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Les Misérables - Re: Translations

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I'm curious about reading this novel, but I'm wondering about the translations. Being an ebook reader, I would naturally gravitate towards the one on Project Gutenberg, but I don't know how "good" it is. I was wondering if anyone on here could perhaps list a preference or make a comment on the following (from Wikipedia):

 

At least six English translations of the novel exist, by:

 

* Charles E. Wilbour. New York: Carleton Publishing Company. June 1862. The first American translation, published only months after the French edition of the novel was released.

 

* Lascelles Wraxall. London: Hurst and Blackett. October 1862. The first British translation.

 

* Translator Unknown. Richmond, Virginia. 1863. Published by West and Johnston publishers.[3]

 

* Isabel F. Hapgood. Published 1887, this translation is available at Project Gutenberg.

 

* Norman Denny. Penguin Classics. 1976. This edition is sometimes erroneously considered unabridged; however, in Norman Denny's introduction, he states that several of the longer passages that did not directly relate to the plot were removed. Paperback ISBN 0-140-44430-0

 

* Lee Fahnestock and Norman MacAfee. Signet Classics. March 3, 1987. An unabridged edition based on the Wilbour translation with modernization of language, generally considered the most readable of current translations. Paperback ISBN 0-451-52526-4

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I took me ages to find this.  A search on Victor Hugo got me nothing and a search on Les Miserables also yielded nothing.  Having decide that somebody must have read it I went through the section by hand and found this.

 

I'm thinking about this for my next read and would also like to know if anybody has any recommendations as to translations.  I'll be reading a paper book.  

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I took me ages to find this.  A search on Victor Hugo got me nothing

It doesn't work if you put Victor Hugo in the 'author' search box, but does if you search for him in 'tags'

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1.Wilbour. Released in America in 1862 by Carleton just months after the original French release. Highly recommended. Unabridged and very close to the spirit of the original as it closely follows Hugo's vocabulary. Be cautious if buying a physical copy as many abridged paperbacks exist. Get the Modern Library Edition from 1992.

 

2.Lee Fahnestock and Norman MacAfee. Basically an updated version of Wilbour released in the 1980s by New American Library with a mass market paperback by Signet following soon after. The vocabulary is more modern so the translation will appear more readable to someone who finds 19th Century texts difficult. This is the most common paperback version in the USA and has the musical logo on the cover. It is unabridged like the original Wilbour, has full place names instead of dashes (so you get Digne instead of D-, this was a revision Hugo himself made to the text in 1888) and French verse parts are translated into English in footnotes.

 

3.Wraxall. Released in the UK by Hurst & Blackett in 1862 and the only "authorised" translation at the time. It was also advertised as the most "literal" translation. It is abridged as deliberately misses chapters and books (Wraxall gives his reasons for this in the preface) and it seems other sections were omitted by mistake. The text was even further abridged from the fourth edition onwards so beware if ordering a physical copy. The omitted parts were translated by J Blamire for the 1886 Deluxe Edition by Routledge and this same text was used for the Heritage Press release with illustrations from Lynn Ward. I believe many of the on-line versions of the Wraxall translations also supplemented the text with additions from Wilbour or other translators.

 

4.Dimitry This was released in 1863 during the American Civil War by West & Johnston and is basically plagiarizes the Wilbour translation while removing parts of the text where Hugo criticised the slave trade. Avoid.

 

5.Hapgood. Released in 1887 by Thomas Crowell. Readable and true to the meaning of the original. Some of the translation is a bit off in places and she sometimes misses Hugo's puns. The translation is not complete as missing the section on the use of the word "shit" by Cambronne.

 

6.Henry L Williams. Released in the USA in the 1890s by Hurst & Company. Williams specialised in cheap dime novels and his translation (if he did actually translate it himself) is a dumbed down and heavily abridged version issued to cater for the "lower end" of the market. His translation is called "The Outcasts".

 

7. William Walton et al. Released in 1892 by the publisher G Barrie, this set plagiarizes Wilbour and Wraxall and uses fictitious translator names.

