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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

That Sounds Like an Enriching and Highly Artistic Process

Posted by on Tue, May 14, 2013 at 11:06 AM

Publishing Perspectives explains the weird lengths to which a publisher has gone to produce an Italian edition of the new book by the author of the Da Vinci Code on the day of the book's global launch:

For nearly two months, 11 people were kept tucked away in an underground “bunker” near Milan, Italy, (actually a windowless high-security basement at the Milan headquarters of Mondadori, Italy’s largest publishing company, owned by Silvio Burlusconi) where they worked seven days a week until at least 8pm each night; all to translate Dan Brown’s new book, Inferno, into French, German, Spanish, Catalan, Italian, and Portuguese in preparation for its multi-nation simultaneous release on its publication date of May 14.

The “translators 11” worked from February through April 2012. They were forbidden from taking mobile phones into the “bunker.” They were guarded by armed security personnel. Their laptops were secured to their workstations, and they were only allowed access to the internet through one, supervised, communal computer. They were banned from taking any notebooks or papers out of the bunker, and had to turn in the manuscripts they were working on each evening. Minibuses took them to and from their hotel.

A good translation is a work of art. This doesn't sound like it could possibly be a good translation, although a mass-produced translation of a Dan Brown novel might be some kind of double-judo-flip back into the realm of art.


Comments (9) RSS

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MacCrocodile 1
The translations could still be made into something artistic, like a jar of urine being made into Piss Christ.
Posted by MacCrocodile on May 14, 2013 at 11:27 AM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 2
We're so lucky we get to read this magnum opus in the Bard's native English.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on May 14, 2013 at 11:50 AM · Report this
To be fair, Mondadori is in the middle of effing nowhere on the outskirts of Milan. The normal way of getting there is to catch a shuttle bus near the city center.

But the rest of it sounds a) more than a little overdone, and therefore b) perhaps publicist-made to sound Dan-Brown conspiracy-like?
Posted by jhops on May 14, 2013 at 12:03 PM · Report this
chaseacross 4
Somehow I'm thinking of the satisfaction Winston Smith derived from his work in the Ministry of Truth. A bit hyperbolic, I confess, but you know there were moments when these translators, doing their dull frantic business, took a moment to appreciate their own cleverness at capturing a turn of phrase, idiom, or verbal tic.
Posted by chaseacross on May 14, 2013 at 12:03 PM · Report this
Timmytee 5
Twice I tried to read "The DaVinci Code" and could NOT get even to page five, the writing was SO terrible. And speaking of Winston (Groom), "1942" was also really, really bad. Neither writer, their (inexplicable--to me, at least) "success" notwithstanding, has interested me in the slightest since.
Posted by Timmytee on May 14, 2013 at 12:25 PM · Report this
rob! 6
Hmmm, 6 languages, 11 translators. Wonder how they divvied them up?

Here's my guess:

French: 3, because French.
German: 2, one to reduce the overall document size caused by huge compound nouns.
Spanish: 1
Catalan: 2, because isn't it trickier than Spanish?
Italian: 1
Portuguese: 2 (see Catalan, or maybe they loaned him to the Frenchies for clerical tasks)

Total: 11
Posted by rob! on May 14, 2013 at 12:35 PM · Report this
Dougsf 7
You could probably Bablefish a Dan Brown novel into Japanese and back again and not miss a whole lot of nuance.
Posted by Dougsf on May 14, 2013 at 12:51 PM · Report this
MacCrocodile 8
@6 - I wouldn't be surprised if some of the translators are working on more than one translation.
Posted by MacCrocodile on May 14, 2013 at 1:19 PM · Report this
TVDinner 9
@4: As a former interpreter and occasional translator, I can assure you that you're absolutely correct. Monolinguists don't often realize that there's a good deal of art that goes into the science of translation. It's not like a translator's brain is a giant dictionary with one-to-one correlations for everything; neither language nor the human brain work like that.
Posted by TVDinner http:// on May 14, 2013 at 5:56 PM · Report this

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