Wednesday, July 25, 2007

When Is Translation a Bad Idea?

Julia Alvarez's novel about the Mirabel sisters has the mildly haunting title In the Time of the Butterflies. The title is beautiful in the Spanish edition as well: En el tiempo de las mariposas.

Someone donated a German translation to my library.

The title? Die Zeit der Schmetterlinge.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Good-bye, Harry Potter

In fewer than five hours, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will officially be available in bookstores. One of my oldest friends is actually going to his local Borders at midnight to buy his copy then. Regarding Harry Potter, I feel the same way I do during baseball season or Super Bowl weekend: like an atheist in Mexico during Semana Santa, surrounded by the devotees of a god in which I do not believe. Frankly, I have watched far too much bad television science fiction and read far too many shallow detective novels to begrudge anyone their guilty pleasures. If reading Harry Potter makes life in George Bush's America slightly more tolerable, by all means, be at your local Borders at the stroke of midnight.

But I'm tired of Harry Potter. For the past few weeks, it's been all-Harry-all-the-time. I have been unable to read The New York Times or The Boston Globe, listen to NPR, or even glance at a newsstand magazine rack without being reminded of Pottermania. And I am baffled at the invocation of the Potter phenomenon to justify our fears or ease our anxieties. It's been argued that Harry Potter has saved reading and maintained that Harry Potter is further evidence of the power of marketing and the boundless mass appetite for homogeneous crap. The Boy Who Lived has even provided an outlet for the rampant paranoia of conservative Christians, who think he's a tool of Satan. Meanwhile a bishop in the irreligious UK thinks Harry Potter can be a tool for teaching Christian values. Everyone seems to be expecting quite a lot of one little guy who doesn't even exist.

But this will all, thankfully, soon be behind us. And while everyone else is devouring their copies of the last Harry Potter this weekend, I will be finishing Shameful Flight: The Last Years of the British Empire in India. I've heard one of the major characters dies (Mountbatten? Churchill? Nehru?). I'm nowhere finishing it, so if you know how it ends, don't spoil it for me.

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