What Makes Literature?


What Makes Literature?

A question many of us have asked ourselves through time. In this delightful excursion by Umberto Eco, he reflects upon the prose of Alexandre Dumas and what has allowed it not only to survive, but to prosper when contemporaries like the enormously ponderous Eugene Sue have (mercifully) subsided into the background.

And what about The Count of Monte Cristo? I have written previously about how once I decided to translate it. I would find phrases such as: "He rose from the chair upon which he was sitting." Well, which other chair should he have risen from, if not from that upon which he was sitting? All I had to say in my translation was, "He rose from the chair", or even "He rose", as it is already clear he was sitting at a table.

I calculated that I had saved the reader at least 25% reading time by shortening Dumas's language. But then I realised that it was exactly those extra words and repetition that had a fundamental strategic function - they created anticipation and tension - they delayed the final event and were fundamental for the excellent vendetta to work so effectively.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on July 25, 2002 2:23 PM.

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