Do you ever read the dedications in the front of books? They are easy to skip over as you eagerly dive into a book. But they often give a glimpse into the heart of the author and to what or who is important to him or her. I remember reading some great book dedications — some eloquent, some succinct, some serious, and some witty.
I recently ran across a humorous book dedication online. It reads as follows:
My brilliant and beautiful wife without whom I would be nothing. She always comforts and consoles, never complains or interferes, asks nothing and endures all, and writes my dedications.” — Albert Paul Malvino, Electronic Principles
I never thought about books on electronics being dedicated to someone! 🙂
One of the textbooks in our MLF202 Intermediate French is an adaptation of the first part of Victor Hugo's novel Les Misérables. Designed to help people learning French, it is a simplified version from the Hachette publishing house .
Here is a translation of the dedication from the original Les Misérables:
So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation which, in the midst of civilization, artificially creates a hell on earth, and complicates with human fatality a destiny that is divine; so long as the three problems of the century – the degradation of man by the exploitation of his labor, the ruin of woman by starvation, and the atrophy of childhood by physical and spiritual night – are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a still broader point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, there should be a need for books such as this.
In the world of book dedications, that one is quite powerful, and it definitely sets the tone for the book.
I enjoyed reading Shadow of the Almighty — The Life & Testament of Jim Elliot , by Elisabeth Elliot. It is a wife's biography of Jim Elliot, one of the five missionaries martyred by the Aucas, composed largely of things Jim wrote in letters and personal journals. The title of the book comes from Psalm 91:1 "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty," which you can clearly see, as you read the book, is what Jim did in his life. Her dedication of the book to their daughter Valerie, who was a small child when her father was martyred, is especially touching. It reads as follows:
I think the writings of your father, whom you do not remember, will one day help you to know him in a way which my descriptions of him can never do. And I pray that as you know him, you will learn to love the One he loved, and to follow Him as faithfully.
My wife and I have read most of the "Cat Who" series by Lilian Jackson Braun. If you've never read any of them, I suggest you start out with the first in the series, The Cat Who Could Read Backwards . Each of Lilian's books is dedicated to "Earl Bettinger the husband who...." The dedication is cute the first time or two you read it, but in a series of over 20 books, it starts to get a tad old.
I love the dedication in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's Le Petit Prince. Here's the dedication in French, for those who'd like to see how much French they remember or know, followed by the English translation.
A LÉON WERTH
Je demande pardon aux enfants d'avoir dédié ce livre à une grande personne. J'ai une excuse sérieuse : cette grande personne est le meilleur ami que j'ai au monde. J'ai une autre excuse : cette grande personne peut tout comprendre, même les livres pour enfants. J'ai une troisième excuse : cette grande personne habite la France où elle a faim et froid. Elle a besoin d'être consolée. Si toutes ces excuses ne suffisent pas, je veux bien dédier ce livre à l'enfant qu'a été autrefois cette grande personne. Toutes les grandes personnes ont d'abord été des enfants. (Mais peu d'entre elles s'en souviennent.) Je corrige donc ma dédicace :
A Léon Werth quand il était petit garçon
TO LEON WERTH
I ask the indulgence of children for having dedicated this book to a grown-up. I have a serious reason: he is the best friend I have in the world. I have another reason: this grown-up understands everything, even books about children. I have a third reason: he lives in France where he is hungry and cold. He needs cheering up. If all these reasons are not enough, I will dedicate the book to the child this grown-up once was. All grown-ups were first children. (But few of them remember it.) And so I correct my dedication:
To Leon Werth when he was a little boy
I searched my files to see if I had anything about The Little Prince and found some winners of a Washington Post contest in which readers were asked to combine the works of two authors and provide a suitable blurb. Here are some of the best:
"Machiavelli's The Little Prince" — Antoine de Saint-Exupery's classic children's tale as presented by Machiavelli. The whimsy of human nature is embodied in many delightful and intriguing characters, all of whom are executed. (Erik Anderson, Tempe, Ariz.)
"Green Eggs and Hamlet" — Would you kill him in his bed? / Thrust a dagger through his head? / I would not, could not, kill the King. / I could not do that evil thing. / I would not wed this girl, you see. / Now get her to a nunnery. (Robin Parry, Arlington)
"Rikki-Kon-Tiki-Tavi" — Thor Heyerdahl recounts his attempt to prove Rudyard Kipling's theory that the mongoose first came to India on a raft from Polynesia. (David Laughton, Washington)
"Where's Walden?" — Alas, the challenge of locating Henry David Thoreau in each richly detailed drawing loses its appeal when it quickly becomes clear that he is always in the woods. (Sandra Hull, Arlington)
"Jane Eyre Jordan" — Plucky English orphan girl survives hardships to lead the Chicago Bulls to the NBA championship. (Dave Pickering, Bowie)
Blurbs can be as interesting/funny as dedications are. Have you ever written a book dedication? Have you ever had a book dedicated to you? I'm hoping my readers will post some of their favorite book dedications in the comments.
"The most miserable people on the planet are the people who live for themselves, never lifting a finger to help others."— Drew Conley
Can atheists get insurance for acts of God?