Monica Perez

Speaking Time and Room No.: 2006-9-23 11:00-12?30 Room I

Speaker: Mónica Domínguez Pérez (Spain)



Mónica Domínguez Pérez

University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain)

When two literatures share at least part of their readers with each other, one literature is usually culturally more powerful. This power structure reveals itself in numerous ways, but also may be evident when publishers translate the same books into two or more languages for the same cultural group. The case of indirect translations (Mónica Domínguez 2006) is known, in which translation to a central literature serves as a starting text for translation to a peripheral literature. The first of these translations, thus, can transmit to the second any linguistic, structural, poetological, ideological, or other modifications that may have occurred.

At other times, translation to the peripheral literature is carried out from the first text of origin, but a prior translation published in the central literature has influence on one or more aspects. The same does not occur in the reverse; that is, with the peripheral literature influencing the central literature, since translations of each work are usually done into the central literatures prior to the adjacent peripheral literatures. This is because they have greater productive energy; that is, they publish many more works and have the necessary resources (economic, human, technological…) for greater freedom of choice.

Thus, translators to the peripheral literatures have access to earlier translations of the same work made in the central literature, not merely using them as a “bridge” or single source for indirect translations. They can also be used as a support, almost as a consulting source that influences some aspects of translation, but not all. A translator does not always turn to a single intermediary; rather, several can be used as supports for various aspects of translation or for the same. Thus, for example, Lorenzo (2003a: 108) points out that in translations to Galician it is common to turn frequently to the texts in Spanish and Portuguese as a support for the process of translation. It is recognised in some cases, as in the paratext of O testamento do tío Nacho (Garriga 1982: 12) (Uncle Nacho’s Will):

Also taken into consideration were some details of the Spanish version published in the same collection destined for this language, especially with regard to the names of some characters in order for them to be considered more acceptable for Galicians (N. of T.).

Occasionally the support version is used for practical reasons, such as lack of time (Pilar Vilaboi 1997: 404), since consulting a translation in a similar language facilitates the task of the translator.

In bilingual societies (at least with bilingual readers) the success of a translation in one of the languages of the society may be a condition for the process of translation to the other language, although it is done directly from the original. We may call this phenomenon derivative translation, since the new version must take into account certain traces of the previous one. Consumers who know and have accepted the first of the translations, although as indirect readers, associate the work with some specific images, names, models, etc.; that is, with a certain version of the work. Therefore, they will be more apt to accept another version that respects these images, names and models, while they may reject a version that is completely different (Oittinen 2000: 99). Let us recall, in order to understand this case better, the reactions of Prous’s grandmother (Bassnett and Lefevere 1990: 1), who discredited a new version of Thousand and One Nights because it did not keep the same spelling of names that she knew. It is not infrequent for the same consumers to read both translations, and for that reason, some publishers in bilingual societies consider it necessary to keep a version close to one that has triumphed in the same society. This involves dependence of the intermediary literature (although it may only be as supporting text), interference, and a refusal to develop their own models that may enter into open competition with those of the adjacent literature. As a counterpart, this favours the acceptance of the new translation and certainly guarantees minimum levels of sales.

An example of this phenomenon can be found in translations of the Harry Potter series to Galician, the language belonging to northwestern Spain and coexisting with Castilian Spanish. Galician children’s literature has developed considerably in the past years, but its position continues to be peripheral if we compare it with that of Castilian Spanish literature. This peripheral position is especially evident in translations of works created outside of the Spanish environment. Since the translations to Galician are much fewer in number, they are published after the corresponding Castilian Spanish versions and occasionally, although with decreasing frequency, use the central literature as a bridge translation.

