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?OT: reading French literature Sinead Send a noteboard - 19/02/2011 04:09:36 PM
Hi, sorry if this is slightly OT, but I have some questions about the level of French you need to read Madame Bovary in the original.

I've just re-read it in English translation (1940s translation by Alan Russell for Penguin). The first time I read it in English (same translation) I was a young teenager and though I recall being impressed by it, I was too young and inexperienced to understand a lot of it. Reading it now in my early 30s, I felt I could appreciate it on so many more levels, but there was still a lot of back-and-forth in my mind over where my sympathies lay and so on, and after reading your comments above my desire to read it in French has intensified.

I only have a basic "school" level of French, but am planning to undertake some self-study to improve my level - not just to read Madame Bovary, but to read more French literature in general, as well as get more out of trips to France. From reading this discussion I can see that Madame Bovary is one of the more difficult French novels to read, so I was just wondering how long you've been reading French literature - especially as you were able to pick up such nuances of tone as you describe above? What were some of the other books you've read in French? If you could recommend any novels that are an easier read (though still interesting and challenging), that would be more suitable for me to build up some French reading skills with, I would be really grateful.

It's heartening to see that there are others who aim to read as much European literature in the original as possible - it makes it seem like not such an impossible dream for me! I have intermediate(ish) Italian (though I can only read Italian literature very slowly and with lots of recourse to the dictionary), basic French, German and Portuguese, and with that background I imagine Spanish wouldn't be too much of a stretch. I've never touched Russian - would love to one day. I find it pretty easy to pick up the rudiments of a language, but much more difficult to put in the sustained effort necessary to get to the level of reading literary works. But even if it takes me the rest of my life to get there (I work full time in a non-literary field so the time I have to devote to it is limited), I think it will be worth it.

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/Discussion: Madame Bovary - 20/01/2011 06:22:50 PM 7396 Views
Re: /Review: Madame Bovary - 20/01/2011 07:20:36 PM 1554 Views
I agree with much of what you say. - 20/01/2011 07:57:57 PM 1892 Views
I'm glad to hear that the read wasn't easy for you, either. - 21/01/2011 06:30:00 AM 978 Views
Yeah, I think it's safe to say some of those words would give even native speakers pause. - 21/01/2011 06:37:02 PM 1599 Views
I'm certain it was intentional. - 21/01/2011 07:21:45 PM 976 Views
I want to read two more "serious" works before skipping over to Druon. - 22/01/2011 06:03:09 PM 1040 Views
Ambitious. - 22/01/2011 06:26:59 PM 1140 Views
Re: Ambitious. - 25/01/2011 06:20:12 PM 2051 Views
I don't think I've even heard of Benjamin. - 25/01/2011 09:41:55 PM 950 Views
Walter Benjamin - 25/01/2011 10:00:13 PM 2075 Views
I think he was the youngest son of Jacob. *NM* - 26/01/2011 05:16:26 AM 505 Views
I'm halfway through the second part now - 20/01/2011 11:58:01 PM 1144 Views
I'm interested to see what you think when you finish. - 21/01/2011 06:31:58 AM 957 Views
I hope to be done with it this evening - 22/01/2011 05:09:23 PM 1453 Views
My thoughts - 24/01/2011 06:48:13 AM 1662 Views
Your comments are one of the reasons I've sworn off translations. - 25/01/2011 05:50:33 PM 974 Views
?OT: reading French literature - 19/02/2011 04:09:36 PM 926 Views
You're new here, aren't you? - 19/02/2011 04:50:50 PM 1544 Views

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