Friday, October 2, 2015

Translations Matter: Around the World in Eighty Days

The Extraordinary Journeys: Around the World in Eighty Days (Oxford World's Classics) by Jules Verne, translated by William Butcher

I have never read anything by Jules Verne. Would it be shameful to admit most of what I know of him is from the Back to the Future trilogy?

Mater Amabilis recommends three works of classic literature for the first year of Level 3 (sixth grade) including Around the World in Eighty Days. I attempt to pre-read most books before my children read them so I can talk intelligently about them and, sometimes, decide against them. So I checked out a copy of Verne's book and settled down for a read...after two pages I wanted to give up. It was just...painful...and if I wanted to give up, what hope did First Son have?

Then inspiration struck! Jules Verne wrote in French! My good friend useful tool, Google, discovered someone dedicated enough to wade through multiple translations and offer his recommendations for the worthy ones.

Armed with an ISBN number, I purchased a copy. It did not disappoint. A trek around the world with Jules Verne was cheeky, adventurous, enlightening, and satisfying. I'm still contemplating it weeks later, which is one of the characteristics of the best books.

A note of caution: Verne's text contains a number of allusions to adult themes. Most of them will probably go right over First Son's head. I missed a number of them myself (being apparently remarkably innocent despite my years of age), until I read the end notes, which helpfully pointed them out (in professional language). I doubt First Son will read any end notes, not yet having displayed my tendency to read every single word on every page. If you have a student who will do so, be certain to either preview the notes and perhaps have a serious conversation about anything you feel needs explaining ahead of time.

If you haven't, read some Verne.

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