Sunday, June 24, 2018

Fortnightly Book, June 24

Descend into the crater of Yocul of Sneffels, which the shade of Scartaris caresses, before the kalends of July, audacious traveler, and you will reach the center of the earth. I did it. -- Arne Saknussemm

The next fortnightly book is Journey to the Center of the Earth, Voyages Extraordinaires #3, and my favorite of the popular Verne novels. This will be the first fortnightly book that I will be deliberately reading twice, in two different translations.

(1) I will be reading from the Heritage Press (New York) edition, a nicely made book with fifteen illustrations by Edward A. Wilson. It uses the Waverley typeface. The three-piece binding has a black leather back with gold title over a chambray lava-red cloth over the boards. It also has an introduction by Isaac Asimov. As Heritage Press editions go, it is an especially good one, and as I've noted before, I mention these bibliographic details occasionally because the physical book affects how one reads; this one is a pleasure.

(2) Which makes it so sad that its translation is awful. Verne's works, of course, were often subject to very bad translations done on very bad principles, and Journey is the most popular work to have had a very poor English translation. One of the signs of a bad translation are arbitrary changes, and we see this in spades here. The character names in the common translation (which I quote above) are:

Professor Von Hardwigg
Harry
Gretchen
Hans

The names in Verne's actual text are:

Professor Otto Lidenbrock
Axel
Gräben
Hans

The problem with Heritage Press, of course, is that they usually kept the books themselves cheap by using public domain translations when available, and this skimping leaves one with a very nice physical edition of a very poor translated edition. So I'll also be reading it in the Dover Thrift Edition; I am sure there are better translations, and it's a cheap paperback, but at least it gets the names right. (The difference between the translations is that all 'Hardwigg' translations derive from the 1871 George & Raffan edition, whereas the Dover translation derives from the distinct 1876 George Routledge and Sons edition.)

So I will, of course, be looking at the difference made by the difference in translations. Down the volcano we go!

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