Wednesday, August 15, 2007

More unauthorized Harry Potter translation news

Last week I talked a little bit about amateur efforts in China to make a translation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows available in advance of the officially licensed one. Now, there’s news about an unauthorized French translation, carried out in just a matter of days and then posted online, allegedly by a sixteen-year-old boy operating alone. That’s a far cry from the teams of organized Chinese translators (though they were also young people). Luckily for the unnamed French teenager, because he didn’t intend any financial harm to the publisher, he was released after just one night in jail, and the Ministry of — err, I mean, the French Authorities, aren’t going to file criminal charges.

There’s also recent news of an unauthorized Spanish translation released online by South American fans — and surprisingly, that version is still readily available on the Web (no, I won’t provide the link!). And the unofficial translation into Vietnamese (with, by now, requisite posting online) is probably complete by now; the first chapter was online in Vietnamese within one hour of the book’s launch in English.

People want their Harry Potter! And apparently, fans are too impatient to wait for their official translations (or to try reading the book in English) and are taking matters into their own hands. With something as unabatingly popular as Harry Potter, fans tend to feel ownership of the characters and stories — perhaps more than is healthly. Just as they’ve felt perfectly justified for ten years now in demanding that Rowling not kill so-and-so or not do this-or-that (for all the good it’s done), and just as they’ve launched a thousand disturbing slash fan-fiction stories of their own, so too readers simply will not wait for their own publishers to provide a translation.

This is a fascinating new cultural phenomenon. Is anyone aware of a precendent? Or are we seeing literary history unfold?

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