• AUGUST 20, 2009, 7:36 P.M. ET
  • Choosing a Translator

    Columnist's name
    How do you decide which edition or which translator to buy of a classic? For example, Oxford World’s Classics vs. Penguin Classics; Louise Maude vs. Rosemary Edmonds.
    —Ceci Leung, San Francisco

    This question has been on my mind for months—I've wanted to reread "Madame Bovary," and haven't been able to settle on any of the half-dozen translations available.
     [ ... ]
    When Vladimir Nabokov taught "Madame Bovary" to his college students, he used the translation by Eleanor Marx-Aveling; Mr. Raffel called that version "in many ways the worst translation of 'Madame Bovary' ever to see print." Mr. James advises studying French: "Anyone, even starting late, can learn enough French to know that Flaubert didn't actually sound like any of his translators, no matter how accurate." Quel dommage.
    Send your questions about books and reading to Cynthia Crossen at
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