Y’all may notice I never finished those posts. You may further notice that I’d said at the time that I wasn’t going to do a full series of reread posts about the book, but that I would reserve the right to change my mind.
That change of mind has now come! And it’s brought about by how the little book club Dara and I are in with a few friends of ours has decided to actually read The Silmarillion.
And, since I’m the only real Tolkien nerd in the group, and have of course read the thing multiple times already, we agreed I’d read it in French while everybody else read it in English.
So here’s an initial post about that. I’m not going to get into as much detail as I have on the posts I’ve done for Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings*, but I will talk some about interesting quirks of the French edition as I find them. And I’ll talk about things I notice this time through in general, as well. But mostly I’ll be keeping it pretty high-level. Since I’m doing this for book club as opposed to just doing it on my own time, I need to move through this pretty quickly! But I’m taking notes as I go, and those notes will form the bones of the posts I’ll put here.
About my editions
Le Silmarillion, the Pocket edition published in 2002, is the French edition I’m using for this. And it is, in fact, a copy I bought on that 2017 trip to Quebec! Fun story about that: I bought it at an Archambault in downtown Montreal. Told the guy at the counter that I liked to practice my French, so I was working on rereading a lot of Tolkien. He gave the book a look and said, “That’s a hard book to practice on!” I told him I knew it was hard in English, never mind French.
For comparison, this is the ebook edition I have, and this edition is my original paperback copy. Which would have been the one I snarfed once I read through the Lord of the Rings, and then got all big-eyed and WAIT THERE’S MORE?
For purposes of this reread, though, I’ll be dealing with the ebook version in English. My paperback is one of the few I have that I have specific sentimental attachment to! So I don’t get it out often.
The front matter
A few other notes about the French edition, meanwhile. It’s notable to me that unlike my English copies, the French edition has only Christopher Tolkien’s original Foreword. It doesn’t have the Preface that appears in the English editions, or the full quote of the letter J.R.R. Tolkien sent to his publisher to describe his intentions for the work.
I’m a little sad that the French edition doesn’t have that letter, in no small part because it does have one of my favorite Tolkien quotes.
I would draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched. The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama.
I swear, it’s like he was hoping for fanfic. 😉 (And at any rate, that quote right there is part of why I’m a lot more patient with Jackson’s Hobbit movies, as I’ve said before.)
Plus, it’s just nice to see Tolkien’s own thoughts included in the English edition. So, yeah, a bit sad those thoughts aren’t in the French. I must presume that the French translation was done off the first English edition and that they didn’t bother to swing back and translate the additional front matter, for whatever reason.
There’s not much more than that I can say about the front matter here. It’s maybe valuable to read through once for Christopher Tolkien’s commentary. But when I’m trying to work my way through the French, it’s less interesting.
So let’s proceed on into the Ainulindalë, shall we? I’ll talk about that and the Valaquenta in the next post.
*And in case any of you are going, “hey Anna, what about your Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter rereads? We notice you haven’t finished those, either!”, stand by on that. I haven’t forgotten them. And one silver lining in the whole cloud of being between jobs is that at the moment, I’ve got more time to blog! I will be re-awakening those rereads, too.