Nov 182013
 

This post is in several parts and is long. So, get yourself a cup of your favorite beverage and settle in.

I. First, What Erik Actually Looks Like

II. What Could Account For This Group of Symptoms?

A. His Face
    1. Lack of Nose
    2. His Lips, or Lack Thereof
B. Skeletal Thinness
    1. Low Food Intake
    2. Nutrient Deficiencies
C. Erik’s “Smell of Death”
D. Erik’s Cold/Sweaty Hands
E. Finally, Erik’s Glowing Eyes

I. First, What Erik Actually Looks Like

The description as given by Joseph Bouquet:

He is of an extraordinary thinness and his black coat floats on a skeletal frame. His eyes are so deep that one cannot see the eyes themselves. Indeed, all one can clearly make out are the dark holes, as on the skulls of the dead. His skin, stretched as if on the head of a drum, is not white, but a sickly yellow. His nose is so slight as to be unnoticeable in profile, and the absence of that nose is a horrible thing to see. He has only three or four long, dark strands of hair laid across his forehead and behind his ears.

Human Skull
Source: Wikipedia

Honestly, this is the best description that we get in the whole book. Monsieur Bouquet tells us not only about his face and thinness, but about his skin and hair as well.

The description when Little Jammes sees him in the crowd when Sorelli is giving her speech:

…a face so pallid, so dismal and ugly, with the deep black holes under the arched eyebrows, that the death’s head…

When he attends the dinner where the parting managers are conversing with the incoming managers:

…macabre face…

…gaunt guest…

…cadaverous individual (actually per TdM)…

…guest from beyond the grave…

Next we get a view of Erik when Raoul grabs hold of his cloak in the chapel at Perros:

At that moment, the shadow and I were just in front of the high alter and the rays of the moon, through the large stained glass window, fell right in front of us…I saw…a dreadful death’s head, which threw me a look where burned the fires of hell. I thought I was dealing with Satan himself even – and before this appearance from beyond the grave, my heart, despite it’s courage, failed me…

Then, we see Erik as he is Red Death at the masquerade ball:

The character was dressed in all in scarlet with a huge hat with feathers, on a head of death. Ah! The beautiful imitation of a head of death that was!

…but a skeleton hand…and the one, having felt the grip of the bones, the frenzied embrace of death…

Then, we get bits of description as Christine tells Raoul her adventure while they are on the roof, in the chapter Apollo’s Lyre.

First, when he first takes her from her dressing room through the mirror:

And then suddenly, in the dark, a hand was on laid on mine…or rather, something bony and icy…

She goes to scream again and Erik puts his hand over her mouth:

My mouth opened again to scream my dread, but a hand closed it, a hand that I felt on my lips, on my flesh…and that smelled of death!

 She faints, then when she awakes, Erik is bathing her temples in cool water:

His hands, so light, smelt like death nevertheless…

He takes her to the boat and he watches her from behind the mask:

His eyes, under the mask, did not leave me; I felt the weight of those immobile eyes.

Dinner Table
Source: Pixabay

He tells her they will spend their time together singing, and he cries behind his mask just before leading her to the table to eat:

I looked at the mask with a tender expression. I could not see the eyes behind the mask, but this did not reduce the strange feeling of unease that one had to question this mysterious square of black silk; but under the fabric, at the bottom edge of the mask, appeared one, two, three, four tears.

Then, he reaches out to take her hand and show her around his house:

Then he stood up and handed me his fingers, because he wanted, he said, to do me the honour of showing me his apartment, but I strongly pulled back my hand and cried out. What I had touched was both moist and bony, and I remembered that his hands smelled of death.

Then, she snatches off his mask:

But these heads of death were immobile, and their mute horror was not living! But imagine, if you can, the mask of death coming to life suddenly – with the four black holes of his eyes, his nose, and his mouth – with the sovereign rage of a demon, no look out of the holes of his eyes, since as I learned later, you can only see his shining eyes in the deep night…

He comes at her grinding his teeth:

Then, he approached me, the awful grinding of his teeth without lips…

He shakes his head at her:

And, rising to his full height, his fist on his hip, waddled on his shoulders the hideous thing that was his head…

 He grabs her hair with his:

…fingers of death…

He then helps her to scratch his face:

And he thrust them [her fingers] into the horror of his face…With my nails he plowed the flesh, his horrible dead flesh!

