Monday, 31 March 2008

Tatort Translation

Last night's Tatort was a real feast for the eyes. Detective Charlotte Lindholm was on maternity leave (and looking very flat-stomached for it), but snooping around a Kleingartenkolonie on the tracks of an old murder. Now a Kleingartenkolonie is a wonderfully German thing - upmarket allotments with houses on them, run by committees with rules, rules, rules - how big is the building, when may the parties barbecue, how many fruit trees are required, etc. etc. And this one was a prime example, with the costumes and casting departments doing their very best to make it scarily close to the cliché. You can watch the trailer here. There appears to be a "gay gardeners" faction now actually, at least in Berlin, but they weren't represented in this episode.

Anyway, I'll come to the point, shall I? Charlotte Lindholm's comic relief flatmate is a crime writer, and has written a splatter book featuring satanists that everyone keeps praising at inopportune moments. And one day he receives a phone call out of the blue. He puts the phone down and looks dead chuffed - it was Random House in New York - they want to translate his book! He imagines the English title - The Circle of Hell - my, doesn't that sound good? OK, I thought, that's exciting, a German crime writer getting a call from New York. Nice to see people thinking of translators occasionally, even if Random House are hardly going to ring up the lowly author when they should actually be dealing with his publishers' rights department.

But it got worse. The very next day we see the writer sitting at his desk, disgruntled. He is brooding over a thinnish manuscript with an English title - The Hounds of Hell or some such. Oh, is that the translation? asks the detective. Yes, but they've changed the name...

Hello? So Tatort is written overnight by computer, is it? Because that's obviously what Random House did in this episode. They took the German book, presumably the hardback edition, fed it into a slot in their special translation machine, and out came an English manuscript. The Bertha translation method. I was appalled. Do scriptwriters really imagine a translation goes that quickly? Even I know that writing screenplays takes months and months or even years, what with all the tweaking and fiddling that goes on after the fact. But Tatort couldn't even muster a mention of an actual human individual being involved in the translation process. Maybe Random House should sue. I would.


clh said...

yeah i saw that too, decided it was dramatic ellipsis. or something.

kjd said...

Oh no, don't tell me I've just been incredibly dense. But I don't think it was ellipsis, or they'd have done some other things like making the baby noticeably bigger. But I have to say that now, don't I?

Anonymous said...

i just thought it was a juicy excerpt translated by yourself, with the title then having been changed by someone overexcited in the marketing department. wasn't the english title something to do with lots of blood?

~i was laughing my socks off through most of that episode. maybe it was translation cabin fever, but i thought it was hilarious. though i did wonder how ms lindholm had so much time to do her brainy reading at the libary and look so ... unravaged. the chinese lessons were great too. ni hao. wo tiao wang lili. ni shi bulang xiansheng ma?~

Anonymous said...

oh, sorry, that was me (sog). last time it worked out who i was any way without being told.

kjd said...

It was a smasher, wasn't it, anonymous Sog? I liked the scary weedkiller woman with the even scarier outfits.

And no. I don't translate for Tatort - yet.

World domination kjd