I have the Robin Buss translation of The Count of Monte Cristo in paperback, but that copy was old and worn. I wanted a more durable hardcover edition to read and to display on my bookshelf in my new house. The hardcover I bought from Total Books arrived in near-perfect condition, exactly as advertised, and looks gorgeous on the shelf.
Why Robin Buss’ translation for Penguin Classics? That’s a reasonable question since Alexandre Dumas, père has been dead long enough for his works to enter the public domain. Several translations of his major novels are not only available in cheaper editions (such as Barnes & Noble Classics), but for free on Project Gutenberg.
These are inferior and, in the case of The Count of Monte Cristo, censored translations. Most of them date back to the Victorian period, and render the elder Dumas’ evergreen French into English prose that feels old-fashioned and stilted today. Furthermore, because these are translations from the Victorian period, the translators filtered Dumas through their own moral sensibilities to give us Bowdlerized versions of a novel that ran on sex, drugs, and rock ’n roll a century before rock ’n roll was something you could do without a machine gun.
Robin Buss’ unabridged translation comes directly from the original French and renders Dumas into fresh, readable modern English. Material previously omitted by Victorian-era translators such as Franz’ hashish-fueled sexual fantasies and the strongly implied lesbian relationship between Eugenie and Louise remain intact and uncensored. As another reviewer pointed out, Buss will provide footnotes to explain subtleties that aren’t easily translated from French to English, such as insults delivered by using the formal you (vous) rather than the informal/friendly/intimate you (tu).
A detailed appendix provides valuable historical and cultural context that aids the reader in understanding Dumas’ masterpiece, and includes a primer on the rise, fall, return, and final downfall of Napoleon Bonaparte that is crucial to making sense of the politics driving the novel’s plot.
If you cannot read Dumas in his native French, and you want a definitive English version, Robin Buss’s unabridged and uncensored modern English translation is essential reading. No other translation will suffice.