Saturday, January 5, 2008
Harry Potter! Where in the heck are you?
Is it an injustice to disappoint a child? If so, then one of the supreme bummers, as they say, of present day, ordinary life, is that so many millions of children in foreign language countries always have had to wait several months after the English language publication date for translations of the Harry Potter books.
I understand such delays arise from the exigencies of standard business practices, but still the imposed wait is a stinker! (I intend no criticism of J.K. Rowling by this, in my opinion she merits canonization)
As an example, the seventh and, reportedly, final book in the series, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" just arrived today in translation in Italy. This is five months and fifteen days after its English language release on July 21, last year. And for a child, with his or her astronomically-sized enthusiasms and curiosity, that amounts to a delay that inches by like two eternities. (The initial English language version was released simultaneously in ninety-three countries, including Italy, and sold an estimated, record-breaking 11 million copies in the first 24 hours, see Wikipedia)
Why the wait
The reason for the delay, again from Wikipedia, is that translators are not allowed to see Harry Potter manuscripts prior to their official publication in English. At that point, carefully selected translators, or translating teams, in more than sixty countries can set to work, this according to an article in The Guardian last January. The article discusses what is changed or added in the translation process in the various languages.
The work of translation itself then takes a while because translators face more than the usual challenges of moving gracefully and faithfully from one language to another, according to the Guardian. Rowling's frequent use of wordplay, made-up words and anagrams raises the bar higher for the translator.
Not lost in translation
One thing that appears to be inalterable from country to country and language to language for the Harry Potter books is the well known, phenomenal passion and loyalty of the readers. Also here in Italy today, as in the U.S., and other places last July, the lines of buyers were long outside and inside the bookstores, and the excitement was explosive.
Across the country, bookstores stayed open all night, according to Corriere della Sera to accommodate the many fans of the series.
To see a photo series of the lines, and the excited Harry Potter readers, go here.
by Rebecca Helm-Ropelato
Copyright © Rebecca Helm-Ropelato