Another guest blog from Jack while Wendy is ‘hors de combat’
I’ve been thinking about the books I read (yes, I know – I live in a bookstore) and why folk read the kind of books they do. For instance I tend not to read all that much fiction, preferring history and biography. There are exceptions, of course – Ian Rankin for one. He’s famous for a series based around his Inspector Rebus character. The reason I enjoy him is probably pretty obvious to anyone who knows me and the books; both Rankin and Rebus are from West Fife in Scotland, both moved to Edinburgh and the books capture the seedier side of Edinburgh (and West Fife) perfectly. All places I know very well. Throw in references to old friends of mine and he can hardly go wrong (the stories are great too). I knew that Rankin was popular and successful, but I hadn’t realized that he had US editions of his book until I moved over here while half way through the Rebus series.
Here’s where it gets weird!
You would think that an American edition of a British book would just have the price in dollars instead of pounds – end of story (Ha!). But you’d be wrong because – – – this isn’t a British book; oh no, this is a SCOTTISH book. It’s in a foreign language, so the US publishers paid someone to translate it into proper English! These American editions are completely hilarious. They translate things like ‘city bypass’ to ‘urban freeway’, yet blithely ignore much more problematical things like ‘wee bampot’. Of course no-one in Scotland would say ‘urban freeway’ and most Americans could make a reasonable guess at ‘city bypass’, so I’m left puzzled though amused.
All this must have a point, I here you ask –
The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap is being translated into a slew of foreign languages, none of which either of us speak (at the last count, Chinese, Korean, Polish and Portuguese). A friend suggested I should translate it into Scots and that suddenly made the connection to the sad saga of Inspector Rebus. How will we know if ‘urban freeway’ has become ‘city bypass’ or ‘insignificant idiot’ has become ‘wee bampot’?
Publishers – bless their hearts!