Tuesday, February 3, 2009
A (spatial) Problem in Translations
How much Dumas is too much Dumas? I already own a lovely old set of "The Complete Novels" in translation, and a couple of other editions of The Count of Monte Cristo, and two other editions of The Three Musketeers. So is there really a reason to own another, even at only $7.98 for a lovely hardcover mit a ribbon no less, unmarked from the Bargain Table? Well, before I bought it today, I read the "Introduction" and "The Note on the Translation" by Richard Pevear in this 2006 Penguin Classic edition, and I think the answer had to be yes. I will read this book again, and this version has the sex back in it that William Barrow took out. I didn't miss it the last time I read the book, but it's probably better in than out, so yes, I did buy and probably should read the Pevear. But did I really have to own this particular book?
Well, yes. yes I do.
Why? Because having such a book to hand means not having to go in search of it later. Because owning another copy doesn't mean I might not read one of the older copies again as well. Because owning Dumas in multiple translations is as close as I'm likely ever to get to the real experience of reading Dumas, or anyone else, in French. Because there's nothing to say that I need even the copies I already have. I wanted them. I bought them. Today, I bought this one.
I'm unwilling to examine my motives too deeply about this. What's the point? particularly as regards Dumas. Dumas would understand. Dumas is about love, expansiveness, acceptance, even resignation, but Dumas is not about regret.
The only question then is the question I have to ask embarrassingly often: where the Hell do I put another fat Alexandre Dumas? The old boy takes up space. Owning multiple copies of Dumas ain't like owning multiple translations of Sapho, the problem isn't in the translations, it's in the shelving. There is no room on the shelf of Dumas. There is no room on any shelf.
So for tonight, M. d'Artagnan & Co. -- and naturally I worry most about the full weight of the herein admittedly still graceful Porthos -- teeter on top of a nightstand stack already two feet high, dwarfing to disappearance Leigh Hunt just beneath. Poor Leigh Hunt, always overshadowed. Were I a better man, or less a collector, I'd order my library, if not the world, better.
"About a year ago, while doing research in the Royal Library for my history of Louis XIV, I chanced upon the Memoirs of Monsieur d'Artagnan... "