30 January 2015

The Woes of Abridgments

Earlier this week, I finished reading Les Misérables by Victor Hugo.

It was an abridged edition that spanned 400 pages, precisely, and it got me thinking.

I've been thinking about how much less I appreciate abridged versions of books than the original, full-length editions.

Yes, some of the originals -- especially those written two or three hundred years in the past, like Les Misérables -- are extremely long, tedious, and contain information that the reader realises is unnecessary by the end of the book.

But sometimes that enhances it.

When I read an abridged edition with the knowledge that there is an unabridged edition somewhere out there, then it distracts me while I'm reading, because I'm haunted by the idea that I may be missing extra background information, plot details, character histories, and other things that were removed in order to create the abridged edition.

I remember that, when my parents were preparing to shop for my Christmas presents when I was twelve, I gave them a wishlist of books I wanted to read. My father bought me The Fellowship of the Ring and Peter Pan. The copy of Peter Pan was abridged -- and not only that, but it was a "children's" edition.

(Well, Peter Pan is somewhat a children's tale, but what I mean is that the book was very simplified: not only rather short in length, but also with large printed lettering and descriptions/dialogue that I can't imagine J. M. Barrie must have actually used in the original version. Close to half of the pages were illustrations.)

Don't misinterpret me, please: I was grateful. Books are always an A+ gift, especially because I asked for some as my Christmas present. I thanked my father, and I read the Peter Pan book regardless.

Another reason, though: I began and finished that Peter Pan novel in a single night. It was dissatisfying, because I felt like I wasn't getting the entire story. That's the bottom line, I suppose; to this day, I haven't read an unabridged copy of Peter Pan. I'm going to in the future.


What are your thoughts on unabridged vs. abridged books? Sound off in the comments!

2 comments:

  1. I have always wanted to read Les Miserables, it's my favourite musical, but I did not feel like reading an 1000 page book which I probably wouldn't even understand. Therefore, an abridged version would be a lifesaver to those classic books that are otherwise overly-detailed.

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    1. That's a really good point, too. I've actually never seen the musical, nor did I watch the 2012 movie. Hopefully I will get to see one or both of them in the future. I think that the most important thing (regardless of abridged or unabridged, musical or movie) is that the reader/viewer understands the biggest details of the story.

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