Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Dan Brown's Translators in Berlusconi's Bunker

I've written about Dan Brown's German translators and the conditions they work under before. And now the German trade publication Buchreport has written about the latest installment, which is even more bizarre than the last ones. Eleven translators into various languages, all spending weeks working in a windowless basement room beneath the Mondadori publishing house in Milan. They weren't allowed to take mobile phones in there, had to access the internet under surveillance via one computer, and worked until at least 8 pm every single day of the week. Although they were allowed to use the staff canteen, they had fake alibis in case anyone asked them what they were doing there.

The Italian listings magazine TV Sorrisi e Canzoni - also published by Mondadori - ran a gleeful piece on the security measures and interviews with the translators of Inferno. Note the guard's gun in the first of these links. Most of the translators are surprisingly positive about spending two months deprived of daylight and contact to their loved ones - Stockholm syndrome, perhaps? It was interesting, they say, to work with other people rather than alone at home. All of them admit it was very tiring though. I hope they were paid very well indeed.  

The book comes out simultaneously in English, French, German, Spanish, Catalan, Italian and Portuguese on 14 May. The foreign publishers seem to feel it's a good idea to make their translators work under these backbreaking conditions so that they don't lose revenue to the English original by bringing the translations out later - and because they obviously don't trust them not to pirate the content. Lord knows Dan Brown can hardly afford to let anyone know plot details beforehand; in 2011 he was apparently worth $400m.

God, it makes me so angry. And Mondadori publishing the details in their own magazine makes it all seem like part of a rather sick publicity stunt.


Frank Böhmert said...

Well, perhaps the deal is two month bunker time for one year's pay - that would be nice. But not so nice.

Katie said...

For anyone who can understand Norwegian, there's a nice discussion of "turbo-translation" and its effects on the language in the Språkteigen radio programme from 17th March this year, still available via podcast. It also talks about the strange sweatshop conditions that the Scandinavian translators of J.K. Rowling had to endure:

2013.03.17 TurbooversettelserFreitag, 15. März 2013 15:00Hvordan påvirker det språket når man må oversette i turbofart? Kvaliteten på oversettelser har vært diskutert i mediene i det siste, og det var også et av temaene under arrangementet "Oversatte dager" som fant sted i Litteraturhuset i Oslo nylig. Da J.K. Rowlings siste roman "Den tomme stolen" kom ut på norsk i fjor høst, hadde oversetteren bare hatt fire uker på seg. -Betenkelig med så korte frister, sier John Erik Bøe Lindgren, som allikevel er fornøyd med resultatet. -Jeg er ikke stolt av min innsats, sier Helena Hansson. Hun var en av seks oversettere som sammen skulle gi den 500 sider tykke romanen svensk språkdrakt. De fikk en uke til rådighet. Hansson mener hastverket gikk utover kvaliteten på arbeidet.
Det er forlaget Cappelen Damm som gir ut J.K. Rowling på norsk. Sjefen for skjønnlitteratur, Anne Fløtaker, forklarer at fristen ble så kort fordi romanen skulle ut på markedet før jul. Forlaget ønsket også å være raskt ute med oversettelsen, så utålmodige lesere ville velge den i stedet for originalversjonen.

EP said...

Really. The Dan Brown Industrial Complex in action.