Monday, September 7, 2015

Perceptions

Recently, I started re-reading The Three Musketeers. The last time I read it, it was abridged and I was in grade 10. The other time I read it, I was... gosh I don't know... ten? And it was unabridged. 

This time, I'm reading it unabridged in French. 

It's slow going. (Because I have to stop frequently to check that I'm translating correctly, and the book is huge.) 

I'm now at the scene where D'Artagnan meets Rocheford. I stopped just after D'Artagnan challenged Rocheford. 

And you know what's the one thing that's still sticking in my mind two days later?

D'Artagnan is being a bit of an asshole. 

It's strange, because in neither of the two previous readings did I feel this way. In fact, he was always one of my favorite characters out there. (Although Athos beats him by a mile.) 

Part of me wonders if I was just so young the first time that I simply decided that he was older (at eighteen) and therefore had to be right and just in his outrage.

However, I have a very good memory for books I've read (so much so that I can translate most of what I've read so far simply because I remembered the English unabridged wording from the first time I read the book.) 

I don't remember this, though: 

Rocheford, when confronted for laughing at D'Artagnan's horse, pointing out that he doesn't laugh often, but that he does reserve the right to laugh when it pleases him. 
D'Artagnan says something along the lines of "Yes, but you should not laugh when it displeases me." (Which I took to mean: It's rude to laugh when it's upsetting to other people.)

Rocheford's response to the eighteen year old kid who already threatened him by pulling a foot-long section of his rapier out? "Truly sir? Okay. Fair enough." 

And then he walks away. 

D'Artagnan is the one who further instigates the fight between and Rocheford. 

I don't remember ever reading something like this. Or seeing some version of this in any of the (many) movie versions I've seen. So much so that I think that either something is lost in the translation to English, or the editors in English have left this scene out. (Although I could be wrong and I just missed this scene twice.) 

My point? 

I couldn't help thinking, as I mulled this difference over, that this beautifully illustrates how tricky perceptions can be. Not only in reading, but in life as well. We have our perceptions manipulated all the time. (Having more stuff will make us happy. This is what "beautiful" looks like. Oh, so this is the hero of the story, but we can't have the complexity of him being a bit of an asshole, so let's take this bit out.) 

Whether we like it or not, we make judgments (e.g. D'Artagnan = good, Rocheford = Bad) and those further form perceptions, not only in ourselves, but in the people who are being judged. 

Such as poor people who are judged for being poor, without us even knowing the people. And then they, believing these perceptions, act according to the roles we've given them. 

It's definitely something to be mindful of. 

Does it mean that D'Artagnan's douche move will mean I don't like him anymore? Well... no. I might actually like him a bit more for his imperfection. But it is nice to get a clear view of him now. 

9 comments:

Blogoratti said...

What great thoughts indeed, and that's a fine book to read. Greetings!

Murees Dupé said...

I've always wondered if translators stick to the original text word for word, or if they change it up a bit. So awesome that you're reading in french.

Toinette Thomas said...

This post brings up many questions. Do our perceptions and opinions change over time, do these translations lose part of the meaning, or perhaps a bit of both.

Annalisa Crawford said...

I think translations definitely lose something - I'm just not gifted enough to be able to read in anything other than English.

I think naturally our perceptions change depending on our reference points - being young vs being slightly older, being well-off vs struggling for money. It's as much to do with our experiences as it is with the facts in front of us.

Thought-provoking topic, Misha :-)

Madilyn Quinn said...

Props to you for translating! Wow! But great post. Perception does change a lot; everyone looks at things differently. & to be a good writing, you gotta get into other perceptions :)

Stephanie Faris said...

Lately it seems I've been reading more and more books where there are characters I just don't like at all. And that leads me to think about perception and how much it clouds our opinions of the people we meet and the characters we read about.

Arlee Bird said...

I don't even remember anything about The Three Musketeers. I read the abridged version when I was in 2nd grade. I recall loving it, but that was so long ago. There was probably a lot in that book I didn't understand back then--I'm sure of it.

Arlee Bird
A to Z Challenge Co-host
Tossing It Out

Robert Bennett said...

This sounds like so much fun. I need to find a copy. One of my favorite books was Count of Monte Cristo unabridged so this sounds like it's right up my alley.

Misha Gericke said...

It is a lovely book, Blogoratti.

Murees, I'm thinking things get lost in translation often.

I also think it's a bit of both, Toinette.

Annalisa, I agree with you. Our lives do have a vast impact on how we read things.

Absolutely, Madilyn. Writing is all about seeing from other perceptions.

So true, Stephanie. For example, I'm about the only person I know who hated Wuthering Heights because I thought Catherine and Heathcliff both sucked as people.

Lee yeah the abridged version also cuts three quarters of The Three Musketeers out.

Robert, I read The Count of Monte Cristo recently, and there definitely are a similar sense to them. That said, The Count of Monte Cristo is actually a lot darker than The Three Musketeers.