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Thread: The Old Wilbour Translation

  1. #1
    Registered User Zeruiah's Avatar
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    Dec 2007
    Sacramento, California

    The Old Wilbour Translation


    I recently purchased Les Miserables while Borders was having a sale on classical literature under their publishing. Out of a blind purchase, given I hadn't the faintest clue about this book, I took advantage of the sale and bought it. Little did I know that the translation was by Charles E. Wilbour, which meant this translation is rather old and possibly inaccurate or archaic.

    I haven't gotten to reading the book yet since I have other reading priorities beforehand, so I'd like to know your general impressions of this translation. The only problem is that, no matter what problems you have with this translation, I have to keep it since I threw away the receipt (by accident) and another Borders is far away from where I am now. All I want from you is general comments, not nitpicking or misleading chastisements.

    Thank you.

  2. #2
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    Apr 2008

    Talking Translation

    I, myself, have the very translation of Les Mis that you have. Personally, I LOVE this translation; it is very beautiful, lush and deeeeep. I don't know how accurate the translation may be. That is a very good question. The way I look at is: if Victor Hugo thought, wrote, or felt only HALF of what was translated correctly, I'm still in love with the man.

    You can always go back and read other translations if you fall in love with the story... which I'm hoping you will!

  3. #3
    Jealous Optimist Dori's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    I agree with Wahroopeh.

    The Wilbur translation was the first American translation published months after the books publication in France. Just a little info.
    com-pas-sion (n.) [ME. & OFr. <LL. (Ec.) compassio, sympathy < compassus, pp. of compati, to feel pity < L. com-, together + pali, to suffer] sorrow for the sufferings or trouble of another or others, accompanied by an urge to help; deep sympathy; pity

    Dostoevsky Forum!

  4. #4
    Registered User Zeruiah's Avatar
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    Dec 2007
    Sacramento, California
    I compared translations at my bookstore for a while and, as far as style and dcition goes, I'm going to stick with the original Wilbour translation. Although, Signet Classics had a modern remake of Wilbour, which seemed appealing at first, but it didn't seem right because a modern version wouldn't match the original book's antiquity. I also decided to buy an unabridged version because, while it may be full of ridiculously unnecessary commentary (at least for me), it has Hugo/Wilbour's great style to make it worth while.

    Also, I think that by the time I finish reading the Wilbour translation of Les Mis, I'd be able to read the original in French, so I'm probably not going to go back and judge the translations unless some other person later down the road asks the same question I did.

    I'm going to begin this beauty once I finish studying for my AP tests.
    "For a man to conquer himself is the first and noblest of all victories." - Plato

    "Out of damp and gloomy days, out of solitude, out of loveless words directed at us, conclusions grow up in us like fungus: one morning they are there, we know not how, and they gaze upon us, morose and gray. Woe to the thinker who is not the gardener but only the soil of the plants that grow in him."- Friedrich Nietzsche

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