There is a pretty big book store in my town and whenever I enter it I feel as if I was on a long, relaxing holiday and surrounded only by the best of people: interesting, sophisticated persons who all share my love for literature (because no one ever is in a bookshop just so they can buy a present for someone they don't know very well or some comics or maybe even a copy of the Playboy...).
Anyway, yesterday I went on a shopping spree again and since I am joining Kate's Chunkster Les Misérables Readalong I thought it was about time to get a copy of Hugo's long epic book.
Since they only had one edition the choice was easy and I bought a thick paperback with the beautiful title "Die Elenden" which is the exact German translation of "Les Misérables".
I decided on reading it in German because my French is far away from sufficient to understand such a book (I'm battling through Le Petit Prince at the moment) and it would be rather absurd for me to read the English translation of a French book which I would have to translate into German again in my head.
To be honest the book seemed a little too thin to me to be treated as the Chunkster of Chunksters but I thought that they had probably used really thin paper and also I didn't know the exact page number Les Misérables is supposed to have, so I bought it despite my little doubts.
When I had a closer look at home I grew more and more suspicious, the French original has about 1900 pages and although German is not quite as drawn-out a language as French, my edition was decidedly too short considering that it had not even 700 pages. Finally on the 4th page I found a note in about this font size saying that I had just bought a copy which had been "improved and abridged for better readability".
"Improved and abridged": Are they serious?!? How can anyone dare say that they have improved a book which is considered one of the greatest novels of French literature and the whole 19th century? And abridged: What kind of abbreviation is it to simply leave out two thirds of a novel? I mean, thousand pages are not quite a trifle, are they?
I know that a lot of people think that Hugo's writing is too longsome and I am sure there are some boring scenes in Les Misérables, but I have got the feeling that if I read this abridged version I don't read Hugo's book at all, I read a renarration.
How can anyone assume they are able to decide 150 years later which parts of a book are relevant and which not? They have not felt what Hugo felt, they have not seen what he saw and they certainly don't know his thoughts. How can they arrogate to say "Oh, this part is boring, let's omit it!"?
And, more than anything: Why can't they write abridged version somewhere on the cover so people can choose if they want to read the thoughts of some arrogant German translator or of the real Victor Hugo?
Sorry that I am moaning so much today, but this really made me angry, I can hardly imagine what Monsieur Hugo would say if he was still alive! Oh, and I have kept the best to myself until now: After my disappointing discovery I looked for an unabridged German edition on Amazon and guess what? There is none. During the 1970s one which cost about 80€ existed, but it is no longer available. Apparently no German person was interested in reading Les Misérables in the last 30 years.
I am so angry with my parents for not being English.