Penguin Classics version of Count of Monte Cristo for $0.57

A translation can definitely make or break your enjoyment of a book.

Preferences in translation are always interesting. You can twist yourself up in knots for hours as a translator if you let yourself.

French is not a language I’ve ever undertaken any translation in but I have read a fair bit of Dumas in translations. :slight_smile:

I would agree that the Buss is easier to read but in my view it fails to capture the feel of the original as well as the Washington (which could also be improved - for example it fails to tell you where the spectators are).

I suppose its a question of whether you can tolerate (or ideally enjoy) the prose style of the Washington enough to prefer it over the ease of comprehension of the Buss.

Do you go for the meaning or the flavour? Obviously where one can, one tries for both. Which wins out when you can’t do both? Views vary massively.

I think the part I’ve found hardest to handle with Monte Cristo is how it presents characters: they seem to be fussy sociopathic ubermen with photographic memories and a tendency to recount anything, at any time, in extreme detail, with excessive politeness. They’ll even do it with no-one around, or under their breath if they wish to be ‘discrete’. And everyone around them is more than content to listen.

From what I’ve seen, the Buss version seems to counter this aspect some.

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Based on your excerpts, I like the Washington better. However, that is based on reading each as the beginning of a text. In context, I might feel differently.

I guess that’s the heart of the question (and not just for translations from one language to another but also from one era to another) - how much does one adapt the text to meet current (or local) literary fashions and expectations and when does doing so end up so changing the text that it no longer reflects the original?

The exquisitely polite dialogues, etc. and the detailed descriptions of random stuff are part of the style.

Fiddling with them too much is like taking the architecture out of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Plenty of versions do and are perfectly good tales in themselves but they’re not what Hugo wrote or intended.

I’d suggest trying to relax and simply let the words flow at their own pace without trying to urge the text on to some action or conclusion - enjoy each sentence for its own sake - but I know that for a lot of people the writing is just too jarring. Each to their own.

You might find this interesting as a discussion of some of the differences in translations:

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The trouble was: I started to dislike almost everyone in the book, to the point that I was unsure if I was supposed to…


I originally started my post by saying your description of the characters sounded spot on (certainly I don’t think I could come up with a better three word description of the titular character than “fussy, sociopathic ubermensch”) so…

The book for sale being discussed on Amazon is an ebook. Try again?

Ah, I saw the paperback at the same link from Mark. (This is me “trying again”.)

Also, I should say that in my experience, Penguin (and other) ebooks are often far more professionally and cleanly formatted than their Gutenberg counterparts; I’ll happily pay a paltry 50c for a more readable ebook.

I’ve checked and my cheap paperback copy is also an older style translation. Although I have to say, one of the most amusing parts of my copy’s translation are all the footnotes from the translator, who often takes pot-shots at other translations of the text, for everything he sees them as getting wrong.

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Wait - so it’s The Count of Monte Cristo, but performed by penguins? Or are penguins replaceing the main characters.? And then narrated by Morgan Freeman… I think I’d buy that, yes.

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