Love
Source: Pixabay

He tells her who he is that loves her:

Learn that I am entirely made of death, from head to toe…and that it is a corpse that loves you…but now that you know my hideousness…

He crawls into his bedroom and Christine thinks about what she has done:

…but my vision free of the thing. [Christine thinks when he closes the door behind him.]

You do not come back to lock yourself in with a corpse who loves you!

…the black holes of his invisible gaze…

Perhaps he should have been [the Angel of Music] if God had dressed him in beauty instead of dressing him in rot!

He begins to play Don Juan Triumphant:

…the abyss inhabited by an ugly man, it showed me Erik horribly hitting his ugly head…

Later, when Erik shows Christine his powers of ventriloquism, he describes his own lips:

Here, I raise my mask a little! Oh! a little only…You see my lips? What I have of lips?…

A little later, Christine describes what Erik did just before he went out to let her think for 5 minutes:

It is terrible! He is delirious and he tore off his mask and his gold eyes flamed!

So, in the end what we have is:

  • A death’s head, or skull, with deep-set eyes
  • No nose
  • Tight, yellow skin
  • Very little hair
  • Very thin, skeletal
  • Smell “of death”
  • Yellow/glowing eyes – when you can actually see them, that is
  • Thin lips
  • Cold, and sometimes damp, skin
question mark
Source: Pixabay

II. What Could Account For This Group of Symptoms?

First, we know that Erik is human, so anything that explains how he looks must in fact be something that human beings can experience. Second, several of the symptoms can be explained by the same cause, so I will endeavor not to state too much overlap.

A. His Face

Straight up, I’m going to say that his lack of nose was a birth defect of unknown origin.

1. His Lack of Nose

This is not the only time this has happened; there is a girl named Cassidy who was born without eyes or nose. 1

Doctors describe Cassidy’s condition as a rare birth defect of uncertain cause…

2. His Lips, or Lack Thereof

Christine says: “the awful grinding of his teeth without lips”. Then, later, he says: “You see my lips? What I have of lips?”

Obviously, he has lips. One cannot form language properly without them. And, since Erik was such a good singer, we know he was able to speak clearly. So, even though Christine says he doesn’t have them, he certainly does.

However, he admits that they are very thin. So, when Christine explains how he is looming over her, grinding his teeth, I believe she didn’t see his lips because he was grimacing. This would pull the thin lips he does have back over his teeth, which at a quick glance could be seen as no lips at all.

B. Skeletal Thinness

Next, his deep-set eyes, and skeletal thinness I believe come from three causes:

  1. Natural propensity to be thin; I’m sure we all know people like that.
  2. Low food intake; more info on that below.
  3. Nutrient deficiencies; this may also account for some of his other symptoms.

1. Low Food Intake

Erik didn’t eat a lot. There are four places in the story where this is specifically mentioned:

  1. When he attends the farewell dinner for the managers.
  2. When he sets out a meal for Christine.
  3. When he talks of working on his opera.
  4. Christine reiterates this to Raoul when she says he [Erik] is working on his opera while she and Raoul caper about the opera house.

In the first instance he is probably not eating because he is only there to make his presence known. In the second instance, he doesn’t want to remove the mask in front of Christine. After she sees him, she never mentions eating again. He may never have eaten in front of her, and probably ate very little if he did. Although I’m pretty sure he enjoyed food occasionally as the Persian says that Erik was a lover of fine wine.


Source: Pixabay

When it comes to the third and fourth mentions, this could be likened to the expression “working around the clock.” While this refers to not stopping to sleep or work on anything else, it doesn’t literally mean the person did nothing else. They had to stop at some point to use the bathroom at the very least. And, usually, they grab a bite to eat while they are working. Now, Erik may not have eaten for hours as he was working, but he could not have literally worked for weeks without sleeping or eating.

The kidneys are always working, so even if he wasn’t drinking anything, he would have need to stop when his bladder got full.

While he could have survived that long without food, as Ghandi did, he would have had to drink some water. If he had neither food nor liquid, he would only have survived 10-14 days. We know this because that is how long it takes someone who has all sustenance removed, or who chooses to end their own life. 2

Further, lack of sleep leads to:

progressive and significant deficits in concentration, motivation, perception and other higher mental processes… 3

This same source states:

Other anecdotal reports describe… unmedicated patients with mania going without sleep for three to four days.

