These days the books The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are put to the test. We are talking about the translations into the Dutch language, In de ban van de Ring and de Hobbit.
In de ban van de Ring was the very first translation of the Lord of the Rings and already dates back to 1957. The translation was done by Max Schuchart, for which he won the very important Martinus Nijhoff price.
The Dutch reader has spoken and after over 5000 votes hetbesteboek.nl ended up with a short list of 10 books that they see as the best foreign book. This poll is an initiative by NPS Television and NRC-Handelsblad, a Dutch newspaper. It is no surprise that J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings has now entered into the top 10. Already in 1995 did In de Ban van de Ring end up on the first place in the top 1000 best books ever, in a huge poll organized by the renowned Antwerp book dealer De Groene Waterman. In 1995 this was seen as a huge surprise and many literary critics could not understand it all. Today the critics are much less surprised and we wait for the final winner, which will be announced on the 1st of March.
There is held another poll by Stichting Lezen, an organization who wants to improve the reading culture in Flandres, Belgium. They are trying to find the most beautiful children book of all time. For this they made a short list of 99 children books, in which we can find classics like Alice in Wonderland, the Never Ending Story and C.S. Lewis. The only author missing in the list is J.R.R. Tolkien. There is however space for a surprise since they have left one space open to vote for the one book, which readers believe is missing in the list. We will see if the Hobbit can still make it into the top 10 and become the big surprise of this poll. The shortlist of the top 10 will be announced on the 2nd of March 2008. The final winner will be announced on the 16th of March.
While the Dutch readers clearly have chosen The Lord of the Rings belongs to one of the best books ever written in the past and still today, the Hobbit has been silently left out of the 99 nominated books. This is a big surprise but on the other hand no surprise at all. Tolkien’s works have been criticized as long as they have been published.
J.R.R. Tolkien is however one of the most important writers of the 20th century. He is recognized for "The Lord of the Rings," a three-volume novel cycle, and for "The Hobbit," a children's book published in 1937. The first has already been made into a movie and the second one will soon be adapted for the big screen, scheduled for release in 2010 and 2011. Here you can find the official movie blog.
When these days people around the globe would be asked to name there most favorite author or book there will be numerous people saying that the answer is simple and then name J.R.R. Tolkien and either The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit. Besides his most famous works, Tolkien wrote at least 29 more books, and translated or contributed to at least 36 books. He also made important contributions to about 40 periodicals. While most people are unaware of this, it is rather normal for a professor to have published that much. This however cannot explain why his Hobbit and Lord of the Rings are so succesful. It must be said that the movie adaptation by Peter Jackson must have had a very important influence. The real reason why J.R.R. Tolkien is so popular can be best understood by reading the books by Tom Shippey, J.R.R.Tolkien: Author of the Century and Roots and Branches.
Still, in September 1996, many years before the Peter Jackson movies hit the big screen, Waterstone's in association with Channel 4 Television, launched a U.K. search for the greatest books of the twentieth century.
Waterstone's, a bookstore chain with more than 200 stores in the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland and Europe, announced the results in January 1997. Over 25000 people took part in the poll and the Book of the Century was revealed as J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, with more than 5,000 first place votes. Tolkien's 1100-plus page fantasy about Middle-earth was the clear winner. Some 1200 votes behind was Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell. J.R.R. Tolkien was chosen as the "author of the century," but it was not accepted in the literary canon. Despite the legion of enthusiasts’ worldwide, Tolkien's novels has been dismissed by critics as juvenile, moralistic, and escapist (not to mention, badly written).
In a 1999 poll of Amazon.com 250,000 customers chose "The Lord of the Rings" as the greatest book not merely of the century but of the millennium. In America the critics where not so surprised and it can be said that the Americans are arguably more relaxed about this kind of thing. No one from the educated classes expressed much dismay.
One of the most interesting projects however was organized in England in 1993 where the BBC was trying to find Britain’s favorite novel. They worked with external partners the National Literacy Trust (NLT) and the National Reading Campaign (NRC) who promoted reading to schools and colleges, The Reading Agency worked with public libraries, and Booktrust promoted reading books to independent readers and reading groups.
Begin April 2003 the search for Britain’s favorite novel was launched by BBC. 140000 votes later The BBC Big Read Top 100 was born. This Top 100 led to a summer of reading activity with schools and colleges. In October 2003 The Top 21 favorite books were announced, followed by new debates and more reading promotion activities to work alongside those 21.
In December 2003, after months of debate, discussion and two nationwide public votes (three quarters of a million votes in total), Britain's favorite novel was once again revealed as J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.
Recently on March 1st of 2007 the British public picked Jane Austen's comedy of manners Pride and Prejudice and J R R Tolkien's epic fantasy Lord of the Rings as its favorite books in a poll for World Book Day. The same two titles came out on top as in the BBC Big Read, but in reverse order.
The new poll asked readers to name the 10 books they "couldn't live without" and, as with the BBC poll, classics dominated the list. The fact that almost all the top 10 have been filmed or turned into television series is almost certainly an influencing feature.
All surveys conducted have primarily been conducted to stimulate reading and while it is undoubtedly true that polls can increase book sales, there is a clear connection between book and film. It is now waiting until March to see if the Dutch readers will also place Tolkien’s works in their Top 10.
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