The Count of Monte Cristo

I’ve been wanting to read The Count of Monte Cristo for a while. Ever since I found out that one of its main themes is vengeance (at least according to the Wikipedia article, which could be wrong!) and that it takes place starting in the Napoleonic era, one of my absolute favorite periods in history, I’ve been interested in reading it. I picked up a copy in a bookstore once and read a bit of it and liked what I read. That’s more than I can say for a lot of those so-called classics, as I sometimes find them quite boring!

However, I’ve faced a problem in finding a copy of The Count of Monte Cristo. Namely, it is a translated book, so getting a decent translation is of the utmost importance. It’s also so long that there are abridged and unabridged editions available and I didn’t know which to choose.

While trying to find a Kindle edition last night, I found a review from someone who seems to have good advice about which edition to choose. The review in question is here, if you want to read it. Apparently, Robin Buss’ translation is the best one out there right now. The reviewer says it reads a lot more fluidly that some of the other translations. I’m guessing some of the other translations must be decades old. Translations have a way of going stale over the years, even though the work in the original language retains its vitality. Breon Mitchell, a former literature professor and translator of many German-language works, has an excellent discussion of this in the foreword he wrote for Franz Kafka’s The Trial, but I digress.

Anyway, I looked up Robin Buss’ translation of The Count of Monte Cristo and it has convenient footnotes, which is what I want since there are bound to be obscure references and occasional linguistic difficulties. It’s not even that expensive, either. It’s only $3.75 for the Kindle edition, which is what I plan to buy. I think my arms would get too tired holding up a book this long, so ebook is the way to go. I plan on reading some very long books this year, so I think this is a good one to start with.


6 thoughts on “The Count of Monte Cristo

  1. The Count is a fantastic terrible book, to quote freely the great Umberto Eco. Dumas was paid per word, hence he filled it with stuff that, sometimes, would make you cringe (“the man fell on his own chair” must be a phrase that runs every other page, for Christ’s sake, and so on).

    But it’s a BRILLIANT book, with a brilliant plot, unexpected turns and a compelling case. In addition, all the corollary is just great. I love, for example, how Dumas tells this story to his readers whilst making references to his present time, something that a few versions just cut away (wrongly, in my humble opinion).

    I couldn’t recommend it more.


    1. I think Charles Dickens was paid by the word, too, which is why his work is sometimes a bit… verbose for my taste. Hopefully Dumas won’t come across as too verbose! 🙂 (Though judging by the length, that may not turn out to be the case.)


    2. That IS true. I sometimes begin to roll my eyes when I kept reading, and so and so became pale and is about to faint.

      I wonder how much of it is the word count, and how much of that was the time period. I’ve definitely seen several classics that insists on giving detailed descriptions of the exterior of the house, and then describe the decorations of every single room one by one. Of course, modern writers are more like, “so, they are on a tundra. Y’all know what that looks like, right? Right. Moving on. If you don’t, Google it. I’m not describing it.”

      I HAVE read books that started out as newspaper serials. They are not paid by the number of words, but the number of lines. So the writing often look like this:

      ‘Tis night.
      The candlelight glimmers.
      “What is it?”

      Not unlike how many of us students that will lengthen a sentence so we can end the paragraph on the first word of the next line when we have a page count requirement and not enough material.

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  2. Oh, The Count of Monte Cristo is one of my favorite book! I read it on my Kindle but I am not sure which translation I have. It was first recommended to me by my great uncle some 17 years ago. At the time, he probably was suggesting that I read the abridged for young reader Chinese language version. Little did I know that I would be reading the unabridged English translation version many years later. It’s a classic but it’s definitely not dull. I don’t re-read books very often, but this one I actually read more than once, despite the huge size.

    I would like to one day find a good abridged version, though. It’s more so that I can re-read it more times rather than laziness. I’ve yet to find a theatrical or film adaptation that I don’t at least find a little bit unsatisfying, though, mostly due to the length. Sure, the book is loooooong, but it just gives the characters so much more time to develop. I don’t know if there’s an abridged version out there that can be short enough yet without sacrificing too much of that.


    1. I’m glad to hear you like it. I haven’t started it yet but I’m excited to start. I went with the unabridged version because I want to read everything the original contains. It’s long so I’ll probably reading it for half the year, haha.


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