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Finnish translator only gets three weeks to work on J.K. Rowling novel

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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:49
Hebrew to English
Becoming a trend Jun 4, 2012

This isn't the first time JK Rowling has been associated with unsavoury treatment of translators:

http://gilibarhillel.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/hpwb/

I'm not surprised the Finnish translator of Harry Potter turned it down....once bitten....

[Edited at 2012-06-04 23:23 GMT]


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Lingua 5B  Identity Verified
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Local time: 18:49
English to Croatian
+ ...
Literary translators Jun 4, 2012

I recently was in a literary club, and I accidentally saw this Vanity Fair Serbian translation (William Thackeray); This novel I had read in English and in English it has ca. 400 pages, while in Serbian translation it has +500 pages. I opened the front pages (which I always do looking to see who translated the book); I thoroughly researched all pages and no mention of the translator at all. 500 pages of a literary classic and no credit whatsoever. The translation is from 1940s. The name of the translator (published, official translation) is not mentioned at all, in the copy.

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Catherine Bolton  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:49
Member (2002)
Italian to English
+ ...
Thanks, Ty Jun 5, 2012

That was a real eye-opener!
Catherine


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:49
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Big business Jun 5, 2012

Ty Kendall wrote:

This isn't the first time JK Rowling has been associated with unsavoury treatment of translators:

http://gilibarhillel.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/hpwb/

I'm not surprised the Finnish translator of Harry Potter turned it down....once bitten....

[Edited at 2012-06-04 23:23 GMT]


Harry Potter is big business and big money is involved. And the more money's involved, the dirtier it gets.

Interesting article, Ty. I think I'll write a book for chidren, telling them about how they're being exploited.


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XXXphxxx  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:49
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Good one Jun 5, 2012

Do you know the author of that piece Ty? I fancy having a link to it on my new blog.

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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:49
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Very questionable behaviour all in all Jun 5, 2012


What puzzles me about this story is how everyone in the production chain was so eager to comply with Warner Bros' requirements with no complaint whatsoever, and how this put all the responsibility on the side of the translator. If he did not comply with the requests and waived his rights, all the rest would suffer.

Plain unfair, and a questionable behaviour of all members of the chain!


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urbom
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:49
German to English
+ ...
Another perspective Jun 5, 2012

Another perspective on the case of Gili Bar-Hillel, the Hebrew translator of the Harry Potter books, is provided by the ATA's (former?) media spokesperson in a comment on another blog that had reposted Bar-Hillel's original blog post:

http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=26093079&postID=9037923462063635243


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:49
Hebrew to English
@Lisa....Not personally, no Jun 5, 2012

Lisa Simpson, MCIL wrote:

Do you know the author of that piece Ty? I fancy having a link to it on my new blog.


Although I'm sure she wouldn't mind - if you wanted to be sure @gilibugg on Twitter.


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Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:49
Member (2004)
English to Italian
don't understand... Jun 5, 2012

She was treated badly and yet she stayed because she wanted to be "the Harry Potter translator"... he had a choice, knew the consequences of that choice and he still made that (wrong) choice. Now she is complaining? Don't get it...

[Edited at 2012-06-05 12:58 GMT]


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Stefano Papaleo  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 18:49
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
Unprofessional Jun 5, 2012

urbom wrote:

Another perspective on the case of Gili Bar-Hillel, the Hebrew translator of the Harry Potter books, is provided by the ATA's (former?) media spokesperson in a comment on another blog that had reposted Bar-Hillel's original blog post:

http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=26093079&postID=9037923462063635243


I totally agree. She did it all to herself. She should have done like the Catalan translator and what she did instead? Sign anything they put under her nose. If the client's proposal is ridiculous you don't accept it.. there are thousands of posts on this subject here on ProZ, the fact that it is about big business in this case does not change a thing.

3 weeks for translating a book I cannot read until it's out? Next please...


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Maeva Perat  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:49
English to French
+ ...
@Giovanni Jun 5, 2012

I don't think the point was about making choices, but about being recognized for what he had already done.
Would you refuse such a contract with all the amount of work it involves and risk being "unemployed" for a while?
As a freelance translator I would also have swallowed my pride, as I do it regularly to be able to make a living out of my job, which I love.


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:49
Hebrew to English
Whoa! Jun 5, 2012

I have to defend Gili here, and I really don't agree with questioning her professionalism as Kevin Hendzel did. The criteria he specified for acting like a professional seem rather high minded and great....in an ideal world.