 

8.Normal Denny. The most common version available in the UK, released in 1976 by Folio Press (with bizzare illustrations) and by Penguin as a paperback in 1980. Highly readable but Denny takes great liberties with Hugo's text and a lot of material is omitted. Two sections are moved to the end of the book as appendixes.

 

9.Rose. Released in 2008 by Modern Library in the US and Vintage in the UK , this is the most recent translation of the novel and the first since Wilbour that is unabridged. The main criticism of this translation is that the vocabulary is very modern and at times feels awkward. The text is highly readable though.

 

How are you coming along with Study in Scarlet?

Edited by humanracer

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1.Wilbour. Released in America in 1862 by Carleton just months after the original French release. Highly recommended. Unabridged and very close to the spirit of the original as it closely follows Hugo's vocabulary. Be cautious if buying a physical copy as many abridged paperbacks exist. Get the Modern Library Edition from 1992.

 

2.Lee Fahnestock and Norman MacAfee. Basically an updated version of Wilbour released in the 1980s by New American Library with a mass market paperback by Signet following soon after. The vocabulary is more modern so the translation will appear more readable to someone who finds 19th Century texts difficult. This is the most common paperback version in the USA and has the musical logo on the cover. It is unabridged like the original Wilbour, has full place names instead of dashes (so you get Digne instead of D-, this was a revision Hugo himself made to the text in 1888) and French verse parts are translated into English in footnotes.

 

3.Wraxall. Released in the UK by Hurst & Blackett in 1862 and the only "authorised" translation at the time. It was also advertised as the most "literal" translation. It is abridged as deliberately misses chapters and books (Wraxall gives his reasons for this in the preface) and it seems other sections were omitted by mistake. The text was even further abridged from the fourth edition onwards so beware if ordering a physical copy. The omitted parts were translated by J Blamire for the 1886 Deluxe Edition by Routledge and this same text was used for the Heritage Press release with illustrations from Lynn Ward. I believe many of the on-line versions of the Wraxall translations also supplemented the text with additions from Wilbour or other translators.

 

4.Dimitry This was released in 1863 during the American Civil War by West & Johnston and is basically plagiarizes the Wilbour translation while removing parts of the text where Hugo criticised the slave trade. Avoid.

 

5.Hapgood. Released in 1887 by Thomas Crowell. Readable and true to the meaning of the original. Some of the translation is a bit off in places and she sometimes misses Hugo's puns. The translation is not complete as missing the section on the use of the word "shit" by Cambronne.

 

6.Henry L Williams. Released in the USA in the 1890s by Hurst & Company. Williams specialised in cheap dime novels and his translation (if he did actually translate it himself) is a dumbed down and heavily abridged version issued to cater for the "lower end" of the market. His translation is called "The Outcasts".

 

7. William Walton et al. Released in 1892 by the publisher G Barrie, this set plagiarizes Wilbour and Wraxall and uses fictitious translator names.

 

8.Normal Denny. The most common version available in the UK, released in 1976 by Folio Press (with bizzare illustrations) and by Penguin as a paperback in 1980. Highly readable but Denny takes great liberties with Hugo's text and a lot of material is omitted. Two sections are moved to the end of the book as appendixes.

 

9.Rose. Released in 2008 by Modern Library in the US and Vintage in the UK , this is the most recent translation of the novel and the first since Wilbour that is unabridged. The main criticism of this translation is that the vocabulary is very modern and at times feels awkward. The text is highly readable though.

 

How are you coming along with Study in Scarlet?

Thank you Humanracer and welcome to the board.

 

Up to Chapter 4 in part one. Not far to go then, lol

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I read the Rose, Modern Library, translation and it read very well, also the fact that it's annotated is a HUGE blessing, because Hugo tends to reference things that were known and relevant in his own time which have since faded from the history we commonly know, so naturally explanations of who so-and-so was and what he did are crucial to understanding what in France Hugo is talking about! 

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