It makes sense that Erik would experience as period of mania as he was composing, but losing concentration, motivation, etc. would be a detriment to his creativity.

So, he must have slept as well, even if not for very long.

Which brings us to a man:

  • Who doesn’t eat very much.
  • Has periods of little sleep.
  • May have an untreated mental illness.

All of which could certainly explain his extreme thinness. And, as you get thinner, you face also thins, which would emphasize his cheekbones and brow ridges, making his eyes look even deeper set.

Also, he worked in an opera where there was much makeup easily available. There is nothing to say that at times he didn’t enhance the effect of his eyes, like when he dressed for the masquerade ball.

Vitamin C
Source: morgueFile

2. Nutrient Deficiencies

It’s not a stretch to say that eating very little could cause you to lack certain nutrients in your diet. And, just about all Erik’s symptoms could be explained by this alone. Nutrient deficiency can lead to:

1. Jaundice, which causes skin and eyes to yellow. 4 This is how Joseph Bouquet describes him.

2.” …pale, dry, scaly skin; hair loss” 5 Others describe him as pale/pallid; Dry skin also often appears tight (or at least mine does).

3. Body odor 6

C. Erik’s “Smell of Death”

As described above, his smell could have been related to malnutrition. It could also have been related to the dampness where he lived.

A literal “smell of death” could indicate:

  1. The body does in fact have parts that are decaying, such as a limb with gangrene.
  2. The body as a whole is breaking down.

In the case of number 2, those whose nose is sensitive enough to smell this percular order report the individual dies within days. 7 Erik is clearly not at this level of illness, so it is highly unlikely that he literally smells of death.

However, it is quite possible he smelled due to his proximity to a large body of water. As I was investigating this, I came across two interesting discussion boards.

  1. On the first, the original poster wasn’t sure if the smell in her bathroom was a dead animal in the walls, or something to do with the plumbing. She described it as: “musty, moldy, something indescribable.” This shows that it is easy for us to confuse the two. 8
  2. On the second, 9 the original poster had a smell that she described as: It’s not sewer gas, or a natural gas smell, not a dead/dying animal smell… I don’t know what it is, but it’s in that family of smells…” She says it’s not a dead animal, but it is in that family of smells. Further down in the discussion she says:

My husband went under the house and saw that the drain bucket for the condensation coming from the furnace had tipped a bit, I guess settled into the ground, so the pump indicator was on the higher part and was not sensing that the bucket was full and the pump needed to go on… therefore the bucket was overflowing and there was a puddle of water collecting on the vapor barrier sheet.

There are some holes in the sheet, since the sheet goes around the central support beams, and cannot touch the furnace, so some water had found its way to the ground (that is a good thing, otherwise there would have probably been more water) Anyway, the collecting water was definitely part of the smell.

If the smell is related to the lake, it is probably on his clothes. He is said to wear evening dress, which included a coat with long sleeves. When he puts his hand over Christine’s mouth, he naturally would bring his cuff, and sleeve, close to her nose. She would certainly be able to smell an odor from his clothes when they are that close to her nose.

Similarly, when he is bathing her temples, he would be passing his hands and clothes close to her nose. 

D. Erik’s Cold/Sweaty Hands

Again, the idea here is to enhance the idea that he is somehow a “living corpse” by making him cold and moist (probably along the lines of slimy).

But, really, these two observations can be easily explained.

  1. He was nervous. He had abducted Christine, and certainly he would wonder how she would react. Many of us experience feeling cold, especially our hands, when we are nervous. Or, we can get sweaty palms. And, when really nervous, we can have both at the same time. (That is such a weird feeling!)
  2. Christine explains to Raoul that when she entered the dark corridor behind her mirror that her fingers slid over wet stones. This indicates that the area was at least chilly, even though she doesn’t expressly say so. Having stood there for some time, Erik could certainly have gotten a bit chilled himself.
  3. Many people are naturally cold. My grandmother, for instance, feels the chill acutely, and has her whole life. She has cold hands most of the time. Other people have the same problem, especially if they are thin.
Cat
Source: Pixabay

E. Finally, Erik’s Glowing Eyes

There are several times in the descriptions in Part I where it is stated that one cannot even see Erik’s eyes. Whether it is because they are hidden behind the mask, his eyes are so deep-set, or because you can only see them at night, the fact remains that they couldn’t be seen.

