Halting Translations

This is interesting.

A French kid got arrested for translating the latest Harry Potter into French.

This causes me to wonder a few things:

1. Suppose in a few months I went to France and bought a copy of the official translation, then started translating it back into English and posting it on the internet. Could I get done for it? After all, the words are no longer actually JK Rowling’s. I could take some stylistic and narrative liberties, and claim that I’m really translating a Maigret, but it just came out a bit Harry Potterish.

2. What if I translated it into an unofficial language? I could translate it into some sort of Northern Hiberno-English. Watch yerself, Hermione, thon wizard hoor’s gonna gi ye an awful root up the arse.

3. Is ‘Harry Potter’ in French really a passable translation of ‘Harry Potter’ in English? Both ‘Harry’ and ‘Potter’ have cultural connotations in the original language that do not carry across to the target. If I was the kid, I would claim that I hadn’t translated Harry Potter at all, and that the ‘Harry Potter’ that appeared in his story was an entirely different character.

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August 2007
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