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Harold the ceramicist and the Melon’s gallstone - Sue de Groot on the (many) comical translations of Harry Potter

Everyone loves JK Rowling, except perhaps those who cursed her when translating Harry Potter

By Sue de Groot

SPARE a thought for those who translate English texts. Mastering English is a Sisyphean task for those who speak it from birth; learning it as a second language is, to put it mildly, a bastard. Now imagine what it must be like to transform the infinitely complex twists and turns of an idiomatic, idiosyncratic English sentence into something that makes sense in another language.

As if that weren’t difficult enough, imagine trying to translate words that do not exist in any dictionary, English or otherwise. You might think everyone in the world worships and adores JK Rowling, but I suspect those who had to translate the Harry Potter books occasionally cursed her.

How do you translate quidditch, horcruxes, wrackspurt and crumple-horned snorkacks into other-language words of similar bounce and gravitas? And what about those quibbilicious character names? These are the things that kept translators awake at night.

One solution would have been to leave Rowling’s words alone, but translators are a brave bunch and besides, English wordplay only works if you understand English. To be effective in other languages, names and places would have to be rewritten, and some of the interpretations of Potterverse are almost as entertaining as the books themselves.

Take the “pensieve”, a bowl containing someone’s memories. Rowling’s word combines the properties of a colander and deep thought. The Germans turned it into the lovely Denkarium, a made-up word that married thinking with an aquarium. The Norwegians, if you ask me, fell a little short of the mark. They call it a tanketank, literally a “thought-tank”, which sounds more like a gathering of business executives than a magical device.

Chinese translations are inscrutable unless one can read Chinese characters, but if you ever get a chance to watch the dubbed Harry Potter films with English subtitles, do treat yourself. For some reason the Chinese word for “Muggle” (a non-magical person) translates back into English as “melon”.

As any Pottermaniac knows, Muggles are spread thickly throughout the seven books. Turning them into Melons results in a giant fruit basket. To pick just a few random sentences: “Melons have garden gnomes too, you know”; “You should take Melon studies next year”; “I was merely reading the Melon magazines”; “Melon women wear them, Archie; not the men”; “Even Melons like yourself should be celebrating”; “My parents are Melons, mate”; “How come the Melons don’t hear the bus?” And so on.

As for the character names, Harry, Ron and Hermione have escaped intact, as has Voldemort, but the key plot point involving an anagram presented a huge translation challenge. He-who-should-not-really-be-named made up his own creepy label by jumbling up the letters of his given Melon name, Tom Marvolo Riddle — the anagram is “I am Lord Voldemort”. The French got around this by changing Voldemort’s original name to Tom Elvis Jedusor, which yielded the anagram “Je suis Voldemort”. But how can one take a supervillain called Elvis seriously?

The French have also had fun with the names of animals. Hermione’s cat Crookshanks is known as Pattenrond in France. Ron’s rat Scabbers is Croûtard, and Dumbledore’s phoenix Fawkes has become Fumseck — which sounds like a thumbsuck to me.

The Mentalfloss website has investigated foreign names for the Hogwarts houses. In Spanish, Swedish, German, Polish, and Hebrew they remain Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin, but in other countries they have been reinterpreted in some mystifying ways. The French, for instance, changed Hufflepuff to Poufsouffle, which sounds like a cross between something you eat for breakfast and something you rest your feet on. They changed Slytherin to Serpentard — Harry’s Gryffindor mates would no doubt have howled with joy at the implied insult.

Hufflepuff seems to have given translators the most trouble. In Brazilian Portuguese it is Lufa-lufa, like something one might use in the shower. In Italian it is Tassorosso (“red badger” for the house’s mascot) and in Welsh it is Wfftiwff, which apparently is not an acronym. In Czechoslovakia they settled for Mrzimor.
There’s much more to this than Mrzimor and Melons. I recommend this rabbit hole whenever you need a mood lift.

*This is an extended version of the Pedant Class column published in Sunday Times Lifestyle Magazine on March 26 2017

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Book details

 
 
 
 

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

 
 
 
 

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

 
 
 
 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

 
 
 
 

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

 
 
 
 

Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince

 
 
 
 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Ses moet-lees Maart boeke

Protea Boekhuis het ‘n besige Maart-maand agter die rug gehad. Van verbeeldingryke kinderboeke vir die jongspan, tot geskiedkundige novelles, tot dramatekste wat menslikheid ondersoek, is onlangs geubliseer.

