Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Another thing about titles

I've just posted a comment about Åsa Larsson's Sun Storm. The novel was published under that title in the U.S. and as The Savage Altar in the U.K.

Leaving aside the question of which title sounds better (I think the answer is obvious), the divergent decisions on what to call the book provide a revealing look at two opposing philosophies of titling.

Sun Storm, an accurate translation of the original Swedish title, refers to the Northern lights, which appear several times in the book in descriptive, but not narrative, passages. The British title is presumably an allusion to the murder that drives the plot, which takes place in a church, though not at an altar.

There you have it: One title refers precisely to a feature that plays no direct role in the book's events. The other refers to the central event, but it does so imprecisely. Two titles, two schools of thought, one more item for the gripe session over title changes that drive you nuts (or not).

© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really don't like "Savage Altar" as a title - like it's trying to suggest satanism, to appeal to the horror market!

August 09, 2007  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, satanism does have a way of creeping into crime fiction from the Nordic countries, but you're right. Savage Altar sounds half like a horror title, and half like a screaming, sensationalistic pulp thriller. I mean, if some act or person is savage, it's not necessary to hit the reader over the head by screaming "THIS IS SAVAGE! Who knows what really happened on ... THE SAVAGE ALTAR?"

August 09, 2007  

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