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The next magic trick - translating Harry Potter

Because of its length and rules against early release, it will be awhile before the sixth book is available in other languages.

Associated Press
Published July 27, 2005


NEW YORK - Check out the front window of Manhattan's Libreria Lectorum, one of the nation's largest Spanish-language bookstores, and you'll see a witch's hat and a handful of copies of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - in English.

While millions have already finished the sixth book in J.K. Rowling's fantasy series, fans hoping to read it in other languages will have to wait. Translating a 672-page book is a long process, made longer by the strict security imposed on Half-Blood Prince by Rowling and her publishers: Translators didn't get to see the book until it officially came out, July 16.

"The Spanish publisher (Salamandra Editorial, based in Barcelona) is just getting started and told us that the translation will probably be ready in the spring of 2006," says Marjorie Samper, product manager of Lectorum Publications, a Spanish-language book distributor that oversees the Lectorum store and is in turn owned by Scholastic Inc., Rowling's U.S. publisher.

The Potter books are enormously popular throughout the world and have been translated into dozens of languages, with German and Japanese editions doing especially well. But Neil Blair, a representative from Rowling's literary agency, said that the first translations of any kind for Half-Blood Prince - German and Mandarin so far - aren't expected until the fall.

With the Hispanic population topping 35-million in the United States, the book industry is well aware of the Spanish-language market, by far the biggest non-English market in the country.

"We've consistently seen double-digit growth for the last number of years," says Randi Sonenshein, Borders' category manager for books in Spanish. She said demand was high for books originally published in Spanish, such as the novels of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and for books in translation, such as the works of Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown.

But getting translations into stores is often frustrating - sometimes hurried, sometimes slow. A number of factors can interfere: delays in getting the manuscript to translators; the intricacies of translation, especially for literary fiction; and a reluctance even to commit to a Spanish edition until the English work has proved successful.

If the expected audience is big, publishers will hurry the Spanish version. The translation of former President Clinton's My Life came out within a few weeks of the English edition, which itself was accelerated for an early summer release. This fall, Alfred A. Knopf and Vintage Espanol will publish simultaneous editions of Dr. Andrew Weil's Healthy Aging.

"The idea of integrated medicine is something that is appealing to Hispanics," Alberti says. "We really expedited this book. It's like when you order a new passport. It can take two months, but if you work a little extra, it can be done in one month."

[Last modified July 27, 2005, 01:03:14]


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