Lees verder oor die volgende ses boeke waarby enige kranige leser sal aanklank vind:
 
 

Die dag is bros/Sandton City GrootdoopDie dag is bros/Sandton City Grootdoop
Wessel Pretorius

AGTERGROND
Twee dramas oor familie, verhoudings, vergifnis en herinneringe. Wat bybly, is dat mense maar net mense is. Dat versoening deel van menswees is. Dat stukkende mense mekaar kan help heel word en dat familie tog familie bly – ondanks omstandighede, persoonlike keuses en uitdagings.

Sandton City grootdoop
‘n Drama oor ’n ma en haar twee dogters wat vir die eerste keer in ’n lang tyd bymekaarkom om die oudste, Danél, se verjaardag in Sandton City te vier. In die proses begin die trio mekaar se verlede, gevoelens en emosies oopkrap met eerlike, en snaakse, oomblikke.
Kara, die ma, is die aktrise wat haar man en kinders op ’n jong ouderdom verlaat het om haar groot droom om wêreldberoemd te word, na te volg. Sy erken dat sy nie bevoeg of beskore was vir moederskap nie, maar probeer tog om tot hulle deur te dring en hulle vertroueling te wees. Haar oudste dogter, Danél, is bipolêr en bly na ‘n onlangse selfmoordpoging weer by haar ma. Sy is naïef en emosioneel en val maklik vir haar ma se manipulasie.
Haar suster, Lisa, is gay en verwyt haar ma dat sy nog niks met haar lewe gedoen het nie. Sy is kwaad en kras en wil graag haar ma skok met haar uitlatings oor seks, maar ’n mens kom agter dat sy eintlik baie kwesbaar is.

“Die minimalisme van die stuk bind jou en hou jou vasgenael tot die einde.” Leonie Bezuidenhout
“Dit is galbitter, snaaks en bitter seer in ewe maat, ’n driekuns wat Pretorius keer op keer regkry. Jy lag, maar jy weet jy moet eintlik ween.” – Leatitia Pople

Die dag is bros
Dis laatmiddag. Elsa, voorheen ’n lektor in Afrikaanse letterkunde, berei ’n driegangmaaltyd voor vir Brian se verjaarsdag. Hy was ’n jeugmisdadiger wat ’n tweede kans gegun is onder Elsa se vlerk. Sy stel hom bloot aan Sheila Cussons en hy vul ’n leemte in haar lewe. Tussendeur word daar speletjies gespeel met Tertius – die vreemde kind wat kersiebloeisels aandra uit Japan. Voor die kos koud kan word sal die dag ’n ingrypende wending neem.

Die dag is bros is benoem vir ’n Fiësta as beste nuutgeskepte Afrikaanse produksie.

OOR DIE OUTEUR
Wessel Pretorius is die wenner van die 2015 Afrikaans Onbeperk-prys vir ’n jong stem.

Voor ek my kom kryVoor ek my kom kry
Pirow Bekker

AGTERGROND
Die omslag van die bundel met sy abstrakte figure suggereer die gesprek wat in hierdie bundel gevoer word met die self, die geliefde, die lewe en die dood. Die digter ondersoek erskillende fasette van ’n lang en kreatiewe lewe. In die eerste afdeling kom die verhouding met die aarde ter sprake; in die tweede afdeling die ambivalente verhouding met die land waarin hy gekies het om te bly woon, ten spyte van die ongenaakbaarheid van klimaat, plae en sosio-politieke kwessies. In die volgende afdelings kyk die digter op ironiese wyse na die dreigende dood wat hom in verskille gedaantes voordoen. Dan volg gedigte oor die liefde: vir die taal, die woord en vir die geliefde vrou. Die fyn humor waarmee die digter na die ouderdom kyk, sorg dat die laaste gedigte nie neerdrukkend is nie, maar die lewe bly omhels, soos in “Hansie Slim herbesin”, waarin gespot word met die “mediese kernplan” waarmee voorsorg vir siekte en ouderdom getref word.

En tog,
die hele infrastruktuur ten spyt
verlaat Hans sy huis, begeef hy hom
op ’n lukraak ryloopreis
die wyer wêreld in.

Daarom kan die digter in die slotgedig terugkyk op die verrassing van ’n lewe wat sonder beplanning of padkaart, sy eie verloop geneem het.

OOR DIE OUTEUR
Pirow Bekker is ’n veelsydige skrywer van romans, kortverhale en poësie. Sy vorige twee bundels, Van roes en amarant (2008) en Atlas teen die vergeetrivier, (2013) is goed ontvang deur die literêre kritiek.

