Collaborative Translation of Dan Brown’s “The Lost Symbol
Source: http://renatobeninatto.blogspot.com/ by Renato Beninatto
On September 15, Dan Brown’s latest book, The Lost Symbol, was launched with much fanfare in the United States and around the world. Because of the secrecy involved with the contents of the book, no advance copies were released to foreign publishers so that they could have it translated and launched at the same time in their markets.
As reported here, Swedish publishers decided to assign the job to multiple translators in order to limit piracy and to prevent impatient fans from buying the English version of the book, by expediting the publishing of the Swedish translation.Well… they did it. On October 21, 2009 — only 36 days after the launch of the English version of the book — Albert Bonniers Förlag released the book in Swedish. In that period, they were able to translate, edit, format, print, and distribute 300,000 copies of a 614-page book.
And how did they do it? This article in Swedish (I read it using Google Translate) narrates the details of the adventure. But for our purposes, what matters is that seven translators worked on this project. Their names are Leo Andersson, Tove Janson Borglund, Ola Klingberg, Lennart Olofsson, Peter Samuelsson, Gösta Svenn, Helena Sjöstrand Sven. From what I could see in AdLibris, the Swedish online bookstore, all of them are very experienced translators.
As one review says: “Another positive aspect: the translation is actually quite okay. Even here, I have put a sadly, because it would have been preferable if the insane circumstances surrounding the translation into Swedish – seven translators, a few mere weeks – had left its mark in the text.”
What do I think about this? I think that this must have been a very exciting project, as it epitomizes the power of collaboration.
The publisher needed to have the book out fast (I saw the English version of the book exhibited very prominently at the Stockholm airport both times I was there before the launch of the Swedish version) in order not to lose 150,000 sales as the publisher of Harry Potter did because of delayed translations. Time-to-market was the critical element in protecting its investment and maximizing its return.
And before you say the Q word, I actually believe that several translators working together might deliver better quality than one working alone.