The dark side of literary translation / הצד האפל של תרגום ספרותי
Thread poster: Ty Kendall

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:25
Hebrew to English
Apr 5, 2012

An interesting insight into the darker side of literary translation, written by the Israeli translator of the Harry Potter series, Gili Bar-Hillel.

Title: "Harry Potter and the 800 lb Gorilla"
Here's an excerpt:
"the Harry Potter machine – the wall of lawyers surrounding J.K.Rowling, her agents and Warner Bros. – who had gone out of their way to disenfranchise translators of their intellectual and moral rights. The tactics used were impersonal and bullying, even humiliating. There was no debate, no discussion of gray areas in international copyright laws and the status of translators: there was simply the assertion that Harry Potter translators must waive their rights or they will be discarded. Those who refused to waive their rights, like Catalan translator Laura Escorihuela, were dropped without apology."

Read more here:
http://gilibarhillel.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/hpwb/

(You don't need to speak Hebrew, the post is in English).


 

Susan Welsh  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:25
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
Wow! Apr 5, 2012

Dark side is right.

 

Helen Shiner  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:25
German to English
+ ...
A recent tendency Apr 5, 2012

Having just experienced something very similar in the negotiations surrounding the translation of a novel to be published as an e-book, at least from the point at which the author hired an international media rights lawyer (!), I wonder whether we will see increasing signs of this happening. I found it impossible to continue when expected to waive all my rights - basically anyone would be allowed to alter my translation without reference to me and I would have had no right to assert my authorship of the translation. In addition, had the author not liked my translation in any respect, I would have been required to fully reimburse my entire fee. Insane. Would any translator agree to work under those conditions?

 

Helen Shiner  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:25
German to English
+ ...
The Society of Authors Apr 6, 2012

On a slightly more positive note, the extremely helpful contract vetting team at the Society of Authors assisted me in retaining perspective in the process and offered excellent advice. Highly recommended. And they laughed when they read the stipulations put forward by said international media rights lawyer, which helped enormously!!

 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:25
Spanish to English
+ ...
Moon-on-a-stick Apr 6, 2012

Almost choked on my porridge at this bit: "He met me in a café and required me to sign a memo, which I was not allowed to read in advance or show to anyone else, and of which I was not allowed to retain a copy. I was told I must sign on the spot or the job of translating ...would be given to another translator."

Unbelievable. However, I'm still willing to give Rowling the benefit of the doubt and lay the blame mainly at the feet of the monstrous bloodsucking regiment of bullying chisellers in her employ. How the author is supposed to vet anything in languages she doesn't speak or understand is beyond me.

[Edited at 2012-04-06 06:35 GMT]


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 10:25
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Doesn't Rowling have internet? Apr 6, 2012

neilmac wrote:
Unbelievable. However, I'm still willing to give Rowling the benefit of the doubt and lay the blame mainly at the feet of the monstrous bloodsucking regiment of bullying chisellers in her employ.


I'm sure Rowling has internet and is aware of this, yet does nothing and says nothing.

Still, I agree that the problem isn't Rowling, but big corporations that have so much financial power that they can enforce their policies by proxy, regardless of any laws that may be in place to protect people from them. Telling the translator "sign or we won't use your translations anymore" is awful but certainly not unethical (unless the translator's contract says that her translations will be used and that no other translator's translations will be used), but telling her "sign or we won't pay any people associated with you" is nothing more than blackmail.


 

Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 10:25
German to Serbian
+ ...
Of course she does Apr 6, 2012

Samuel Murray wrote:

I'm sure Rowling has internet and is aware of this, yet does nothing and says nothing.



Actually, before becoming popular with the Harry Potter volume she had been a freelance writer mostly working via the Internet (under a pseudonym), that's at least what some biographical sources claim.

Until she has found her way out of freelancing reaching the global fame, obviously at the expense of translators who were the key factors for her international popularity.


 

JoFP
Local time: 10:25
French to English
+ ...
In Rowling's defense. . . . Apr 7, 2012

In France some kid translated one of the Harry Potter volumes before the official translation was released and posted it (or some of it) on the internet. Lawyers from publishers and agencies swooped down on him, and he would have been prosecuted to the full extent of the law had Rowling not intervened to insist that he not be charged with anything (as long as he took his translation down, of course).

 


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The dark side of literary translation / הצד האפל של תרגום ספרותי

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