Kroniek van turfKroniek van turf
Dolf van Niekerk

AGTERGROND
Hierdie novelle sluit aan by twee vorige prosawerke van Dolf van Niekerk, naamlik die jeugverhaal Karel Kousop (1985) en Koms van die hyreën (1994). Kroniek van turf is gedeeltelik ’n prequel vir die vorige twee boeke. Dit vertel die geskiedenis van Gerrit, ’n werknemer van die VOC, wat in die 18de eeu begin boer op ’n leningsplaas in die Roggeland. Omstandighede dwing hom om na die distrik Swellendam te verskuif. Sy twee seuns, Johannes en Daniel, soek albei later ook na ’n veiliger blyplek, aanvanklik in die Kamdebo. Onrus op die Oosgrens laat hulle verder trek; Johannes na wat tans die Vrystaat is en Daniel saam met die Voortrekkers na Natal, waar hy en sy vrou slagoffers van die Bloukransmoorde word.
Waar Johannes hom op ’n plaas tussen die Riet- en die Modderrivier vestig, maak hy weer kontak met die Kousop-Boesmans wat hy vroeër naby die Gariep ontmoet het. Tussen Johannes se nageslag en die Boesmans ontwikkel ’n vae, onsekere band wat oor meer as ’n eeu sou strek. Onverwags maak een van Johannes se nasate, Johan, tydens die Bosoorlog kennis met ’n Boesmanspoorsnyer wat ook ’n Kousop-nasaat blyk te wees en wat ’n bepalende rol in ’n grondeis op Johan se plaas tussen die twee riviere sou speel.

OOR DIE OUTEUR
Dolf van Niekerk is ’n bekende en geliefde skrywer van prosawerke soos Die son struikel (1960), Skrik kom huis toe (1968) en Die haasvanger (1985). Sy mees onlangse publikasies, die digbundels Bleek planeet (2012) en Portrette in my gang (2015), is baie goed deur die kritiek ontvang. Hy is meermale vir sy werk bekroon en het onder andere die Eugène Marais-prys, die M.E.R.-prys en die Scheepersprys ontvang.

Die prinses met die lang hareDie prinses met die lang hare
Annemarie van Haeringen

AGTERGROND
In ’n klein, arm landjie woon daar ’n prinses met ongelooflike lang hare. Sy sou dit graag wou afknip, maar haar pa sê dat ’n dame se hare haar kosbaarste sieraad is . . .

‘n Prettige boek vir meisies wat hou van prinsesse, lang hare en sterk mans.

OOR DIE OUTEUR EN ILLUSTREERDER
Annemarie van Haeringen ontvang in 2000 die Nederlandse Gouden Penseel-toekenning vir hierdie boek – ’n eer wat haar ook met Malmok (1999) en Beer is op Vlinder (2005) te beurt geval het. Ander bekroonde werke van haar is Het begin van de zee en Coco of het kleine zwarte jurkje, wat onderskeidelik met ’n Zilveren Griffel en ’n Zilveren Penseel vereer is.
 
 
 

Die storie van ontdekkingsreiseDie Storie van Ontdekkingsreise
Anna Claybourne

AGTERGROND
Vanaf die vroegste tye verken mense al die aardbol op soek na nuwe plekke om te bewoon, verleidelike skatte, asemrowende vergesigte of die roemryke voorreg om die éérste mens op ’n hoë bergpiek te wees.
Hierdie boek vertel die verhale van onverskrokke ontdekkingsreisigers wat dit tot by die ysige pole gewaag het, bloedig warm woestyne oorgesteek het, riviere vol krokodille trotseer of vir die eerste keer reg rondom die aarde geseil het.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Lafras Cuyper in VenesiëLafras Cuyper in Venesië
Karl Kielblock

AGTERGROND

Karl Kielblock het verskeie boeke geskryf, waaronder die Lafras Cuyper-reeks baie bekend is en wyd versamel word. Dit handel oor seeavonture in diens van twee oorlogvoerende moondhede vroeg in die 19de eeu. Hierdie is die sesde boek in dié reeks, propvol opwinding, spanning en avontuur!

