Monday, 29 August 2011

Pevear's translation of The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas

I've been reading the delightful new translation of The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas over the past couple of weeks. The translation was made by Richard Pevear in 2006, who writes in his introduction that the earlier translations can be seen as "textbook examples of bad translation practices" that "give their readers an extremely distorted notion of Dumas' writing". As an example, the earlier English translations left out huge chunks of text where the translators thought that the original text was too raunchy. Things like sexual innuendo were the first victims of these translators.

Personally I have no experience with the earlier English translations (having only read the Finnish translation before this), but I must say that at least as far as the quality of translation is concerned, Pevear's work is excellent. I find myself chuckling aloud at the language and the descriptions more than I remember doing when I read the Finnish version. The language is simply delightful. In short, if you have not yet read Pevear's translation, I urge you to get it and read it as soon as possible. Dumas really was a master storyteller and Pevear does great service in letting us read it in as great a version as is possible without learning French!

Only thing I am missing is a high quality hardcover release of this translation that I could keep in a central place in our library. As it is, the version I'm reading is an Amazon Kindle release. While it makes the reading easier (the book would be heavy), the Kindle version does not allow me to check all those reference marks that the text is littered with (no easy way to go to the end of the book to check the note and then come back again).

And while I'm in the topic of The Three Musketeers, I might also mention that the more I read the original novel, the more I feel that the 1973/1974s film versions really are the best adaptations of the original story to the big screen. Taken together, The Three Musketeers (1973) and The Four Musketeers (1974) are one of the finest swashbuckling adventures ever made. Even though the film version changes many things around and loses characters etc. it still retains the humour and the main storyline in a way that keeps the story recognisable. Some people might complain about the addition of slapstick humour into the mix, but I always found it rather endearing in the first movie (the second one is gloomier). And when the main cast is littered with names like Oliver Reed, Racquel Welsh, Richard Chamberlain, Michael York, Frank Finlay, Christopher Lee, Faye Dunaway and Charlton Heston, you cannot really have anything but a true gem in your hands.