1) Retaining the services of an attorney to represent her and her previous work prior to any cafe meetings with a publisher or anybody else


Feasible, but not necessarily possible for everyone in every instance.

2) Refusing to be intimidated by threats concerning future books


Bravery and professionalism are two different things. I don't think it is unprofessional to be intimidated by a massive global corporation with the clout to make good on their threats.

she was an idiot for not properly confronting them using the procedures available under the law and pushing back to result in a different outcome


Futile. Did he read the article? The fate of translators who "pushed back" is vividly described. There's no shame or unprofessionalism in not wanting to share that fate.

....it goes on, but basically the focus is that she should have hired a lawyer and took her own legal action. What good would that have done? The words "lost cause" come to mind.

I think a lot of people would have made the same choices she did, I'm not going to pretend that I wouldn't have made compromises to remain the translator for such a famous and career-making book series.

I disagree that "she chose" to go along with it. They didn't give her a choice, they gave her an ultimatum...an illusion of choice. I think she has the right to resent her ill treatment after the fact and a professional responsibility to inform others (even if it is construed as moaning/whinging).

In addition, there's no smoke without fire, and this is hardly an isolated case (even within the Harry Potter series)...and now it's apparent that this behaviour is continuing with the story flagged which spawned this thread.

The tragedy here is that this bullying and thugish behaviour is scaring off decent, professional translators. Ask yourself this: how professional is it to agree to translate a 500-ish page book in three weeks ("That’s 23 pages of polished final text every day for 21 days"). I shudder to think what the finished product will read like.

I think it's all very well to say "oh well I would have told them where to go". I think Maeva raises a good point, it's not just that she was facing being axed from the rest of the book series, they were also threatening the three books she had already translated.

She acknowledges the gains she has made from being the Harry Potter translator, but why shouldn't she highlight the dark side of it too?


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Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:49
Member (2004)
English to Italian
yes, but... Jun 5, 2012

Maeva Perat wrote:

I don't think the point was about making choices, but about being recognized for what he had already done.
Would you refuse such a contract with all the amount of work it involves and risk being "unemployed" for a while?
As a freelance translator I would also have swallowed my pride, as I do it regularly to be able to make a living out of my job, which I love.


yes, I would refuse a contract if I was treated badly. She knew that and she took the job on anyway. And then she complains about it. I'm all for denouncing shoddy treatment of translators, but shouldn't we talk about "accepting" a shoddy treatment? Because, as freelancers, we can say no.

And sorry about calling the translator a "he"!

[Edited at 2012-06-05 13:00 GMT]


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Giles Watson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 18:49
Italian to English
Harry Potter has previous Jun 5, 2012

Looking at it from the publisher's point of view for a minute, previous J.K. Rowling novels have appeared in crowd-sourced "hive" translations hours after publication in English. This goes a long way to explaining (but not justifying) the heavy-handed approach with translators.

We should also consider why people read Ms Rowling's oeuvre in translation. For the most part, it's because they want to find out what happens, not because they want to savour erudite stylistic tropes or subtle intertextual undercurrents. And they want to be able to read the story as soon as it's available in English.

JKR does turn out a rattling good read. The read in other languages may rattle less but her non-English-speaking publics are quite prepared to sacrifice quality of translation for an instant fix.

In these circumstances, the poor old translator is onto a hiding to nothing.


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:49
Hebrew to English
Cost-benefit analysis Jun 5, 2012

A CBA has two functions:

1.To determine if it is a sound investment/decision (justification/feasibility),
2.To provide a basis for comparing projects. It involves comparing the total expected cost of each option against the total expected benefits, to see whether the benefits outweigh the costs, and by how much.

In this case, the costs were being exploited and coerced into cooperation, being treated like an inconvenient necessity, losing intellectual rights and all round shoddy treatment.

The benefit was the prestige of being the Harry Potter translator, having your name plastered on the best selling book series for years, the movies by association, the boost it would give your career, making a name for yourself in literary translation circles and of course, the fee itself.

I think it's pretty clear that this decision weighs more heavily on the benefit side. For these reasons, I would have made the same choice....but I'd still like to think I reserve the right to resent the costs and to "push back" in the only way realistically available to me - by sharing the experience with others.



[Edited at 2012-06-05 13:34 GMT]


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