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The times they have changed

We have just started reading The Count of Monte Cristo for school, and I am liking it so far.  However, I was most dismayed upon reading the short “translator’s note” at the beginning of this particular edition:

The prevailing taste for brevity has made the spacious days of the stately three-volume novel seem very remote indeed. A distinct prejudice against length now exists: a feeling that there is a necessary antithesis between quantity and quality. One of the results is that those delightfully interminable romances which beguiled the nights and days of our ancestors in so pleasant a fashion are now given no more than a passing nod of recognition. Unfortunate as this is, one has to admit it with as much philosophy as may be available for the purpose. Life then had broader margins, and both opportunity and inclination are now lacking for such extensive indulgence in the printed page.

This, then, is felt to be sufficient apology for the present abridgement of one of the world’s masterpieces…

Sufficient apology? I think not! Who are they who dare to pick and choose the choicest morsels of Dumas’s novel and give them to us served up on a dinner plate, not even considering that we may have found much delight in what they left out?

But I will admit that Monsieur Translator did not err when he noted the modern world’s appetite for the succinct. No doubt literary works have gotten much shorter with the passing of the ages. But I cannot excuse the irony of the modern reader whose life lacks inclination for “extensive indulgence in the printed page,” for a new generation has sprung up which has almost exchanged this for extensive indulgence in the television screen. I am quite confident that there are many more people in this world who have spent hours consorting with their television set than those who have found time in their lives to sit down and read an old volume of great proportions–only to set it down and start on the next one.

Personally, I would rather read the whole book, and if I were able to consult the author on the matter, I am sure he would concur. Let us not be afraid of long-winded novels! There’s plenty of time to read…

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