A clever, practical title change
I've written from time to time about title changes, whether in translations or between U.K. and U.S. editions of books in English. One of my longer comments concerned the Swedish novel published as Sun Storm in the United States and The Savage Altar in the United Kingdom.
On aesthetic grounds, the American title for Åsa Larsson's fine book is superior. The British title sounds like the name of a fourth-rate Black Sabbath tribute band.
A reason lies behind each title, however. Sun Storm, an accurate translation of the original Swedish, refers to the Northern lights, which appear several times in the book in descriptive passages. Savage Altar is presumably an allusion to the murder that drives the plot, which takes place in a church, though not at an altar.
The French publisher, Gallimard, took a similar tack to what Delacorte Press did in the U.S. and went with the Northern lights theme. The result was fortunate. The French title, Horreur boréale, is a play on aurore boréale, French for aurora borealis, or Northern lights. Consider that the h is silent in French, and you have one of the cleverer changes in book titledom.
© Peter Rozovsky 2008