Thus, the translations of the Harry Potter series to Galician were done from the original English text, but some years later than the Castilian Spanish versions. When the Galician translations were published, many readers of this system had already read the texts in Spanish, which enjoyed great success. Thus, many characters and peculiarities of the fictional world of the series were already known by specific names. These same names were printed on many commercial products based on the Harry Potter series: films, games, stickers, disguises, and folders... In order to be able to market these products with the same names in the entire nation of Spain, the Warner Company, holder of the rights to names and characters, imposed the condition that no word that maintained its original form in the Castilian Spanish translation of first issue would be translated into Galician. This affected not only names of people and places, susceptible to translation due to their meanings and connotations, but also to cultural manifestations such as coins (“sicle”), holidays (“Halloween”), etc. In this way, the multinational company ensures quick identification by all consumers in the nation of products that carry these names. The motivations in this case are purely commercial and are not only pertinent to the sale of books, but to the many other products related to the characters of the series absorbed into the daily life of children. The consequences, however, affect the literature and even the Galician literary system, since it does not allow creation of new models or harmonisation of personifications of characters through their names.

I will not describe this case in detail, because Marilar Aleixandre (in press, b), translator of the first volume of the series into Galician, has already done so. What is of interest here is to analyse the case as an example of derivative translation, in which the decisions made based on the central literature are imposed on the peripheral literature. The imposition here is categorical; it is true editorial censorship (Aleixandre in press, b), although in other cases it may be a result of the translator not wishing to change a more or less established tradition. Aleixandre (in press, a) also points out the fact that the first translation of Harry Potter into Castilian Spanish, which acts as a pattern for Galician, was denounced by critics due to certain solutions reflecting scant attention to the translation process. However, literary criteria are not imposed here, but rather commercial criteria reflecting economic and power relationships among various cultures: translation of the central literature is imposed, whether accepted or not by a minority of specialised critics.

The Warner company supports a double cultural domination: that of the Castilian Spanish culture, the version of which must be used as a supporting text for Galician translation, and that of the Anglo-Saxon culture, which is transmitted through un-translated names. In the first volume of the series, these circumstances affected only the Galician translation, given that Basque and Catalonian were published simultaneously to the Castilian Spanish version (when the Warner company had not yet purchased the rights).

For this reason, the time factor is very important in societies with a significant number of bilingual readers (González-Millán 1994: 71). If the marginal literature “implants” the translation of a certain work before the adjacent polysystem, it favours its own independence, prestige and a greater incidence of sales. It may even gain readers who would have turned to the other language for translations. In “Conclusions of the 1st Catalonian Day on Books for Children” (1981) the following warning appears:

e) Recommending to publishers in Catalonian countries that they publish the same books in Castilian Spanish and Catalonian, and that publishing each new Catalonian edition be timed after purchases in Spanish, would have the same result as never publishing in Catalonian at all. (Fernando Cendán 1986: 341).

The reality, however, is that translation of the central literature does tend to be published simultaneously or prior to the translations of peripheral cultures. For example, in the Harry Potter series, no more than four volumes have been published in Galician of the six published in Spanish (see primary bibliography), although at least the Galician translation of the fifth volume had already been completed some time ago. (Xabier Cid, in press). Again, commercial interests affect the relationships between adjacent literatures, so that the more powerful polysystem, also in economic terms, intervenes in the peripheral system, imposing timing of publication and conditions that affect the actual words of the texts.

Derivative translation also takes place within a literary tradition, so that the translations of texts that were already disseminated in the same polysystem tend to take into account the previous versions (Javier Franco 1997: 38). Here we are interested, however, in the cases in which this phenomenon reflects asymmetrical relationships between adjacent literatures.

As in certain types of indirect translation, in derivative translation it is not customary to explicitly recognise the use of bridge texts. Therefore, in both situations, the identification of the immediate sources of each translation is not a simple task, except in cases of adaptation in which the modifications have an effect on the argument or at a structural level. Recognition demands, therefore, laborious contrastive work between the different translations of a single work, especially if one wishes to specify for which aspects each version was considered. Perhaps this explains why there are so few studies on indirect translation and derivative translation, despite the fact that some theorists have pointed out the necessity of studying the first phenomenon (?urišin 1995: 80).