The one time they apparently can be seen is in the deep night when they glow. I believe there are several things that need to be pointed out:

  1. When Christine is in the boat with Erik, she says the only illumination is the blue glow, which would make it really dark. Yet, she isn’t able to see his eyes glowing.
  2. In low light everyone’s pupils dilate, and it could be very easy for Erik’s deep-set eyes to appear as simply black holes.
  3. Anyone who has seen him without his mask has been horrified at how ugly he is and averted their gaze. Under those circumstances, are they really looking deep into his eyes to examine them? Very doubtful.

So, there are several times when Erik is seen in low light and glowing eyes are not mentioned. The only time it is really mentioned is:

  1. When Raoul sees the “eyes” on his balcony, which probably wasn’t Erik.
  2. And when Erik tears off his mask and glares at Christine.

It is my belief that Erik had mild ocular albinism and that accounts for this trick of his eyes.

  • The most obvious characteristics of albinism are pale skin, pale or white hair, and light eyes; however, the form of albinism called ocular albinism only affects the eyes. While Erik is described as pale, what little hair he has is described as dark. Therefore, his albinism is limited to his eyes, and does not affect the rest of his body.
  • Gaston Leroux says himself in an aside:

Some albino men, who appear to have rabbit eyes in the day, have cat’s eyes at night, everyone knows this!

  • There was a boy in China who was said to have eyes that glowed in the dark. This part of it was a hoax, but there was a doctor who weighed in on the issue:

Adam Hickenbotham, an optometrist and clinical researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, contacted us to say he believes Nong has a mild case of ocular albinism. This would explain the boy’s lightly-pigmented irises, and would also cause him to have a lower than usual amount of pigment in his retinas. This would make them appear slightly reflective, and would cause Nong to have difficulty seeing in bright light. 10

  • Given that Erik’s eyes don’t really appear to glow in dim light, whenever someone sees them, they could certainly be the slight reflection that Nong is said to have.
  • For Erik to have the same affliction that Nong has, he would also have to have light colored eyes.
    • Well, as I said above, in low light his pupils would be dilated and his irises would be hard to see.
    • Also, if you weren’t really taking the time to look at him closely, you wouldn’t notice the lighter colored irises.
    • Finally, when Erik tears off his mask and glares at Christine, she probably isn’t looking deep into his eyes either. Certainly, catching a glimpse of light colored eyes could cause her to say they are golden. Combined with the passing of light over his eyes that would make the reflection effect kick in, it is even more reasonable that Christine would describe Erik’s eyes as “golden.”

 So, there you have it. Erik is skinny and malnourished, with a rare birth defect and ocular albinism.

Musical Staff

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Footnotes:

Nov 032013
 

The Phantom Of The Opera is said to be a story of love and horror. However, one can also see it as a story of a young woman’s sexual journey from child to adult. That woman of course is Christine, who at times seems to be quite naive, and at others quite grown up.

When the story starts, we don’t have a full picture of who Christine is and her outlook on life. However, as the story continues, her background is filled in. When you read all of these passages and put them together, you end up with a good picture of how Christine evolves throughout the story.

The book opens with Christine singing and fainting on stage. The woman who fainted on stage was physically a woman, but still very much a child emotionally. It’s said that from a very young age, Christine is sheltered and has only positive experiences of life. Her father dotes on her and teaches her how to sing, and the two wander throughout the countryside singing for others and generally having a ripe old time.

Then, Madame Valerius and her husband take in Christine and her father. Although it is said that her father is grieved, they still go and wander throughout the countryside again once the year. She still sees music is purely positive, and sees everyone as kind.

The first time she’s really exposed to any darker things in life is when her father gets sick and eventually dies. At which point, it is said she falls into a deep depression, and kind of lives life like she’s going through the motions. She does go to the conservatory, which is equivalent to college, to continue her singing lessons. It’s described that her voice is weak, and she only does well to please Madame Valerius.

So, here we have a picture of a young woman very sweet and innocent, sheltered and spoiled. And into this picture we have to place Raoul. When she first meets Raoul it is said he is a little boy. Although it’s not clear exactly how old he was, it is presumed that they were both pre puberty. They run around and play like kids, without there being any real indication of burgeoning love or sexuality.

