Friday, November 21, 2008

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest: Millennium trilogy, Vol. 3

Reg Keeland/Steven T. Murray, translator into English of that worldwide phenomenon known as Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, sends word in a comment that the third volume will be called The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest in its U.K. release, scheduled for 2010. The novel's title in its original Swedish is Luftslottet som sprängdes, which means "The air castle that blew up."

The English title is rather dynamic, I'd say, and I'd like to know what you think of it, especially if you've read one or more volumes in the trilogy, which also includes The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire. The title is evocative, promising action and letting us know who will be the center of that action. What other titles are similarly evocative? In what other ways do crime titles appeal to readers? Through atmosphere? By appealing to series loyalty? You tell me!

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

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18 Comments:

Blogger Ali Karim said...

BLOODY GOOD TITLE, as Salander is nicknamed THE WASP.......

I heard vol III is even better than Vol II which has haunted me since I read it -

The work Larsson produced is the very best of the best in the genre

Ali

November 21, 2008  
Blogger Keith Raffel said...

I have a small objection to the translation of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I read the UK version. (After what Ali said, I couldn't wait for it to show up in the U.S.). Sometimes metric system measures are used and sometimes imperial. No one in Sweden would use acres, inches or whatever. Seemed to stike a dissonant note.

November 21, 2008  
Blogger petra michelle; Whose role is it anyway? said...

Hi Peter! Would have visited sooner, but my mother was in the hospital and I had been playing catch up! Evocative, titillating titles are so important to grab a reader's attention in the highly competetive business of writing. It's in itself almost a crime...a true form of exploitation. Being a writer, I know. Which would grab a reader's attention faster? "The Other Woman" or "Little Women"?
Intriguing, we humans. :))

November 21, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks, Ali. It's good see a title judiciously chosen, especially if it deviates from the original.

November 21, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Keith, I suspect that you are not the only reader won over by Ali's quiet appreciation of Stieg Larsson.

As it happens, I recently read an observation about the measurements used in Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I wonder if the use of imperial measures was an interpolation, whether by the translator or by the English publisher.

November 21, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

PM, welcome back. I hope your mother is all right. The English title appears to meet the two principal requirements: It grabs the reader's attention, and it's faithful to the book. Again, this is especially impressive considering that the title is not even a translation of the original.

November 21, 2008  
Blogger seanag said...

Dennis Lehane has great evocative titles, I think. 'A Drink Before the War', 'Darkness Take My Hand', 'Gone Baby Gone'--even the more straightforward 'Mystic River' and 'Shutter Island' work for me.

November 21, 2008  
Blogger Philip said...

The matter of measurements raised by Keith is tricky, for readers elsewhere may not realize that the metric system is not as ubiquitous, nor as uniformly employed, in the EU as they may think. Road signs in Sweden are in kilometres, but in speech Swedes use the old 'mil', which is equivalent to ten kms. Land is measured by the 'tunnland', which is 1.2 acres. Sweden, Italy and the Netherlands are, I think, the only EU countries to use the hectogram as opposed to the gram in general measurement. Swedish hamburgers come in pounds and ounces, Swedish timber in feet, television screens, discs, tyres and what have you in inches. All very tricky, and the translator has the task of deciding the best equivalent for measures peculiar to Sweden, such as mil and tunnland, while perhaps inevitably seeming inconsistent in use of metric and imperial systems.

November 22, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seanag, I agree that Dennis Lehane's titles are evocative. One of that group even comes close to going over the top, I'd say. I especially like "Mystic River" because there really is a Mystic River in Massachusetts and, if I recall correctly the traffic reports from my time living there, a Mystic Bridge. I like the possibility that the name of a geographic feature may have captured Lehane's imagination.

Or one might argue that the real act of poetry came in the naming of the river. "Mystic" in the anglicized form of Indian words that mean the more prosaic "big river."

November 22, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dutch hamburgers come in grams and in a pound that is slightly larger than our familiar avoirdupois pound. I agree that units of measurement are likely to pose a problem for translators. Whatever the solution, I'd say it behooves the translator to explain his or her procedure in a translator's note.

