Nov 15 2012, 3:13am
(seeing as it's getting VERY hard to remain as unspoiled as regards TH as I am--neither soundtrack nor TV spots), and in great anticipation of Les Miserables, I am currently re-reading that. Yep, the whole unabridged enchilada.
Well, to keep me from being spoiled...
I decided to do this after I found a hardcover edition that Barnes And Noble is selling for $7.98 which is the text of the classic Charles E. Wilbour translation from 1862. It's amazing--I've been hunting one of these for months, but it's all been abridged editions and more modern translations. I have the old Signet paperback with the grey cover from the early 90's, which was "based on" the origional translation, but always wanted to read it in as close as I could get to the origional French. (Of course someone would tell me "It's always best to read a classic in its origional language" and I'm sure that's just as true of Hugo's works as it is to read, Say, LOTR in the origional English....but learning French is above and beyond the call of duty for me in this case:).
I know it's the origional English translation b/c I was able to find the exact spot in Valjeans's death speech that always had the effect of turning on a water faucet in my tear ducts and discovering that at that point Valjean goes all Old Testamant and segues into "thee's" and "thou's." OMG...I had to shut the book to keep from crying all over again..I'll save that for a month from now....I'd be fascinated to learn if that was intenional, Hugo's language, or if it's the Romance language thing that other languages than English had, at least in that era, people still using the formal "I" and the informal "thou" if French has such a thing, but as Valjean was speaking to Cosette maybe not? Or was Hugo employing the informal "thou" for some other purpose?
What's really fascinating to me is that in English the "thee"and "thou" is not informal but formal these days, but it wasn't always so. I read a book abot Erasmus once and the effect that the first non-Douay translations of the Bible had on 16th-century folk. They used to flock to greet Erasmus in the streets in tears, b/c for them the new Bible translations, with the "thou"s, had such a powerful effect upon them, it made God closer to them, more real...so much more so to them than what they'd been hearing Catholic preachers in church. it was a revolutionary concept to them, this intimacy with the Almighty, as if in reading this they were carrying on a private conversation with Him. it's very hard to fathom now, this effect. B/c for us "thou"is elevated, it is used in reverence, elevating God, making Him more distant, yet more beautiful. I wonder if that was what Hugo was going for there.
It's funny, but after I first fell in love with the musical 20 yrs ago I set out to read the novel (having read a lot of really long books), and I got through the Waterloo section just fine, but when I got to the chapter "Argot" where Hugo embarks on a history of French slang and after that the ABC Society, my eyes glazed over and I ended up skipping the entire barricade section, which (at a glance) bored me to tears. Escept Eponine's death, I wanted to see if she survived. I took up the book again in the Paris sewer. Go figure. All that stuff about poltics, the history of the riot, and the turning tides of history--the part where Hugo is at his most insufferably and unfortunately verbose--seem to be more relevant than ever today, and when I get to those chapters I will read them with much interest.
The movie takes much more from the book than the musical does, so I have read, so it'll be great to revisit it with that in mind.
(This post was edited by Sunflower on Nov 15 2012, 3:22am)