They meet again three years later and now we can see the beginnings of love, or at least attraction. They both admit that they had stirrings of love and were seeing each other as potential partners. It is presumed at this point they have both been through puberty and are now exploring the first stirrings of sexual feelings. Now, because Raoul is a Viscount, Christine knows she can ever marry him. So, she never really explores those feelings in more depth.

Fast forward several years: now Christine is out of the conservatory and at the opera. Her father has died and her depression still lingers. Then she hears Erik for the first time. The only thing she can think, after checking the dressing room next to hers, and not finding anybody, is that he must be the Angel Of Music. And Madame Valerius doesn’t help anything. She tells Christine that he really must be the Angel Of Music and tells her to ask him if he is. And of course, because it helps him to string her along, he says yes he is.

When Erik starts tutoring her, her depression lifts as she starts to feel again. She begins to enjoy life and enjoys her singing lessons. And, since the voice is an angel she has no where to put these feelings, including the reawakening sexual ones.

Then, when she sees Raoul at the opera, she remembers her previous stirrings of feeling. Since she has no reason to presume that there’s any reason to suppress those feelings, Erik is able to pick up on them. He then gets upset, and even disappears for a day. Christine, of course, thinks this is devastating, and promises not to speak to Raoul.

We must remember the time period in which Christine lived. Women were pure, chaste individuals with no sexual feelings except for their husbands or future husbands. They had to act demure and innocent. Right! Tell that to a horny young woman!

Again, since Christine believes the voice is an angel, subconsciously, or perhaps consciously, she sees these burgeoning feelings as being condemned by God – probably because she knows she can’t marry Raoul, and therefore they aren’t about her future husband.

Later, when Christine and Raoul go to Perros, Christine finds out that Raoul can hear Erik as well. Raoul tells her that she must have been hearing the voice of a man. She replies “I am an honorable woman, Viscount, and I do not lock myself up in my dressing room with men.”

Yes, she locks herself in her dressing room with him!

The next time we see Christine after this fight in Perros is on the night of the ball. It is easy to see that she has significantly changed. Later, when she tells her story to Raoul on the roof, she fills in all the details of what happened in the meantime.

She, herself points out that she was very naive when she was seduced by Erik’s voice. She tells Raoul that when she was in Erik’s house, she locked herself in the bathroom with a pair of scissors. She was ready to kill herself in case Erik is not a gentleman.

OK, what is wrong with this picture? Gentleman don’t abduct women and take them to a secret house without a chaperone. Is it hard to imagine that a woman so sheltered, yet still physically a woman, could secretly wish he would do something?

Since “good” girls don’t have these feelings, or do anything that would make it appear they were alone with a man they weren’t engaged to, Christine protests that she has any feelings for Erik except horror.

Yet, he did at quite ungentlemanly. And she was alone with a man. Who had a beautiful voice and knew just how to reel her in. It’s not hard at all to believe two things are going on here:
1. She is terrified that someone will find out she’s done something “good girls” don’t do.
2. She is there under duress so it’s really not her fault, and my goodness this is exciting. Even Raoul points out this aspect: “Love of the most exquisite kind, the kind that one does not admit even to oneself…The kind that gives you a thrill when you think of it. No wonder: a mysterious man living in an underground palace!”

Now, this doesn’t go through her head consciously. It’s all just a feeling it first. Yet, later it does become conscious. When Raoul and asks her: “If Erik were handsome, would you love me, Christine?”

“Why do you raise questions that I have pushed to the back of my mind as if they were sinful?”

This shows that she has thought of Erik in a sexual way.

There is ample evidence that it is Erik who sees the adult woman and Raoul who sees the child.

Erik plunges her into a world that is so unlike what she is used to, that it probably addles her brain. Since it is so different and bizarre, it does make sense that she would want to try to forget it. But she can’t.

Ugly or not, Erik as awoken something in her. I believe she likes it, but at the same time she has nothing to compare it to, nothing to put it in context except the rules of society. So, it scares her. And, when scared she falls back on the familiar, which is Raoul and their playful, childish antics.

Couched in the acceptance of him being her fiancé, she is allowed to be alone with him. Yet, Gaston Leroux makes quite clear that, until she kisses him on the roof, their game is quite devoid of sexual tones.

When Christine plays at being engaged to Raoul, she is truly playing. I believe that part of this game is a distraction from how scared she is of Erik when he gets into these dark rages when he’s working on his opera. This story reiterates several times that Raoul and Christine were playing like children, and she calls him her “friend” and “Prince Charming”. Yet there is an undercurrent is something else – after all, she is wearing Erik’s ring.