November 22, 2008  
Blogger Lauren said...

How many translator's notes get read though? (I mean, I know I do, but...) I think this may be an area in which logic and the market contradict each other - selling translated books isn't always an easy task, and while academic translation studies may spend a great deal of time arguing about the visibility of the translator, my suspicion is that as much *in*visibility as possible is required to ease the way.

Extensive comment on why a character is six feet tall but measures the flour for their grandma's secret wedding cake mixture in mls reminds me a little of a recording of Handel's Messiah which includes all extant versions of the piece and leaves it up to the listener to choose - great for music buffs but not helpful for someone who just wants to listen.

Oh, and I like the Larsson title - and I agree that I couldn't put book 3 down. And that's despite my techno-scepticism alarm pinging a couple of times, and my slight disbelief that a certain character rarely goes to sleep alone. Or frankly has, er, the energy to perform.

[A topic for another thread, perhaps - physiology and crime novels. How do these hard drinking, sexually voracious, sleep deprived and generally unfit detective types ever get any work done without ending up in intensive care? Even when life catches up with them (Morse, Wallander), they're back investigating as soon as the doctor's finished prescribing!]

November 22, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Lauren, I had in mind a single brief note as a preface or afterword. I think Sian Reynolds did this at the end of her translation of Fred Vargas' Have Mercy On Us All -- a brief paragraph explaining how the translator dealt with a particular problem. An alternative in a case such as that of differing systems of measurement might be a brief footnote the first time a measure comes up in the text. I have no desire for annotated editions when I sit down to read crime fiction for pleasure.

With respect to the marvelous ability of these hard-living detectives to perform, professionally and otherwise, you might be interested in Linda Richads' comment here.

November 22, 2008  
Blogger seanag said...

I think Lehane's premises in the earlier novels were deliberately over the top, potboiler things, so it makes sense that the titles would be also. I have to say that I kind of admired Lehane's strategy--work with the genre conventions so that your name busts out and then start writing the novels you always wanted to write. I haven't read his latest, The Given Day, which is not a mystery but an historical novel. But I have it and plan to.

I have the same feeling about the Mystic River title. In fact, I was wondering while commenting here if he in fact made up the name, because it's so damn resonant, but was too lazy to research it before posting.

Thanks for the Linda Richards link. I like the premise of her Death Was the Other Woman a lot and agree that the lack of the 'nudge, nudge, wink, wink' tone probably makes it a stronger and more resonant story, though I haven't read it. Yet.

November 22, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I've only tried to read one of Dennis Lehane's novels, and I didn't get far with it. His use of wise-cracking P.I. conventions was unconvincing and too much like schtick. The only reason I wish I'd kept reading is that the prime murder suspect at the point where I stopped had the same name as a former boss' boss of mine at work. Now I may never find out if he was the killer.

I have read that Lehane started out writing or wanting to write avant-garde "literary" novels, so your take on his strategy is plausible.

I especially like it that Death Was the Other Woman avoids the easy path of having its protagonist step easily into her male boss' roles.

November 23, 2008  
OpenID bookwitch said...

Reg Keeland left a comment on my blog a while back, saying the US translation of book two is better than the UK one, and since he wrote both I suppose he should know. Could it be that UK publishers insist on some details that jar?

I think hornet's nest is a perfect title, even though it doesn't mean the same thing as the original title.

November 25, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You'll see from the first comment on this string that another Larsson reader and booster agrees with you on the title. From what he said, the English title sounds like a clever combination of dynamism and reference to a key character.

As to your question, perhaps I should read both translations so I could judge the differences.

November 25, 2008  
Blogger Mick said...

can anyone tell me what the difference is from the UK version of the book and the US version due out this spring? Are the translations different due to local colloquialisms?

October 28, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Mick, I've gone to the source on this -- Stieg Larsson's translator -- and I hope to have an answer soon. Thanks for the question.

October 28, 2009  

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