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Cyrano de Bergerac (Nick Hern Book) Paperback – 8 Jan 1991
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This translation of Rostand's 19th-century play about the swordsman-poet with a nose too large to be taken seriously was first seen in the 1985 RSC production. This volume contains the full original text, slightly adapted and translated into verse by Burgess, who also writes the introduction.
From the Inside Flap
y Anthony Burgess.
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A sterling attempt and accessible even to dullards like me,
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Most readers and performers are probably more familiar with the translation of Cyrano by Brian Hooker. Hooker's translation has much to recommend it but it fails to capture the poetic power, whimsy or grace of Rostand's play. I feel the Burgess translation better represents Cyrano to a modern reader.
One previous reviewer suggested that there was something almost absurd about Cyrano as he is portrayed by Rostand. Burgess himself had qualms about translating the play into rhyme. But this convention is powerful because it suggests that the men and women of Cyrano's dramatic world (even the lackwits) were impressed by cleverness, grace and beauty. It is set out in the play that Roxanne is one of the literary precieuse. The type of cleverness that Cyrano portrays in rhyme would appeal to her.
At the same time, Cyrano is not a fop but a man of action whose mind is not stilled even by combat. This translation also shows that Christian's "military wit" was something Cyrano could appreciate for its poetic appropriateness as well as for its courage. I think in some ways Cyrano's chivalry and heroism, as well as the more unrealistic elements of the play, are actually made more vivid and convincing by the use of rhyme.
Burgess transports us to Rostand's imagined world of poetry and chivalry directly. . . and does not relent for a moment in portraying it. I think the real Hercule Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac would have appreciated the flair of it all.
This version was also used as the basis for a musical starring Chritopher Plummer. The musical, unlike this translation, adapts the play freely at points.