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Asterix: Interview with Anthea Bell about the translations

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UK Correspondent
#1 · Posted: 27 Jun 2006 19:19
Don't think this has been mentioned before, but there's an interesting workshop from the British Council Arts about literary translation, including a section written by Anthea Bell devoted to the Asterix translations.

The article raises a few interesting points such as a suggested revision of the translations and alterations made to the artwork (only one), and an extensive section on translating the puns and accents.
#2 · Posted: 27 Jun 2006 19:45
As a translator and Asterix aficionado, I thank you for bringing this to my attention! I haven't read the whole article yet, but I look forward to it. Asterix poses a clear translation problem not only through its puns, but also the visual gags that appear, often in the mock-hyeroglyphic dialogue of the Egyptian characters. I have often thought that if I were to translate the name of the Egyptian Courdetenis, who appears in Asterix Legionnaire, I would make it Anyonefortennis.
#3 · Posted: 28 Jun 2006 09:53
I were to translate the name of the Egyptian Courdetenis, who appears in Asterix Legionnaire, I would make it Anyonefortennis.

Or Lawntennis, perhaps? I don’t know what they used in the books, but I do remember MT&LL-T saying that the number of characters in a balloon is of paramount importance, and I suppose a shorter name makes it easier to get more words in (sorry, this is drifting off topic…!)

I look forward to reading the article…
UK Correspondent
#4 · Posted: 28 Jun 2006 10:17
I don’t know what they used in the books

They called him Ptenisnet - he was a great character.

Back on topic again, I wonder when the proposed revisions were to occur - perhaps before the recent reprints with the new colouring, inking and lettering? From what the article suggests, the main issue of contention was Getafix's name.
#5 · Posted: 28 Jun 2006 11:47
Thanks, Richard; I quite like Ptenisnet!

Meanwhile, back at the article, I note an error in AB’s assertion that the English translations started with their first book in 1969 - we had already had the Beric the Briton incarnation in the Ranger.
#6 · Posted: 31 Dec 2009 12:33
Order of the British Empire, OBE - Ms Anthea Bell. For services to Literature and to Literary Translations. (Histon, Cambridgeshire)

Actually, I'm quite surprised she's not been recognised before as she's often cited as one of the great translators (even outside of Asterix).

#7 · Posted: 6 Jan 2010 18:17
she's often cited as one of the great translators

Just found an interesting commendation for the translations in a recent British edition of The Reader’s Digest, June 2009 (available in doctors’ and dentists’ waiting rooms the length and breadth of the U.K. by now…).

There is a profile of the favourite books of Peter Florence, director of the Hay Festival, a large annual literary festival, attracting 75,000 visitors, and just one of several he runs in seven countries around the globe, so he’s quite a knowledgeable and distinguished figure.

He chooses Asterix in Britain as one of them, and says that the Asterix series is actually “much funnier in English than in French”. So there is agreement for your position, George!
#8 · Posted: 31 May 2010 21:11
Other translations:
German name : Tennisplatzis
Dutch name : Tennis
Spanish name : Campodetenis
Portugese name : Cortedeténis

Ptenisnet is the only one that actually seems Egyptian to me. With the additional bonus that it is reminiscent of the well-known supplier of quills, Pen Island.
#9 · Posted: 27 Sep 2018 19:03
I note an error in AB's assertion that the English translations started with their first book in 1969 - we had already had the Beric the Briton incarnation in the Ranger.

This is old, but I've been today to the Astérix in Britain: The Life and Work of René Goscinny exhibition, running at the Jewish Museum in Camden, London (and closing next week).
Exactly the same assertion was made, even with copies of both Valiant and Ranger on display in English.
The wording wasn't consistent between the information panels, but the point that seems to be the important one is that the 1969 translations were "official", and the earlier ones "unofficial".
I'm not sure how true this actually is, as I think there may be more to it than that; both Valiant and Ranger are titles from reputable publishers, so the suggestion that they just ripped off the work, and slapped their own translations on, willy-nilly, isn't exactly credible.
However, reading between the lines, I think I may have an idea for what lies behind this.
We know from the information supplied by Amilah here that the original German translation was problematic for Goscinny and Uderzo, when they discovered that it was being used in a Far Right publication from a neo-Nazi group. This apparently happened because the French publisher was granting foreign rights to the stories through intermediaries, without watching what they were doing.
My guess is that that is what happened in English too - and may have been why the strips were "localized" from their Gaulish setting. In making sure that the German publisher was stopped, G&U may have either shown that the publisher didn't actually have the authority to sell foreign rights, or insisted on having approval for future translations. Hence why the "official", "authorized" translations start in 1969.
#10 · Posted: 20 Oct 2021 15:04
I translated an Asterix album....
I am blowing my own trumpet- giving myself a pat on the back

Together with Tintin, Asterix is one of the most popular icons in this part of the world (India) - we eagerly await to devour each new album.
But in the past 2-3 years, two albums have been published which unfortunately have not had an English translation.
The first was Le Secret de la Potion Magique, an album based on the movie of the same name. The other was Le Menhir D'Or
Neither is a comic strip; they are illustrated albums (sort of like Tintin and Lake of Sharks).
I wrote and wrote to the publishers, and pleaded and pleaded to make an English version possible - but to no avail!
So I decided to take up the task of personally translating them.
My problem is, I don't know a word of French!

So with the help of Google translate and internet translation tools, I started on this labour - and slowly, steadily, translated the entire album... Le Secret de la Potion Magique became The Secret of the Magic Potion.

Once I finished translating it, a thought arose - of why not superimpose the translated text on to the French text. But I am a dork as far as such finer digital techniques are concerned. And thus entered my friend, collaborator, conspirator - Vishnukanth - a fellow Franco-Belgian addict, and he took on the task of "designing the English album".
In December 2020 we finished the project and submitted the same to Editions Albert-René, requesting them to do what they feel wise and proper with the English translated text.
We both affirmed and promised that we would not violate any copyright laws, and that save for Vishnu and myself - no other has read this album.
We got a reply congratulating us on our effort from Editions Albert-René, but as of now no positive news on whether the English edition may actually hit the market.
And while we are waiting for news on that front - we've now started the translation of Le Menhir D'or as The Golden Menhir.
Just thought of sharing this over here.
I ask that there be no queries about whether it's possible to read the product - we respect copyright, and until and unless Editions Albert-René give us a green signal - sorry we cannot share it!

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