In conclusion, the case of translations of the Harry Potter series into Galician may be pointed out as an extreme example, but not isolated, of derivative translation. In this case, submission to the Castilian Spanish text is due to editorial and commercial imperatives, thus making explicit the power relationships that on many other occasions remain hidden and operate in a more subtle manner. The study of derivative translations is, beyond certain more or less evident cases such as that presented, difficult and extremely laborious, but allows evidence of the power relationships that affect much broader sectors of the literature, cultures and societies involved.


Garriga, Mª Àngels (1982). O testamento do tío Nacho. Translation by Xoán Babarro. Cuadernos da escola dramática galega: 30.

Rowling, Joanne K. (1999). Potter e a cámara dos segredos (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets). Translation by Adolfo Muñoz and Nieves Martín. Barcelona: Salamandra.

Rowling, Joanne K. (1999). Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal. (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone) Translation by Alicia Dellepiane. Barcelona: Salamandra.

Rowling, Joanne K. (2000). Harry Potter e o preso de Azkaban (Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban) . Translation by Adolfo Muñoz. Barcelona: Salamandra.

Rowling, Joanne K. (2002). Harry Potter e a pedra filosofal. Translation by Marilar Aleixandre. Vigo: Galaxia/Barcelona: Salamandra.

Rowling, Joanne K. (2002). Harry Potter and el cáliz de fuego. (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) Translation by Adolfo Muñoz and Nieves Martín. Barcelona: Salamandra.

Rowling, Joanne K. (2003). Harry Potter e a cámara dos segredos. Translation by Eva Mª Almazán. Vigo: Galaxia.

Rowling, Joanne K. (2004). Harry Potter e o preso of Azkaban. Translation by Rosetta. Vigo: Galaxia.

Rowling, Joanne K. (2004). Harry Potter and la orden del Fénix. (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) Translation by Gemma Rovira. Barcelona: Salamandra.

Rowling, Joanne K. (2005). Harry Potter e o cáliz of fogo. Translation by Eva Mª Almazán. Vigo: Galaxia.

Rowling, Joanne K. (2006). Harry Potter y el misterio del príncipe. (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) Translation by Gemma Rovira. Barcelona: Salamandra.


Aleixandre, Marilar (in press, a). “De Carroll a Harry Potter guiada por un mapa en branco: traducción e creación de literatura infantil e xuvenil”. (“From Carroll to Harry Potter guided by a blank map: translation and creation of children’s and juvenile literature.”) Documents of the 1st International Congress “Translation and Editorial Policy on Children’s and Juvenile Literature in Galicia,” Vigo, 18-20 Dec. 2004.

Aleixandre, Marilar (in press, b) “Samaín versus Halloween, cultura e mercancías: nomes na traducción de Harry Potter.” (“Samaín versus Halloween, culture and merchandise: names in the translation of Harry Potter.”) Documents of the Galician Congress on Place Names, Santiago de Compostela, 2-4 sep. 2002.

Bassnett, Susan, and André Lefevere (1990). “Introduction: Proust’s Grandmother and the Thousand and One Nights: The ‘Cultural Turn’ in Translation Studies.” In S. Bassnett and A. Lefevere (eds.), Translation, History and Culture. London/New York: Pinter Publishers, 1-13.

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Cid, Xabier (in press). “De Harry Potter á Carteira de Baíñas. ¿É Harry Potter unha obra clave la literatura infantil e xuvenil galega?” (“From Harry Potter to Carteira de Baíñas. ¿Is Harry Potter a key work Galician Children’s and Juvenile Literature?”) Documents of the 1st International Congress “Translation and Editorial Policy on Children’s and Juvenile Literature in Galicia,” Vigo, 18-20 Dec. 2004.

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Oittinen, Riitta (2000). Translating for Children. New York: Garland.

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