Thursday, June 6, 2019

Snow White and Other Tales - Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

As a rule I don't much like hardbacks, they take up to much space, and I can't be doing with having duplicate books around the place either. Again, they take up to much space, and who needs more than one version of the same book? And the exceptions that prove these rules... any interesting translation of the brothers Grimm it seems.

I really like the cloth bound, jewel coloured, hardbacks that Oxford University Press are producing, to the extent that I have to hold myself back from buying, or asking for, copies of things I already have, but this one turned up unannounced in the post. This translation by Joyce Crick is a delight and will happily join my other editions of Grimm, a collection that's likely to carry on growing.

The introduction starts by saying that a "new translation of a text with a claim to be the most-translated of texts after the Bible needs some justification" but I don't think it does. These tales are so ingrained in our culture in one form or another that new translations seem an appropriate continuation of the oral tradition.

As an adult I've probably read 4 different versions with reasonable thoroughness, and they've been everything from feeling stripped back to the bare bones of the tale, to Philip Pullman's story tellers take that I was reading this last winter. Crick's translation is somewhere inbetween, fun to read and as scholarly as you would expect from the OUP.

Pullman's collection was abridged to 50 tales. There are 82 here, some of them distinctly challenging to modern sensibilities. The most noticeable aspect of that is an ingrained anti semitism, the sort we generally like to hide away now. It's salutary to be reminded of it here.

Something I expected less is the way that different tales seem to come to my attention in each different translation/edition. I'm not quite sure why it should be that different titles seem to jump out of different contents pages, but they do. It feels a little like a reading version of looking through a kaleidoscope.

Definitely a collection aimed at adults and students, but with all the pleasure of story telling flourishes which make it a joy to read. I'm delighted with this edition.

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