Chekhov, Tjechov, Tschechow, Tšehov, Chéjov or Tsjekhov? Yes, you tell me. They are obviously all the same man. I grew up with the second version and am doing my utmost to spell him in English these days. It’s not easy. I generally have to look it up every time.

And here you can see how carried away I got with Wikipedia. The other ones are German, Finnish, Spanish and Norwegian, to save you having to Wiki them as well. The interesting thing is that if we all stand around saying the name out loud, there won’t be much difference between any of them.

Same with Alexander Solzjenitsyn, Solzhenitsyn or Solschenizyn. Can you even tell which languages these are? So similar.

Despite taking it for granted – I mean, I do now. I used to think it was downright weird to have a version for every language – that we need to spell differently in order to say the same thing, I was taken aback when Laurence O’Bryan was taken aback by his Serbian crime novel cover. He’d turned into good old Lorens O’Brajan.

Lorens O'Brajan

I don’t speak Serbian, but can tell it’s a bestseller, probably features Istanbul, and it’s brutal. Funny how we freely borrow certain words and phrases, either exactly the same or very similar, while still translating proper names.

It’s a fantastic cover, though, don’t you think? I reckon I’d be happy to be O’Brajan for a cover like that. Brutal bestseler and everything. (Better than poor Vilijam Rajan.) In fact, I’m so keen to read it I am getting annoyed at my lack of linguistic skills.

Mary Hoffman apparently has a Chinese translation of her first Stravaganza book out now, but she can’t tell what her name might be, or anything else much. Luciano even has red hair. Not necessarily in the book, but on the cover. Hopefully a Chinese book means millions of sales..?

4 responses to “Who?

  1. I had a conversation yesterday where I was trying to describe the migration patters from Lviv to Wroclaw, except that in German they are Lemburg and Breslau, and there’s a certain political edge depending on what you choose. But on the other hand, when my relatives lived there in the very early 20th century it was called Breslau, so using something else seems odd…

    And my own surname is the product of Anglicisation when my grandfather moved to Australia, and my mother’s maiden name is the same based on her father’s family’s arrival from Russia (except in that case the immigration department chose the new name), so I think these things are a lot more flexible than we often assume!

  2. So true. I have slowly got over my indignation of having to introduce myself by pronuncing my first name the English way. IT IS NOT ME! But you get used to it.
    The Resident IT Consultant once worked with someone who introduced a client as Roger Browning. Only, he’d misheard, as the man was actually Trevor Rounding. But this Trevor chap was so sporting he even phoned up and announced himself to be RB.

  3. I don’t think Lauren is that difficult a name, but quite a few people here can only manage Laureeen. I don’t think I’ll get used to that in a hurry. Ick.

  4. Female authors published in Czech will always have ‘ova’ added to their surnames, which is weird (and can be a bit unfortunate: Rowlingova for example – try saying it) and means that old gender-neutral use of initials doesn’t work… I actually find transliteration of writers’ names into Cyrillic quite useful sometimes (I didn’t know how to pronounce Borges till I saw it in Russian).

    and yes, it is political. Nikolai Gogol or Mykola Hohol? Hohol is the English transliteration of the Ukrainian version of his name; Ukrainian and Russian nationalists are still fighting over who this writer belongs to…

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