Archive for the ‘Historical’ Category

The Works of Robert Louis Stevenson (part 1)

Friday, September 17th, 2010

When I look for new books usually the only contemporary ones I check for belong to the genres of fantasy and science fiction. If I look for modern novels (basically those written after about 1800) I usually check for older ones. That would books published before the year 1950 and then usually for classics of literature. Sometimes I do not not what to look for and then I pick up a famous author that I remember and check if he hasn’t written more well-known novels that I have forgotten about.

One of those authors is Robert Louis Stevenson. As he died young he only published for a relatively short period in the late 19th century. His most famous novel is The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), but he wrote more works that survived the test of time. I’ve ordered a number of them and I received two of them. I expect the next set soon, but as a blog should be active I decided to write a little already and continue once the others have arrived. I have no idea how long it will take, as that’s how online ordering sometimes works. The novels I received already are coincidently also the most well-known ones, so they are a good start.

The first one was Stevenson’s debut novel with which he claimed fame. It is the classic pirate story Treasure Island (1883), which has been adapted as an animation and other media quite often. I guess many people don’t realise Stevenson is not just the writer of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, but also of this famous tale. I don’t remember the adaptations very well, so I will surely indulge myself with this story.

The second book is far less famous, but has also been adapted. It is the novel Kidnapped (1886). I remember an animation of it, but the actual story remains vague so again that’s all for the better. Like Treasure Island it is also an adventure story. Both are thus quite different from the haunting tale of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and (probably) lighter in nature. The two books (in the editions I purchased) are just over 200 pages, so they shouldn’t be a long read. I don’t they will be lying on my bookshelves for long.

Translated English classics

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

I’ve started reading Ivanhoe (1819) by Walter Scott. I am actually reading a translated version (in Dutch of course) of the work. In general I try to read books in their original language, although that’s fairly limited to Dutch and English, while German would be a bit too much to really enjoy it. At a certain point a book can become too old and the used language old-fashioned and hard to get through. I have the complete works of Shakespeare in English, but as these are all plays normal reading isn’t possible anyways. I don’t know if the original version of Ivanhoe is readable enough, but at some point I have to make a choice on what version I want to read. 1819 isn’t that old and still close to the contempory period where the difference in language is smaller. I have all the Jane Austen novels in English as well, and they are from the same period.

The thing is actually that I sometimes don’t buy books because I am looking for them but because I see a cheap offer of a nice edition. At the time I was not thinking about having the original English version. I just thought: “Ivanhoe. I’ve seen the movie but what is the original story?” And that’s why I bought this version instead of the other. It is no crime to read a translated version even if one is well versioned in the original language. For most people it is actually common to do so. I used to do it myself until my English became so natural that certain translations started to bother me. I don’t know if this translation will fail. At least the risk of having English names translated to Dutch is quite small. The setting is historic England afterall.