This undercurrent comes to the forefront when Raoul and Christine fight. She then returns to Erik for two days. I believe that she has come to love Erik and has grown up by being loved by him.

The month that Christine and Raoul spend together is her way of remembering how far she has come. She is trying, in as gentle a way that she can, to show him that she doesn’t have an adult love for him. She shows him her domain as if to tell him:
– this is where I belong
– he has given this to me and I accept
– you can give me happiness, but happiness without depth, because you (Raoul) have not yet grown up

So, while she has been playing with Raoul and subconsciously sending him the message that they are not meant to be, when they fight and she returns to Erik she has come back to earth. I believe that by returning to Erik that day, she is reminding herself of what it is like to experience an adult love.

And because of the ring and Madame Valerius’s approval, she doesn’t fear returning to him. So if anyone was to admonish her for not being chaste, she can say that she has her chaperone’s approval, plus she is engaged. Although she never says this part out loud.

As we get closer to the end of the book, Christine becomes more and more terrified of Erik and what he is capable of. I don’t believe this is because she doesn’t love him, but because he is acting more and more erratic. And given what the Persian has told us, Erik must have been truly frightening.

The culmination of her sexual feelings and love for Erik are worthy of their own posts, soon to come.

Aug 082011
 

I received an e-mail from a reader who pointed out that I had not yet posted my comparison of the translations. Oops! So, I took some time and formally wrote up my thoughts on the matter. The first chart below gives an overall view of the translations, while the second chart compares some passages side by side.

*Please note: This  post was originally written in 2011, before the translation by David Coward was published in 2012. Therefore, that translation is not included in the analysis below.*

 

Translation Year Tone/Flow of Wording Notes
The Phantom of the Opera: The Original Novel
Original translation by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos –> TdM; This is the standard version you’ll find everywhere.
1911 Overall easy to read, with a slightly formal tone, and more dated word choice. Due to this being an abridged translation, at times the flow is choppy with a lot of ellipses (the …) After having read the unabridged translations I must say that this translation is my least favorite. In fact, I only quote it when I do to either show a comparison, or because this one is in the public domain and I would not run into copyright violations. Yet, this is the translation that got me interested in the book, and it is better than not reading it. However, if you are interested in reading the book for the first time, or reading it again, I say leave this one on the shelf (or at the store) and pick up one of the translations below. Not only does it leave out some important details, like some dates (as well as whole paragraphs and chapters), the ellipses remove a lot of the emotion of the characters, and overall feel of the story.
The Phantom of the Opera (Bantam Classics)
New translation by Lowell Bair –> LB
1990 Very easy to read, with a nice flow to the text. Word choice is much more modern and understandable. This was the first published unabridged translation, and until I found this one, I didn’t even realize that the version I had previously read was abridged. I loved this translation and how it opened up the story. I have since found this to be true of all the unabridged versions. The modern wording does help this translation to flow smoothly and is much more pleasant to read than the choppiness of the TdM translation.
The Essential Phantom of The Opera
The Essential Phantom of the Opera by Leonard Wolf –> LW
1996 Mr. Wolf also uses a somewhat dated word choice, although it it doesn’t jump out as much as the term “popinjay” does in TdM. (See passage below.) His text doesn’t flow quite as well, probably because he wrote the closest to a literal translation as any of them.

Mr. Wolf includes a lengthy introduction in which he discusses Gaston Leroux’s life, career, and how his novels fit into the time period. He also discusses how PTO specifically fits into Gothic writing.

At least I think that’s what the whole introduction covers. I must be honest when I say that even though I have tried more than once, I just can’t get through this introduction. It’s boring – no other way to say it.

However, the footnotes in this version are quite interesting. There are times when I wish he had footnoted a passage he did not, but overall, I found the footnotes to add to the story. Another note: I suggest you read this one if you can get a copy of it, but not as your first introduction to the unabridged versions. The footnotes, while very interesting and informative, can be distracting. If you are familiar with the story, this is not a problem. But, if you aren’t, then you may loose the flow of the text and therefore not get as much enjoyment out of the story itself. 

The Phantom of the Opera
Adapted by Jean-Marc & Randy Lofficier –>RL
 
2004 Word choice is contemporary with no odd terms jumping out at you (aside from translation differences as noted in my comments to the side). As with LB, the translation flows and is easy to read.

Oh, what can I say about this translation? The pictures/artwork are pretty cool. The translation itself leaves much to be desired. The authors decided that Christine was 17, because they didn’t like the line: “All friends of the Opera knew that her heart had remained as pure as at the age of fifteen…” 1 Apparently they took that to mean that she was in her teens, not that she was as innocent as if she was still a teen. Big difference, but annoying in translation.

They also mess with the grasshopper. Most of the time, they change it to “frog”, but then there is at least one time when they apparently missed the reference, and then translate it as “locust.” Meh, I don’t much like “locust” since everyone else translates as “grasshopper” but at least it’s close. But “frog”? Don’t agree with that at all. I don’t like that they arbitrarily changed the text, instead of just translating it.

In the end, even with these discrepancies, I still like the translation better than the TdM. I wouldn’t recommend it over the other three unabridged translations, but if you only have this and the TdM, go for this one.

2009 This too is a contemporary translation with a very nice flow to the story. However, I think MR did the best job of creating a modern translation with word choice that makes it easier to picture what is happening.

This translation is my favorite overall, and is the one I recommend as the one to read. Of interesting note: Ms. Ribiere is European and therefore her words are spelled the European way. I also believe that the word “coxcomb” is a British word.

*Note: This edition was revised to add footnotes/annotations in 2012. The image is from the original edition without any annotations.*

 

When it comes to comparing the translations of Phantom of the Opera, one of my favorite passages to see the difference is when Raoul goes to see madame Valerius. While I won’t reproduce the entire passage, I’ll pull out the various lines that give a good representation of the different ways in which the translators approach the text.

 

TdM LB LW RL MR
Raoul left the building a prey to the gloomiest thoughts. He resolved, come what might, to go enquire at Mama Valerius.…

 

Christine’s absence did not seem natural to Raoul. 2 He left the Opera, absorbed in somber thoughts, and decided that come what might, he would go to Mama Valerius and ask for news of Christine.…  The whole affair seemed unnatural to Raoul, who left the Opera prey to very dark thoughts. He decided that, at all events, he would go to Madame Valerius’ home for news.…

 

The whole business seemed rather odd and Raoul left the Opera feeling even more depressed. He decided that whatever embarrassment it might cause, he had no choice but to call on her at the home of Madame Valerius.…
 
There was something odd about all this. Raoul’s mind was besieged by gloomy thoughts as he left the Opera House. He resolved, come what may, to find out more by visiting the good Madame Valerius.… 
This last sentence sounded very gloomily in the young man’s ears.… The Viscount dropped into a chair. Really?…  To Raoul, this last sentence had an ominous ring.… Overcome with dismay, Raoul sank into a chair.…  That last sentence had an ominous ring to it.… Dismayed, the Viscount de Chagny sank into a chair.…  This last sentence sounded rather ominous to the young man’s ears.… Appalled, the Viscount collapsed into a chair. Could it be?… This last sentence sounded quite ominous to him.… The Viscount dropped into a chair in dismay. Really?…
 
“Is Christine engaged to be married?” asked the wretched Raoul, in a choking voice.…  “Is she engaged?” Raoul asked miserably, in a choked voice.…
 
“Is Christine engaged?” asked Raoul in a strangled voice.…
 
“Is she engaged?” The unfortunate Raoul asked, in a choking voice.…
 
“What? Is Christine engaged to be married?” gasped the distressed young man.…
 
“Yes, yes,” echoed Raoul, submissively, “it’s quite natural.”…  “Yes, yes, he agreed,” almost a whisper, “It’s only natural.”… “Yes. Yes,” Raoul agreed, almost under his breath. “It’s only natural.”…
 
“Yes, yes,” echoed Raoul  breathlessly, “it’s quite natural.”…  “Yes, yes,” Raoul acquiesced in a whisper, “it’s only natural.”…
 
The Viscount threw up his arms with a gesture of despair.…  He raised his arms in a broad gesture of despair, then wearily let them fall.…
 
The Viscount raised his arms in a gesture of immense despair, then let them fall again, despondently.…  The Viscount threw his arms in the air in a great gesture of angry despair, then, feeling crushed, he let them fall back to his sides.…  The Viscount threw up his arms in utter despair and let them drop with a moan.… 
He walked home to his brother’s house in a pitiful state. He could have struck himself, banged his head against the walls! To think that he had believed in her innocence, in her purity! The Angel Of Music! He know him now! He saw him! It was, no doubt, some frightful tenor, a good looking popinjay, who mouthed and simpered as he sang! He thought himself as absurd and wretched as could be. Oh, what a miserable little insignificant, silly young man was M le Viscount de Chagny, thought Raoul, furiously! And she, what a bold and damnably sly creature!  He walked to was brother’s house in a pitiful state. He felt like punishing himself, banging his head against a wall! How could he have believed in her innocence and purity? How could he have tried, even for an instant, to explain everything by her naiveté, simplicity, an immaculate candor? The Spirit Of Music! He knew him now! He could see him! He was undoubtedly some idiotic tenor who sang with a silly, affected smile. Raoul felt thoroughly ridiculous and miserable. “What a wretched, little, insignificant, asinine young man you are, Viscount de Chagny!” He furiously told himself. As for Christine, she was a brazen, satanically deceitful creature. In a pitiful state, he walked home to his brother’s house. He would have liked to punish himself, to bang his head against the wall. How could he have believed in so much innocence, so much purity? He had tried for a moment to explain everything by Christine’s naiveté, by her simplicity of spirit and spotless candor. The Guardian Spirit Of Music! He knew him now. He saw him. He was, beyond a doubt, some dreadful tenor who sang as he simpered. Raoul thought himself as humiliated and as unhappy as it was possible to be. Angrily, he thought, “Oh what a miserable, small, insignificant, silly young man is the Viscount de Chagny.” As for her, what an audacious and devilishly cunning creature she was. He walked home to his brother’s house in a pitiful state. He could have struck himself, banged his head against the walls! To have believe in such innocence, such purity! He had tried to make sense of it because of her naiveté, her simple faith, her immaculate candor… But the Angel Of Music! He knew who he was now! He could almost see him! He was undoubtedly some handsome tenor, a good looking ruffian who leered as he sang! He felt he had reached the point where he was as ridiculous and miserable as he could possibly be. “Oh what a wretched, insignificant, silly young man the Viscount de Chagny had become!” thought Raoul, enraged. And what a brazen and damnably cunning creature Christine had become! He made his way back to his brother’s house on foot and in a wretched state. He was so angry with himself that he wanted to smash his head against a wall! To think that he had believed in her innocence, in her purity! That he had tried for a moment to explain everything by her naiveté, her simplicity of mind that her extreme candor. The Spirit Of Music! He knew him now! He saw him! Surely was some minor singer at the Opera, some good looking Lothario, some coxcomb all smiles and sweet talk. He felt ridiculous and pitiable. Ah what a wretched, insignificant and foolish young man you are, Viscount de Chagny! he raged to himself. As for Christine, what a brazen, devilishly cunning creature!

 

I hope you can see from the comparison above how an unabridged translation add an emotional flavor to the story that is missing from the abridged version. You can also get a good idea of the stylistic differences in the translations.

Bottom line: I recommend that you read the Mireille Ribière translation, even though you will probably have to order it through Amazon. If that’s not possible, then the original translation is adequate, but know that you are missing quite a bit of the story with this translation.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Footnotes:

  1. From LB; this is in a passage that is cut out of the TdM version.
  2. This line is not in the TdM translation.
Jul 182011
 

We’ll probably never know the true answer to this question. However, there are some reasons I can think of that he would have done so. 1. He was writing fiction and didn’t care that much. The narrator of the story insists that the events actually happened. Therefore, the story is supposed to be a “journalistic” […]

Jul 182011
 
Is The Persian A Reliable Narrator?

I. What is an “unreliable narrator”? II. The Persian’s Timeline III. The Persian’s View of Erik I. What is an “unreliable narrator”? Before can answer the question as to whether the Persian is or is not reliable, I need to have a working definition of a reliable narrator. An unreliable narrator is a narrator, whether […]

Jul 122011
 
Event By Event Timeline From Beginning of Story to the End

The story starts with the farewell gala and continues through the Persian reporting that Erik is dead. Some dates are given, some are not. Others can be determined based on clues like ‘a few days later’, ‘the next day’, etc. Through a thorough reading of the story, consultation with a calendar, and even some counting […]