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La Fontaine: Selected Fables by Jean de La…

La Fontaine: Selected Fables (original 1668; edition 1979)

by Jean de La Fontaine, James Michie (Translator), J. J. Grandville (Illustrator), Geoffrey Grigson (Introduction)

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Title:La Fontaine: Selected Fables
Authors:Jean de La Fontaine
Other authors:James Michie (Translator), J. J. Grandville (Illustrator), Geoffrey Grigson (Introduction)
Info:Viking Press
Tags:Fiction, Poetry, Read in 2012

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Selected Fables by Jean de La Fontaine (1668)



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Jean de la Fontaine is a must-read for anyone interested in folktales and fables throughout history.

The 17th-century poet took various tales from Aesop, Greek myth, and various other sources and set them to verse. Here, they appear in English translation. While the presentation of the stories and their social commentary is witty; I didn't find the 'poetry' of the language to be that engaging - the rhyme could be distracting, and the phrasing was often clunky. I don't know if this has to do with the original or the translation; I suspect a combination of both.

For French poems in translation; I tend to prefer a side-by-side presentation - even if one understands little of the original language, one can read to get an idea of the sound and rhythm of the original. However, I'm sure the originals are available freely online, for those motivated to look them up.

The selected fables presented here (apparently, the book includes about half of de la Fontaine's fabulist output) are prefaced by a very nice academic essay on the author, which really helps place the writing in context. There are also liberal endnotes mentioning the source (if known), and references found in each fable. I might've preferred if the notes relating to each story were found adjacent to the relevant section, but overall, this was fine.

A recommended volume.

I received a copy of this title through NetGalley. Thanks to NetGalley and Oxford University Press. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
This review applies to the Viking edition of selected fables, translated by James Michie with an introduction by Geoffrey Grigson and the illustrations of J. J. Grandville (from an 1842 Paris edition). Grandville's illustrations may well be the best part of the book. La Fontaine's verse retellings of ancient fables (mostly of Aesop and Phaedrus) may lose something in the translation, but mostly didn't make for particularly pleasant reading: the verse comes through as somewhat stilted. Nonetheless, it was neat to see the versions of these stories that La Fontaine's contemporary readers would have known and learned. ( )
  JBD1 | Dec 10, 2012 |
I was not impressed with my first reading of Fontaine’s fables. The rhyming scheme seems to numb my brain and have a glossing-over effect on my eyes. I have heard rave reviews about this translation (by Eunice Clark), but mostly among French students who have the English/French parallel edition. I cannot help but wonder if these verses were better in French and the trouble lies in the translation. At any rate, Fontaine retells classic fables, riddling them with rhymes and occasionally an appended moral. The Hen That Laid the Golden Egg, The Little Carp and the Angler, The Stag and the Vine, and The Lion in Love are a few examples of classics retold. Unfortunately, this version includes no introductory material or guide for the reader as to which tales are adapted and which are originals. As for the illustrations, I think I prefer Alexander Calder’s work in sculpture. The animal drawings are entertaining, but I would prefer a few more loincloths and tank tops for the humans featured. To each his own, I suppose.
  courtneygood | Jul 12, 2007 |
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» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jean de La Fontaineprimary authorall editionscalculated
Calder, AlexanderIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grandville, J. J.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grigson, GeoffreyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Michie, JamesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moore, MarianneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0486295745, Paperback)

First published between 1668 and 1693, the Fables of La Fontaine rank among the masterpieces of French literature. This volume contains 75 of the best, in the original French with new English line-for-line literal translations. "The Cicada and the Ant," "The City Rat and the Country Rat," "The Fox and the Grapes," many more.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:26 -0400)

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Among the masterpieces of French literature: 75 Fables in original French with new English line-for-line literal translations. "The Cicada & the Ant," "The Fox & the Grapes," many more. Annotation. First published between 1668 and 1693, the Fables of La Fontaine rank among the masterpieces of French literature. This volume contains 75 of the best, in the original French with new English line-for-line literal translations. "The Cicada and the Ant," "The City Rat and the Country Rat," "The Fox and the Grapes," many more.… (more)

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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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