Harry Potter and the Pirate Czech Translation

03-08-2005

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the 6th instalment of JK Rowling's hugely successful series, has now been out for almost three weeks, and in Prague, as elsewhere, fans lined up in droves to get their hands on a copy. But, once again, Czech fans were divided over those able to read the English original and those who would have to wait for the official Czech translation. Jan Velinger reports on how some fans have coped.

For Czech-speaking fans of Harry Potter it can't be easy: watching the release of the new Harry Potter knowing it will be months before the official Czech version comes out. In the Czech Republic the Harry Potter books have been very successful; but even the translators the Medek brothers are only "Muggles", who can't churn out a translation overnight.

Not surprisingly, then, here, as in Germany and China - it was only a matter of time before a pirate translation appeared, translated by groups of fans anxious to pass on the latest on the teenage wizard in Czech. Under the circumstances the Czech publisher, Albatros, was forced to threaten legal action, and the pirate translation has since been yanked. Albatros' Patrik Salamon:

"We understand fans' anxiousness and enthusiasm. But, it's obvious that author and ownership rights have to be upheld, and we can't just stand passively by. We consulted the case with lawyers and in such cases are prepared to firmly protect our product. Since the pirate copy was pulled it is no longer an issue."

It's no secret pirate translations cost foreign publishers more than a few "knuts" and "galleons" in lost revenues. But, many fans feel that, in the Czech Republic at least, even pirate copies shouldn't hurt sales. Even Albatros admits that those Czechs who managed to print out unwieldy pirate copies of the 'Half-Blood Prince' - risking mistakes & mistranslations - will go on to buy the Czech originals. That opinion is backed by one of the official translators, Pavel Medek, at work on Book Six.

"I don't fear that it will endanger the official translation, that's my opinion. Because it's something else to have a nicely edited book, rather than just a few pages off the computer! So, I think every real fan will buy the book anyway."

The 6th book, readers have learned, has major surprises in store, and its dramatic ending will resonate among fans for some time. Even translator Pavel Medek told me he was shocked by turns 'The Half-Blood Prince' takes, the darkest in the series so far.

"I must admit that I was shocked. It's rather dark, and [Harry's] adventures take a turn for the worse. But, I'm sure it's only a preparation for the grand finale in the 7th and last instalment."

No news on when the official Czech version will come out, but of course it will be some time yet.

03-08-2005