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"Casual Vacancy" Withheld from Foreign Publishers Because of Piracy Risks

J.K. Rowling
Posted by: Rosi
August 01, 2012, 04:34 AM

Foreign publishers will not receive a copy of the manuscript for The Casual Vacancy until the book is published in English on September 27th. France and Germany have received advanced copies but countries viewed at a high risk for piracy, including Finland, Italy and Slovenia, have not, meaning they will have to rush the translation, editorial and production process. This Guardian article has more insight on how the decision will affect the translation process around the world:

"We will most likely be forced to employ more than one translator and abnormally speed up the editorial and production process to publish in time for the Christmas season," said Ilc [Slovenian Editor].

In Finland, the process is moving even faster. "The translator has to agree, sight unseen, to turn in the finished copy in three weeks, by October 18, in time for release for Christmas sales. That's 23 pages of polished final text every day for 21 days – without time to read the book beforehand!" blogged Jill Timbers, a translator of Finnish books into English. Timbers said that discussion was "swirling" among Finnish literary translators about quality of translation, and "preserving true Finnish language versus slipping inadvertently into anglicisms under such time pressure".
"Some translators argue that it's good [that] bestsellers are translated into Finnish, even if time pressure means the level of the Finnish isn't top-quality," she said. But "there's a derogatory nickname in Finnish for translations that 'straighten all the curves', convey the storyline but skim past finer bits and nuances. Perhaps that wouldn't so diminish Rowling's new book? Who can say, since no one's seen it."
You can read the full article at this link.
What do you think? Is this unfair or is it the price to pay to protect the plot?

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11774 Points

Speaking as a translator, I find the idea of having to do the job in such a rush quite worrying. The expression ‘straighten all the curves’ is a very good description of what can happen. You get the over-all storyline but nothing of the qualities of wit, language etc that made the original book special in the first place.

Posted by Valeria-Johanna on August 01, 2012, 05:40 AM report to moderator
27 Points

I don’t think translation should be rushed. 23 pages per day is a lot (my mother is a translator, she confirms)! However, you don’t need to read the book beforehand to translate.
What I think is too bad, is that they absolutely want to publish it for Christmas.
If that is the objective, than NO, translators should not be put this pressure, and the quality of translation shouldn’t be compromised.
Foreign editors should receive the book in advance, regardless of piracy risks.
There are probably other ways to control piracy. For example, contracts stipulating penalties for foreign publishers who leak out the book beforehand: the responsibility lies within their hands; they should try to protect the book as much as possible.

Posted by sevvem on August 01, 2012, 05:56 AM report to moderator
152 Points

I don’t really think that Finland has a higher risk of piracy than Germany and France. But Germany and France are of course more “important” countries. I wish they had a list of all the countries that “have a high risk of piracy”.

Posted by Verdande on August 01, 2012, 07:16 AM report to moderator
11774 Points

@Verdande, Finland did seem an odd choice for that list!

@sevvem, I can’t imagine translating a book without reading it beforehand – otherwise how are you going to get the right feeling and tone of voice for it? I would think that any time you spent reading it first would make up for itself in mistakes that you don’t make later on (if you see what I mean).

Posted by Valeria-Johanna on August 01, 2012, 07:32 AM report to moderator
10268 Points

This does seem like an idiotic way of going about it, all for the sake of having a half-baked version ready to sell by a particular date. Readers in each country will have to suffer permanently with an inferior translation – I imagine that most readers would be willing to wait longer to get it done properly! Penny-wise and pound-foolish.

Posted by WeenyOwl {The Human Deluminator} on August 01, 2012, 12:28 PM report to moderator
20981 Points

I’m happy translating the book wont be my job. Thats a lot of pages to do per day. I really dont get why those other countries are of hight risk.

Posted by LunaLuver on August 01, 2012, 12:32 PM report to moderator
80450 Points

This is what happens when a published author finds out that tens of thousands of copies of her or his book are already in circulation, pre-release, in various countries and not one cent of royalties has, or will ever be paid. Piracy sucks.

Posted by Won_Two on August 01, 2012, 02:41 PM report to moderator
3269 Points

They either need to hire more translators of push the date of the publishing because that’s too much work for the translators.

Posted by Acciobrooms on August 01, 2012, 11:41 PM report to moderator

I agree with Valeria-Johanna. Better spend the 8 hours (or so) to read the book first, than find out later you’ve made some crucial mistake from the beginning. I don’t agree with the decision to release the book to foreign publishers after publication. Of course, I do agree that piracy sucks. But how does giving the text to a foreign publisher a month before UK/US publication, encourage piracy? Leaking information might be a risk. I perfectly understood the ‘embargo’ with HP, but let’s face it, this is not HP, and to be honest I for one, am patient enough to wait for the official release. (With HP I tried to hear everything the publishers and Jo let slip beforehand). That said, I admit that I will read the English edition, and only if I like it very much, or think my mother will like it, I will also get the Dutch translation later. I would happily give my mother a self-made ‘coupon’ for the book for Christmas, and give her a good translation later, than a rushed translation with mistakes and typos, on Christmas Day. Maybe the foreign publishers and bookshops should consider printing (and selling?) such a coupon. That would still make a good Christmas gift, right?
Finally, I am not a great fan of multiple translators, because of the uniformity of style and vocabulary, but under one good editor they may pull it off.

Posted by Tarana on August 02, 2012, 06:39 AM report to moderator
28 Points

I’m just glad that I live in the UK, and USA and Australia can just have our copies so that’s alright.

Posted by MinistrysPress on August 02, 2012, 07:22 AM report to moderator
33 Points

The woman who translated Harry Potters in Finnish refused to translate this new book because the time to do it is absolutely crazy and I think she’s right – I just can’t believe the translator can do any good work in three weeks. I know there’s quite a lot of piracy in Finland but I find it hard to believe that there would be any less in Germany or France. And Verdande said that Germany and France are more “important” countries – well, bigger, yes, so that means more fans but don’t see why it would make Finnish fans less important. Personally I’m just going to read the book in English ‘cause I don’t have faith in the Finnish version.

Posted by Elisez on August 03, 2012, 07:56 AM report to moderator
452 Points

That’s too bad for the people of those countries… Maybe if more was done in those countries to lessen piracy, they would have the trust of the author and original publishers. Sadly, this does not seem to be the case. And if one person is doing it, it may encourage others to withhold their manuscripts as well…

Posted by Mad But Happy on August 03, 2012, 10:07 AM report to moderator

@Elisez: So, actually, it is not a wise decision from the Finnish publishers to rush the translation, because now they will sell at least one book less.

Posted by Tarana on August 03, 2012, 11:52 AM report to moderator
54 Points

will they at least have copies in English in those countries? Why does everything has to be translated, I’m sorry but English is an international language, people should learn it and the others that don’t know it should wait…

Posted by CatrinJane on August 04, 2012, 07:34 PM report to moderator
159 Points

It would seem to me that the publisher should hire the translator & eat the expense of having them under conctract (and preferrably work in-house) so that the fan in other countries don’t have to wait so long!

Posted by Ravenclaw78 on August 07, 2012, 09:55 AM report to moderator
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