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Les Miserables - Penguin Classics - 0140444300 - Review

Graham Robb, in his biography of Victor Hugo, has some direct comments about the Penguin Classics translation of Hugo's Les Miserables:

The best known English translation (Penguin, 1982) is a Swiss cheese of unavowed omissions and bears out Hugo's comments on translation as a form of censorship. The translator does admit to 'thinning out, but never completely eliminating, its lapses'. Hundreds of bizarre, arresting images are lost in the process. Typical remarks in the translator's introduction are: 'wholly unrestrained', 'no regard for the discipline of novel-writing', 'moralizing rhetoric', 'exasperating', 'self-indulgent', 'passages of mediocrity and banality'.
Graham Robb, who won the prestigious 1997 Whitbread Biography Award for his biography on Hugo, defends the digressions in the novel that Norman Denny, Penguin's translator, attacks and either eliminates, or relegates to appendices.
Few novels begin with a digression...but few novels open their doors to such a wide arena. These interpolations were invitations to grasp the whole picture...
He defends the digression on the Battle of Waterloo as a 'precise demonstration of Chaos Theory' quoting Hugo in his footnotes, "Geometry deceives; only the hurricane is accurate." Another well-known digression, Valjean's journey through the sewers, Robb describes as "an allegory of the whole work: Jean Valjean pulling himself out of the slime of moral blindness into which society has plunged him"

You do not have to suffer by missing out on what Norman Denny/Penguin Books have arrogantly decided they don't think you want to read. There is an unabridged translation of Les Miserables in paperback. This is the Signet Classics version with the Broadway Musical logo on the cover. Translated by Lee Fahnestock/Norman MacAfee. ISBN number: 0451525264