notes (other than a few passages that Hugo himself translated), and I'm sure I'm missing a lot of his references. The chapter on 1817, for example

--------------------------------

I'm not going to stress about the 1817 chapter. I didn't get it at all. However, as Hugo writes at the end of the chapter, "Such is a random, superficial picture of the year 1817, now largely forgotten. History discards nearly all these odds and ends and cannot do otherwise; the larger scene absorbs them." So if the people of Hugo's time weren't clear on this history, I am not going to worry about it. :) I also don't think it's critical to understanding the story, "the larger scene will absorb them".

What I did love was the sentiment that followed this section in the book. Hugo wrote, "Nevertheless such details, which are wrongly called trifling -there are no trifles in the human story, no trifling leaves on the tree- are not without value. It is the lineaments of the years which form the countenance of the century."

It reminds me of a quote from a book about pioneer women that I enjoyed, Pioneer Women by Joanna Statton. She wrote, "History is lived in the main by the unknown and forgotten. The mass of humanity has been consigned forever to the shadows. History chronicles the large and glorious deeds of the standard bearers, but tells little of the men on whose shoulders they are bourne to victory."

Les Miz, is the story of the unknown people whose shoulders bore the brunt of the weight.


message 43: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments I'll be interested in hearing your thoughts, Zeke, and those of any others who have the Rose translation. It has received mixed reviews; some who think it's magnificent, some who deeply regret its sometimes "hip" translations of the French and sometimes making its women talk like Valley Girls.

The Signet is a hard book physically to read, but I'm finding the translation to be very compelling. I tend to avoid those translations that want not only to translate but to modernize the language of older works. IMO there is and should remain a difference between the language of a book written in the 18th century and one written in the 20th century, but I realize that this isn't a universal view.


message 44: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Alias Reader wrote: "What I did love was the sentiment that followed this section in the book. Hugo wrote, "Nevertheless such details, which are wrongly called trifling -there are no trifles in the human story, no trifling leaves on the tree- are not without value. It is the lineaments of the years which form the countenance of the century."

I like this quote, Alias, and also your quote from Joanna Statton. I think it's one of the reasons I like Dickens also: he tends to give us intimate portraits of very ordinary people. The opening of Our Mutual Friend is just one of many great examples.

Herodotus was perhaps the first historian to focus with any real interest on the lives of ordinary people as part of history. Plutarch sort of spoiled this by concentrating only on famous people, and for most of the next two thousand years history was thought of as the story of famous people and leaders. It's only been relatively recently that historians are getting back to talking about the lives of the ordinary person. (There's a neat commentary on this in Josephine Tey's great mystery novel Daughter of Time where Grant talks about the importance of such sources as washing bills and daily journals to understand history.)




toria (vikz writes) (victoriavikzwrites) | 186 comments Kinga wrote: "Well, I have wanted to try out BookGlutton since I first heard about it.

I have found Les Miserables in feedbooks.com (public domain), and uploaded it onto Bookglutton just in case.

(Dawn: feedbo..."
thanks for allowing me to share this book




message 46: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Peregrine wrote: If anyone has the footnote containing the untranslated "Meme quand l'oiseau marche on sent qu'il a des ailes" (sorry, I don't know how to do accents on the computer), it means "Even when the bird walks, one feels that it has wings."


That reminds me of my favorite bit of verse from Victor Hugo. One translation reads something like this:

"Be like the bird
Who,
Pausing in flight on limb too light
Sings,
Knowing he has wings."

I think the book before us is one of hope.



message 47: by [deleted user] (new)

Like E-man, I really appreciated Alias' quote too. One thing I am looking forward to is how people compare Hugo with Tolstoy--on many dimensions including length of books!

I'm pretty flexible about translations. I first want clarity and stylish prose in English. Then, after that, I hope for fidelity to the syntax of the original. I realize that is just a personal preference, and is one others are free not to share.

In the case of this translation, there are a few times when I have winced at the use of "Valley girl vernacular" but they are few enough and modest enough not to detract from my overall appreciation of the translator's skill.


message 48: by Laurel (new)

Laurel Hicks (goodreadscomlaurele) | 2438 comments Zeke wrote: "Like E-man, I really appreciated Alias' quote too. One thing I am looking forward to is how people compare Hugo with Tolstoy--on many dimensions including length of books!


Exactly what I've been thinking, Zeke! I'm listening to Les Miserables read by the same man who reads my oft-listened-to War and Peace. At one point (2:Cosette.1:Waterloo)I was almost sure he was reading from the wrong book. Maybe a thread on Hugo/Tolstoy would be good so we can talk about details of Tolstoy's masterpieces with a warning for those who have not yet read him that there may be spoilers.


message 49: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Zeke wrote: "I decided to go with the Rose translation, just out in paperback. I am glad I did, particularly because it has extensive footnotes. ..."

Well, Zeke, you helped me talk myself into it. I went ahead and ordered the Rose translation, since I can see the physical act of reading the Signet becoming more and more challenging as we get further into the book.




message 50: by Grace Tjan (new)

Grace Tjan | 381 comments Laurele wrote: "Zeke wrote: "Like E-man, I really appreciated Alias' quote too. One thing I am looking forward to is how people compare Hugo with Tolstoy--on many dimensions including length of books!


Exactly wh..."


I think that it's a good idea, Laurele! War & Peace and Les Miserables have some surface similarities : both are historical novels set in the Napoleonic period, both were written in the same era (the 1860s), and both are doorstoppers filled with lengthy digressions. I'm sure that we will discover more after we're finished with Les Miserables.

It would be interesting to compare those two novels.



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