Some more translating thoughts hit me over breakfast. I was reading my Vi magazine, where someone was moaning over the mangling of poor Stieg Larsson’s titles. Whereas I agree with the comment by ab here yesterday as regards The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (which frankly has the opposite effect of what I’m about to say, in that it puts the emphasis on tattooed women, with all its connotations), the person in Vi felt that foreign translations, where the title is changed in order to seemingly not offend weak minded foreign readers, are wrong. The idea seems to be that if a Swede has decided his or her title must contain strong (very strong) language, then they’d rather not sell in other countries, rather than have the title altered beyond recognition.
It appears that the Colombian (and other Spanish speaking countries?) shops are selling a Stieg Larsson called Los hombres que no amaban a las mujeres, i.e. Men who do not love women, rather than Men who hate women. I think that’s OK. Better than dwelling on tattoos.
The writer goes on to complain about another Swedish book (which I’ve not had any interest in, simply due to the title) by Maria Sveland, called Bitterfittan. The only reason a straightlaced person like myself can write this without blushing is that if you know what it means you don’t need it explaining to you. I don’t honestly know what it means, except that the first half of the word is bitter, and the second half alludes to a part of the female body using a word I personally would never use. But perhaps the book title really means something very nice indeed. Who knows? I’m a foreigner in two countries, these days, fluent in neither.
Over Christmas Son brought home a DVD for us to watch, as it’s coursework at uni. It’s a film I have also not had much to do with, because of the title, although I believe it’s a very good film. The English title is Show Me Love, which is a whole lot easier to say than Fucking Åmål. The theory in our house is that the f-word is a lot easier for Swedes to trot out because it comes without emotional ties for people, as it’s not their native language.
Authors and film makers have every right to name their work whatever they want to. I don’t think they have the right to complain if a daring title gets a milder foreign translation. It’s very easy to feel that “you” are right and everybody else is wrong, but it’s not that simple. I’ve been in England long enough to adopt some of this country’s values. And I’ve been away long enough not to understand quite what goes on in Sweden. But to do what the Vi writer does, and call Stieg Larsson’s Spanish title “translation rape” is going a bit too far.
It’s a translation, and it will sell books instead of alienating buyers and readers.