Learning from Mistakes: A Post from a Penn Press Intern

In this post, Kristina Snader recalls her first assignment as a Penn Press intern.

Sand in the Summer

On my first day as an intern (and after getting
horrendously lost within Septa’s trolley system), I was handed a stack of papers – a
650-page manuscript – still in the throes of being edited. I later realized that I was reading a
translation by Gretchen van Slyke of George Sand’s novel La Comtesse de Rudolstadt. The
novel, originally written as a sequel to Sand’s Consuelo, is expected to be part of Penn’s Spring 2008 catalog.

My assignment was to work through van Slyke’s manuscript as best as I could before Penn Press sent it to the copy editor.  Initially, I was anxious about adding my corrections and suggestions on the manuscript; in my mind, I had no business to correct a writer that has had more writing experience than I have had.  But as I began to proofread, my self-assurance grew and I realized that even great writers make little mistakes sometimes. I found that I really enjoyed editing, and since I wasn’t on a tight deadline I was able to enjoy reading the book while I combed it for errors.

After two days of solid reading, I finished Sand’s novel.  And now, while writing this, I realize that because I was one of the first to read the book, I can also publicly offer one of the first reader reviews of the translation.  So here is my two cents about the book:  This novel is well-worth the read.  Thanks to Gretchen van Slyke for endeavoring to reintroduce this rare story back into the realm of nineteenth-century translations!

Sand uses her novel as a soundboard for her thoughts and beliefs; much of La Comtesse de Rudolstadt deals with the issues of social justice, the unseen power of women, and the power of secrecy as a way of offering liberté, égalité, fraternité to
those in need. While Sand was writing her novel, she overheard that
Abbé Augustin Barruel, an outspoken Jesuit priest, blamed the French
Revolution on the secret societies of the day, believing that they
encouraged “liberty, equality, and fraternity” in order to obliterate
the monarchy and the Catholic Church. Sand incorporates Barruel’s
conspiracy theory in her novel, imagining a secret society (the
“Invisibles”) that helps the countess escape her male captors.

I think that La Comtesse de Rudolstadt will be added to my personal collection of nineteenth-century novels.  This wonderfully-crafted book marks the beginning of my summer intern experience at Penn Press, the beginning of my editing experience, and possibly the beginning of a future career.

Kristina Snader is a junior at Muhlenberg College.