Pity Jules Verne for his translators

Remember back in January when I was so excited about reading Simon Armitage’s Sir Gawain and the Green Knight with our kid?  Well, right now, we’re reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and it is slow going.

On the one hand, the plot is engaging enough, and the 5-year-old has been following along with the plot, asking enough specific questions that it’s clear he’s listening.  On the other hand, we’re reading the Dover Thrift Edition, which I had an extra copy of after last semester, which reprints a translation by Philip Schuyler Allen.  Let’s just say mellifluous reading aloud was probably not high on his priority list:

Whence did it come? Why, it was in reality an almost infinite agglomeration of colored infusoria and globules of diaphanous jelly which were provided with threadlike tentacles.  As many as twenty-five thousand of them have been counted in less than two cubic half-inches of water.  And their light was multiplied by the glimmering peculiar to medusae, starfish, aurelia, and other phosphorescent zoophytes, impregnated by the grease of organic matter decomposed by the sea and, perhaps, the mucus secreted by fish.

It’s a testament to Verne that you can still catch a glimpse of Aronnax’s wonder through the “grease of organic matter,” but this is tongue-twisting work!  It’s even worse when you try to read it with any sense of expressiveness.  And at a chapter a night, we still have nearly 3 weeks to go . . .

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Pity Jules Verne for his translators

  1. Richard says:

    It’s so sad that publishers continue to republish horrid late 19th century English non-translations of Verne’s brilliant and exciting work. There are two recent modern translations – easily available on amazon.com — enjoy!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *