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The Complete Fables of La Fontaine: A New Translation in Verse

Overview

In this wonderful, vigorously contemporary translation, Craig Hill has captured the liveliness, satiric wit, and poetic beauty that made Jean de la Fontaine famous during his lifetime and his Fables celebrated as a masterwork of world literature ever since. Despite la Fontaine’s deceptively modest claim that all he intended was to put the moral tales of Aesop and other ancient fabulists into poetry for the pleasure of Louis XIV’s young son, his real accomplishment, as later generations have understood, was ...

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The Complete Fables of La Fontaine: A New Translation in Verse

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Overview

In this wonderful, vigorously contemporary translation, Craig Hill has captured the liveliness, satiric wit, and poetic beauty that made Jean de la Fontaine famous during his lifetime and his Fables celebrated as a masterwork of world literature ever since. Despite la Fontaine’s deceptively modest claim that all he intended was to put the moral tales of Aesop and other ancient fabulists into poetry for the pleasure of Louis XIV’s young son, his real accomplishment, as later generations have understood, was holding a mirror up to the society of his day and, in the process, fashioning a work that has become a classic.

Borrowing from a variety of sources, la Fontaine gave the hitherto mute animals in ancient fables the power of speech. Backstabbing politicians, brainless nincompoops, charlatans, clueless heads of state, egomaniacs, empty-headed celebrities, foolish investors, gluttons, liars, penny–pinchers, self-important blowhards, and wastrels—these are the targets of la Fontaine’s pen. In this beautifully bound collector’s edition, Craig Hill has given us a rare treat: both the irreverent spirit and the vivid poetry that have made la Fontaine’s fables beloved through the ages, continuing to amuse and inspire centuries after they first appeared in print.

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Editorial Reviews

Sacramento Book Review
“Nothing less than mesmerizing and productive.”
The Barnes & Noble Review
Thanks to Craig Hill, French-less readers of La Fontaine's classic fables now have a version worthy of the original. Hill matches wits with the Frenchman's clever rhymes and recreates his varied meters in verses that sound crisp and contemporary, yet lose none of their historical context. La Fontaine's moral tales of gods, men, and beasts go beyond their origins in Aesop and Phaedrus. For one thing, he gives his animals voices, and the result is certainly no peaceable kingdom but a world of sneaky foxes, clever ants, lying frogs, and proud lions. His humans fare no better: the drunks and charlatans, the scoundrels and flatterers all get their comeuppance. La Fontaine (1621-95) spares no one in his satiric view. Affairs of state figure prominently in fables on the delusions of empire; the limits of party loyalties; the need to know your enemies; and the obligations of royalty -- after all, "a crown fits very few," as an antic monkey learns. Readers will recognize some of Aesop's chestnuts: the tortoise and the hare, the hen that laid golden eggs, and the sun and the north wind. But even here La Fontaine adds his sneaky comments on contemporary France in the age of Louis XIV. A fable, the poet tells us, contains "hidden truths," not "naked morals," and while La Fontaine's cynical verses affirm the timeless virtues -- thrift, honesty, hard work -- his tales thrive on the foibles of the lazy, the lying, and the spendthrift. Hill's slangy verses add some contemporary notes of their own -- a "Social Register" here, a "Bronx cheer" there. But he follows with La Fontaine the Horatian poetic ideal -- to instruct and delight. And along the way, Hill gives us in this translation of all 12 books, a Fables for our time. --Thomas DePietro
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781611453447
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing
  • Publication date: 11/1/2011
  • Series: Arcade Classics Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.80 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Jean de la Fontaine (1621–1695) is the author of the four-volume Tales and Novels in Verse, but it was the Fables, which went through thirty-seven printings in his lifetime, that brought him lasting fame.

Craig Hill, an editor and architect, fell in love with la Fontaine’s Fables in the mid-1950s when he was a young man. He and his wife, Heather, live in Lincoln, Massachusetts.

Edward Sorel is one of America’s finest artists and satirists. He lives in New York City.

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