Novel Translation sees Translators Locked Up

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Novel translation. What do you picture? Chained doors? Publishers of Dan Brown’s Inferno have taken the concept of “top secret” to a whole new level –  11 of the novel’s translators were locked up in an Italian bunker to translate the latest product of Brown’s pen!


According to The Independent, the publishers of Brown’s latest novel were very keen on launching the book simultaneously in a number of different languages. In order to do so, they hired eleven translators from Brazil, Italy, Germany, Spain and France to translate the novel. These translators were not asked to translate the novel from the comfort of their homes, however: they were taken to a windowless basement in the headquarters of Italy’s largest publishing firm Mondadori in Milan. Here, they reportedly worked for seven days a week until 8 pm or even later. Doesn’t sound too glamorous does it?!


The translators were not allowed to take their mobile phones into the bunker. Moreover, the room was guarded by armed staff and the laptops could not be detached from the tables. Internet was only possible via a supervised communal computer. The secrecy did not stop here: the translators could eat in the building’s canteen but were given cover stories to conceal their true identity.


Often, translations of best-selling English novels are published a few months after the original has be launched. As readers are keen to read the new novel, they buy the book it its original language, which means local publishers lose out on sales. This is why in England, France, Germany, Spain, Italian and Brazil, the decision was made to publish the translation together with the original. However, it appears the publishers did not believe the translators could keep a secret. Next, to the above-mentioned precautions, the translators had to write down their activities and had to sign in and out every time they visited the bunker.


As most translators work alone from their kitchen table, Italian translator Annamaria Raffo told TV Sorrisi e Canzoni, a Monadori-published weekly magazine, that the experience was quite remarkable. Raffo says that at first, there was a sense of ‘reserve, even distrust’ among the translators. However, the bunker later gained a ‘playground atmosphere.’


Inferno is the fourth of Brown’s novels with Robert Langdon as its main character. According to the description on Amazon, ‘In the heart of Italy, Robert Langdon is drawn into a harrowing world centred on one of history’s most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces… Dante’s Inferno. Against this backdrop, Langdon battles a chilling adversary and grapples with an ingenious riddle that pulls him into a landscape of classic art, secret passageways, and futuristic science.’ The Independent is not convinced yet, as they believe this sounds very similar to the plot of Brown’s most famous novel, The Da Vinci Code.


Brown has definitely reaped to fruits of his labour: on the crime writers list created in 2011 by the digital TV channel Alibi, his fortune was estimated at 400 million dollars, which is 257 million pounds. Brown’s previous books have been translated into over 50 different languages and the author has sold more than 200 million copies in 2012. With the upcoming novel, this number will surely rise a little more, especially as Brown has stated that he has ideas for another 12 novels that feature professor Langdon!


Despite such measures, we don’t think here at Kwintessential we will be locking our publishing translators in our cellar…for now anyway 🙂

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