Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I don't normally bitch about books...

I love books like I love pie. A slice o' pie + a book = joy. When it comes right down to it, I like most of the books that I read - or at least, I don't dislike them so much that I feel the need to bitch about it. There's really only one book that even comes to mind right now that plucks my last nerve whenever I think of it: Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame. But that's another post, which I may or may not write.

Today I'm going to bitch about a different book, which I just finished reading. It's a book that, again, I don't necessarily dislike, but it just bothers me to a point where I really need to unleash the irritation it caused me.

The Vicomte of Bragellone, by Alexandre Dumas, is not a terrible novel. It is, in point of fact, the first volume (of three) of the third book in the Three Musketeers series; the Wiki sums it up much better than I can:

It appeared first in serial form between 1847 and 1850. In the English translations the 268 chapters of this large volume are usually subdivided into three, but sometimes four or even five individual books. In three-volume English editions, the three volumes are titled "The Vicomte de Bragelonne", "Louise de la Vallière", and "The Man in the Iron Mask."

The Vicomte of Bragelonne, in the context of the novel, is Raoul, the son of Athos. He's present in a chapter or two at the beginning of the novel, is referred to a handful of times again in succeeding chapters, and finally begins to fully appear as a character in the last quarter or so of the book. The rest of the book is about the adventures of D'Artagnan, whom I'll admit I do love to read about.

I know it's silly, but it irritates me that it's called The Vicomte of Bragelonne, as though the novel is about this young man, and the reader will see interesting character development, when in reality D'Artagnan monopolizes the story. I felt a little betrayed. Why Bragelonne, after all? Why not something referring to the restoration of Charles II, which takes up a good half the narrative or more, and sets in motion the events which actually do bring Raoul into the spotlight?

Obviously, my ire is directed more towards those translators and/or editors who ages ago decided it would be a good idea to dupe the reader a bit. Or perhaps I need a bit more of a history lesson with respect to this particular issue... I don't know. I just know that when I start reading Louise de la Valliere, I'd better see plenty of that timid girl that Raoul seems to love so desperately, or I'll be cranky. And I'll probably make another ranty post about it.

On a slightly different, but greatly less crochety note, after having read The Three Musketeers, Twenty Years After, and Vicomte of Bragelonne, I have to say that I'm a little amazed at how much of a big deal was made of Porthos' size in the second two books as opposed to the first. I don't recall descriptions of Porthos in The Three Musketeers giving me the impression that he was superhumanly strong... Perhaps a bit of a bigger man, I suppose, but not the Hercules he was made out to be in the following books. Perhaps it was the translation, but it threw me for a loop. This is why I think I'll always prefer The Count of Monte Cristo.

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