’n Besoek aan Venesië – dit is ’n droom wat waar word vir die beroemde kaperkaptein Lafras Cuyper. Dié droom word egter ru onderbreek toe Lafras een aand in die donker stegies aangeval word. Voor hy die raaisel oor die aanval kan oplos, roep Napoleon hom terug na Parys. Lafras moet Venesië verlaat – en ook die aanvallige Justina, wat sy hart so gou verower het. Hy moet met die Turkse goewerneur gaan onderhandel oor drie Franse offisiere wat as gyselaars aangehou word. Tussendeur al die lewensgevaarlike avonture, verskyn die beeld van Justina kort-kort voor Lafras. Hy móét haar weer sien. Hy móét weer terugkeer na Venesië … en sy aanvallers.

Die verhaal van Lafras Cuyper is op feite gebaseer.

OOR DIE OUTEUR

Karl Kielblock is ʼn bekende skrywer en selfs ná sy afsterwe bly sy boeke onweerstaanbaar. In 1936 verskyn sy eerste boek Die skat van Java. Sedertdien het daar verskeie romanse, speur- en spanningsverhale asook verskeie jeugverhale die lig gesien. In 1970 ontvang Kielblock die Scheepersprys vir die boek Rebel.

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Stephen Hawking has co-written a book on the universe - for children!

George's Secret Key to the Universe

George’s Secret Key to the Universe teaches children the basics of astronomy, astrophysics, cosmology and other principles that govern our universe. This book makes science interesting while it teaches children fun and interesting facts about astronomical objects. Stephen Hawking, author of the multi-million copy bestselling A Brief History of Time, and his daughter Lucy explain the universe to readers of all ages. George’s parents, who have always been wary of technology, warn him about their new neighbours: Eric is a scientist and his daughter, Annie, seems to be following in his footsteps. But when George befriends them and Cosmos, their super-computer, he finds himself on a wildly fun adventure, while learning about physics, time and the universe. With Cosmos’s help, he can travel to other planets and a black hole. But what would happen if the wrong people got their hands on Cosmos? George, Annie and Eric aren’t about to find out, and what ensues is a funny adventure that clearly explains the mysteries of science. Garry Parsons’ energetic illustrations add humour and interest, and his scientific drawings add clarity.

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Jong natuurliefhebbertjies kan uitsien na diere-atlas!

Vra jou kind gereeld watter diere in die koudste plekke op aarde oorleef?

Wil Jannie of Sannie weet waar jy die wêreld se grootse vlermuis sal vind?

Weet hulle van die bloeddorstige piranha-vissies wat in die Amasonerivier rondswem?

Wat van waar in Suid-Afrika jy die “uitgestorwe” selekant kan vind?

Al hierdie vrae en nog vele meer word in Wendy Maartens se My eerste diere-atlas beantwoord. Dié atlas is pragtig geïllustreer en propvol interessante feite oor die diereryk.

Nie net sal jou aspirant-natuurdeskundige gaande wees oor elke asemrowenede feit nie, My eerste diere-

My eerste diereatlasatlas dien boonop as ‘n wonderlike naslaanbron wat op enige leergierige skoolkind se boekrak hoort!

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Imagining ourselves into existence: First ever Abantu Book Festival in Soweto a roaring success

Words and images by Thato Rossouw

My Own LiberatorUnimportanceSweet MedicineAffluenzaNwelezelangaThe Daily Assortment of Astonishing Things and Other StoriesRapeFlying Above the SkyNight DancerBlack Widow SocietyThe Everyday WifeOur Story Magic

 
“A conquered people often lose the inclination to tell their stories.”

These were the words of former Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke at the inaugural Abantu Book Festival, in discussion with readers about the importance of black people telling their own stories and having spaces where they can share them with one another. “We have stories to tell, they are important, and they are liberating in nature,” he said.

 
Moseneke’s words came as a preamble to compliment the authors Thando Mgqolozana and Panashe Chigumadzi, and the rest of their team members, for organising a festival that not only celebrated black writers, readers, pan-African book stores, and online platforms that celebrate African literature and narratives, but also gave them a safe space to speak freely about the issues they face in their struggle to liberate themselves.

The festival, which was themed “Imagining ourselves into existence”, came as a result of Mgqolozana’s decision early last year to renounce white colonial literary festivals. In an interview with The Daily Vox in May last year, Mgqolozana told Theresa Mallinson that his decision to reject these festivals came from a discomfort with literary festivals where the audience was 80 percent white. “It’s in a white suburb in a white city. I feel that I’m there to perform for an audience that does not treat me as a literary talent, but as an anthropological subject,” he said.

