Monday, August 25, 2008

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

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10 Comments:

Blogger petra michelle; Whose role is it anyway? said...

Interesting post, as usual. But off point, Peter, may I ask how many languages you speak? I think in one post you mentioned Italian?
French? Spanish?

August 25, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the comment. Other than English, French is the only language I come close to speaking well. I can read Italian just well enough to understand short passages about familiar subjects, as was the case with the Carlo Lucarelli interview that came up on this blog recently.

As for Spanish, once I've reserved a hotel room, ordered a tuna sandwich and a coffee with milk, asked where the bathroom is and requested the check, I've about exhausted my knowledge of the language. I can sing a few verses of "Guantanamera" and "La Bamba," but no one would want to hear me sing them.

August 26, 2008  
Blogger petra michelle; Whose role is it anyway? said...

You just have the aura about you, Peter.

August 26, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, among other things, I always try to learn bits and pieces of the local language when I travel. This has stood me in good stead in the past. And I'd never been told I have an aura before. Thanks.

August 26, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought you also spoke Dutch/Flemish fluently,Mynheer Rozovsky.And maybe a bit of yiddish too.

Ciao
Marco

August 26, 2008  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

Wow, my ears hurt just trying to imagine what a fourth-rate Black Sabbath tribute band would sound like...

August 26, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ja, ik spreek wel Nederlands, maar slechts een beetje, and certainly not well enough to read a novel without a side-by-side translation.

August 26, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

John, you've probably heard a fourth-rate Black Sabbath tribute band in your time, or something similarly ghastly. Haven't you ever heard a bad band in a bad bar on a slow night in a sleazy resort town?

August 26, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well,so many Death/Doom metal bands are Swedish anyway.If English translators need other titles for Swedish crime novels,they have a lot of good Swedish band names to choose from:Autopsy Torment,Carnal Grief,Entombed,Eternal Tears of Sorrow...

Marco

August 27, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Torment" would make a fine title but perhaps not as good as "Eternal Tears of Sorrow." "Entombed" is the best of all, though.

I wonder if any have been used as crime titles. Perhaps books lent their titles to some of the bands.

August 27, 2008  

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