Three Men in a Boat: (To Say Nothing of the Dog) – Jerome K. Jerome

This was the only reread on my TBR this year. I rarely reread books, but there are a few firm favorites I try to go back to. This obviously is one of them. I read it for the first time in high school and was roaring with laughter, since then I probably read it four or five times, every time it was a lot of fun. Now I realized it’s been around seven years since the last reading, so high time to go back and see if anything changed.

The book does exactly what it says in the title, including the dog. Our narrator, J., together with his friends Harris and George and his dog Montmorency, decide hey are exhausted with city life and crave good, old, relaxing contact with nature. They decide to rent a boat and travel up the Thames. As they travel J. shares with us their adventures and mishaps, some stories from their past and about their friends, as well as more general musings on the condition of the world and humanity. The whole book is a wonderful piece of escapism, full of humour and irony and simply good fun.

One interesting observation: I always read this book in  Polish translation, this was the first time I read the original. What I noticed was that somehow I liked the translation more, it was hilarious it really had me in tears from laughing. This time I chuckled, but there were no tears, somehow the original felt milder. I wonder if it’s a cultural thing, or was the translation more stylized than the original, making it more pompously British. I’m not sure. What I am sure of, though, is that the way the trains work in 21st century in the UK has not changed one bit since the 19th century. I’m sure the scene at the Waterloo station happens all the time. Funny how those ‘institutions’ like rail and post seem to be able to dodge any improvements.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book if you look for something full of humour and distance, something to let you escape everyday cares. Whenever possible this book should be read outside or close to an open window – doctor’s orders.

Have you ever read a translation that you liked more than the original?

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