 
The three-day festival took place at two venues: the Eyethu Lifestyle Centre, which hosted free events during the day, and the Soweto Theatre, which hosted events in the evening. These evening festivities cost R20 per person and featured over 50 poets, novelists, essayists, playwrights, literary scholars, screenwriters, performing artists and children’s writers from across Africa and the diaspora. Some of the writers and artists who were present at the festival include Niq Mhlongo, Unathi Magubeni, Lidudumalingani Mqombothi, Thandiswa Mazwai, Pumla Dineo Gqola, Lebogang Mashile and Chika Unigwe, among many others.

 
The first day of the festival began with a discussion featuring four black female Fallist writers, Dikeledi Sibanda, Mbali Matandela, Sandy Ndelu and Simamkele Dlakavu, titled “Writing and Rioting Black Womxn in the time of Fallism”. The discussion covered topics ranging from the role of the body, particularly the naked body, in challenging old narratives, to writing and rioting as acts of activism. It was then followed by a highly attended talk with Justice Moseneke entitled “Land and Liberation”, a concert by the group Zuko Collective at the Soweto Theatre, as well as speeches and performances at the opening night show.

Some of the riveting discussions at the festival were titled: “Land and Liberation”, “Women of Letters”, “Writing Today”, “Cut! Our Stories on Stage and Screen”, “Ghetto is Our First Love”, “Creating Platforms for Our Stories” and “Writing Stories Across and Within Genres”. The festival also included seven documentary screenings, poetry performances, a writing masterclass with Angela Makholwa and Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, and performances every night at the Soweto Theatre by Zuko Collective.

 
Dr Gcina Mhlophe gave the keynote address at the festival’s opening night, which was preceded by the singing of the decolonised national anthem and a rendition of the poem “Water” by poet Koleka Putuma. Mhlophe reminded the audience that, while it is important for us to celebrate young and upcoming artists, it is also important to remember and celebrate those that came before them. She sang and told stories about people like Mariam Tladi and Nokutela Dube and spoke about their role in the development of the arts. Dube was the first wife of Reverend John Langalibalele Dube who was the first President General of the South African Native National Congress (SANNC) which was later renamed the African National Congress (ANC).

 
The festival ended with a sold-out event at the Soweto Theatre that featured a discussion on “Native Life in 2016” between Chigumadzi and I’solezwe LesiXhosa editor Unathi Kondile, facilitated by Mashile; a performance by Zuko Collective; and a Literary Crossroads session with Unigwe, facilitated by Ndumiso Ngcobo.
 

* * * * *

The hashtag #AbantuBookFest was on fire for the duration of the festival and long afterwards:


 
Facebook gallery

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Join Quivertree Publications at a pop-up market in Cape Town - with discounted books

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Braai: Reuben on FireThe Low Carb Solution For DiabeticsThe Great South African CookbookReal Food - Healthy, Happy ChildrenEat Ting
Indigenous Plant PalettesCook BetterStar FishTartsThe Real Meal RevolutionA Life Digested

 
Quivertree Publications will be hosting a pop-up market from 2-3 December 2016 at 147 Main Road, Rondebosch.

There will be a Quivertree Book Shop selling your favourite Quivertree titles at a discount – come and stock up on your Christmas gifts here!

Reuben Riffel, Pete Goffe-Wood and Obie Oberholzer will be around from 3 PM on the Friday afternoon to sign books.

On 3 December, there’s a fun food workshop for children (ages two to six), hosted by experienced clinical dietician Kath Megaw’s Nutripaeds team in the photographic studio. Designed to expose children to sensory experiences, teach them about healthy ingredients, and help them develop fine motor skills, this event costs R120 per child, and prior booking is essential. (Please email thembela@quivertree.co.za or call 021 686 6849.)

But that’s not all, below is a list of stallholders that you can expect to see at the market:

Peta Becker, crochet art
Jackie Knutsen, sojo children’s wear
Dan Wickham, Garagista artisan beer
Janine Davidson, Scarab jewellery
Pete Goffe-Wood, steak rolls
Karen Canning, lis-spa, beauty products and treatment vouchers
Ilse Menck clothing
Nondumiso wine
Ceramics by Louise Gelderblom & Karen Henstra
Skinny laMinx
Amanda and Kathleen from Nutripaeds will host a Clever Cooks children’s food workshop in the photographic studio
Verushka Louw – cakes, biscuits and pastries

Event Details

  • Date: Friday, 2 and Saturday, 3 December 2016
  • Time: 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM
  • Venue: Quivertree Publications
    147 Main Road
    Rondebosch
    Cape Town | Map
  • Facebook event: Click here for more

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