Collector Profile: Yvan Strelzyk

I was born in Chartres in 1972, I am French, and I am now living in Thonon-les-Bains, near Evian, on the shores of the lake of Geneva.
I first heard of The Lord of the Rings in 1987, when friends advised me it was worth reading. But it is only during the summer of 1988, at sea, that I have bought the novel (of course in French), plus The Silmarillion : because I enjoyed the book covers. Concerning the novel, first I was not so enthusiastic, but after the Bridge of Kazad-dûm I couldn’t stop reading ! Then I read The Silmarillion too, and at last The Hobbit some months later.

Since that summer I have read The Lord of the Rings every year, five times in English (and once in German : rather difficult for me !), and the other books about Middle-Earth when I had time. It was my 20th reading of LOTR in 2007, and perhaps the last for a moment : days are too short, alas, and other books are waiting… But it will be a real pleasure to read it again in a few years.

And it is now about fifteen years that I am thinking of my own translation of the whole Red Book of Westmarch : I have started it in September 2009 with The Lord of the Rings… and I hope I’ll have time to achieve it one day.

I am also fallen in love with the art of Go — but that is another story…

How did you get started in collecting?

I was lucky enough in University to meet a professor (Jean-Louis Backès), who accepted that I worked in 1992-1993 on the subject « Myth and Illusion in Works by J.R.R. Tolkien and Richard Wagner » (« Mythe et illusion dans les œuvres de J.R.R. Tolkien et Richard Wagner », université François-Rabelais, Tours, 1993). At that time I had to buy and read Tolkien’s novels in English, of course, and that is when all began…
I bought some other editions, in French or in English. I have really fallen in love with the books – and it was also clearly escapism. Perhaps I believed that, the more I had books in different editions, the nearer I would live of Middle-Earth ? (Don’t worry, Mum : now all is OK !)

What do you collect?

At first I only collected French editions (I was born the year the Lord of the Rings was first translated in France !), plus the English editions I could find by chance. And now I am looking for translations in whatever language it be.
French editions : I try to collect all that has been published by Tolkien since it was first translated (1969). I deem I have now gathered all Tolkien books published in France.
English editions : I collect what I can find here and there, most by chance (but I have at least one edition of all of Tolkien’s works).
Other translations : I am looking for all the translations of The Hobbit and of The Lord of the Rings (other titles aren’t a priority – and most of all it costs a lot ! I cannot afford every book I find…) and if there exists several translations in a language, I am now trying to find them too.
I have also collected some items related to Pr Tolkien (for instance the 3 LP’s of his recordings for Caedmon Records), and to the films by Peter Jackson (for instance 80 action-figures).

How big is your collection?

In the beginning of July 2010, my living room was invaded by ca. 700 volumes

Translations I own (LOTR + Hob) :
English (+ US including the ACE edition + Canadian + Taiwan + Braille Hob & FOTR) ; Albanian ; Arabic ; Armenian (Hob + LOTR : FOTR) ; Basque ; Belarussian ; Breton (Hob only) ; Bulgarian ; Catalan ; Chinese (PR China + Taiwan) ; Croatian ; Czech ; Danish ; Dutch ; Esperanto ; Estonian ; Faroese ; Finnish ; French (+ Swiss LOTR) ; Frisian (Hob only) ; Galician ; Georgian (Hob + LOTR : FOTR) ; German ; Greek ; Hebrew ; Hungarian ; Icelandic (+ comics version) ; Indonesian ; Italian ; Japanese ; Korean ; Latvian ; Lithuanian ; Luxemburgish (Hob only) ; Macedonian ; Moldovan (Hob only) ; Norwegian (Bokmål + Nynorsk) ; Persian (Iranian) ; Polish ; Portuguese (European + Brazilian) ; Romanian ; Russian ; Serbian ; Silesian (a very short excerpt of Hob) ; Slovak ; Slovenian ; Spanish ; Swedish ; Thai ; Turkish ; Ukrainian ; Vietnamese (Hob).

Translations I lack :
English (Braille TTT + ROTK) ; Aragonese (Hob coming soon ?) ; Argentine (Hob) ; French (Braille) ; Georgian (TTT + ROTK published soon); Irish (Hob published soon ?) ; Spanish (Hob printed in Cuba) ; Vietnamese… Plus different translations in languages I already have, and translations of other works in languages Hob and LOTR haven’t been translated into (Afrikaans, Valencian).

If people can help me in finding those translations, or for any request about Tolkien books, please feel free to e-mail to elrond@elrondslibrary.fr .

What has been your greatest find so far?

In October 2004, I have found a book (Specimens of Early English by Morris and Skeat) owned by Tolkien himself, and signed. Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull very kindly certified the book as being one of Tolkien’s library. Now it is mine, my own, my Precioussss !…

I was very lucky when I was sent a copy of the very hard to find first Georgian translation of The Hobbit in July 2008 (many thanks, George !). Very lucky too when the translators of the Macedonian and 2nd Georgian Hobbit translations sent me their books (many thanks Marija and Nika !).

But most of all, my greatest finds are all the people I have met all over the world when looking for books : collectors or not, they all were very nice and helpful, and some are now friends. Many thanks to you all ! 

Tell us about your Web site.

A new version of my Web site (revised and reset again !) is now online. Its new address is www.elrondslibrary.fr. On it, you will find a lot of information about translations of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings that I have gathered : editions of these books in 54 languages and 49 countries, with bibliographical details. You will also find links to get them ; pictures of ALL the French editions of Tolkien's works ; scans of the Ring Verse translated into 49 languages; and a short bibliographical history of Tolkien books published in French (1969-2009). Plus thanks for all the people that helped me in getting the books.

What does collecting mean to you?

I fear that collecting Tolkien books is a way to give shape to a desperately abstract or virtual love (Middle-Earth does not exist, what a tragedy !). I fancy too that, if one day all of Tolkien’s works should be lost, at least every people could find them again in their own language in my library.

More seriously, I think that collecting has no real meaning, and that it is best thus. In one of his books, Halldor Laxness wrote : « It was useless, therefore beautiful ». And that’s all ! Some people collect stamps, Elvis recordings or cheese boxes : because they simply love it. I do… but most of all I love Middle-Earth.

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