A Week in Books

So what's the French for 'muggle', then?
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The Independent Culture

Spare a thought for the epic labours of Jean-François Ménard. The poor guy has been living a "monastic life", but is coming to the end of an "astonishing marathon". He hopes to finish by the end of the month, and hundreds of thousands of French fans will be agog to witness the final outcome.

Spare a thought for the epic labours of Jean-François Ménard. The poor guy has been living a "monastic life", but is coming to the end of an "astonishing marathon". He hopes to finish by the end of the month, and hundreds of thousands of French fans will be agog to witness the final outcome.

So which sport does this dedicated champ practise? Quidditch. M Ménard is the French translator of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. He has kept up a punishing rate of 10 pages per day since July, Le Monde reports, and his Gallimard edition will go on sale in late November. In China, meanwhile, 600,000 copies of the official translation of Potters 1-3 will hit the streets in early October - inevitably, you can already buy a cheap and dodgy pirate version.

Harry's global reach gives one possible answer to a question posed at the Word festival in London next Friday. Is there such a thing as "universality" in literature, or do we read translations precisely because they carry us into an alien realm? Young readers naturally consider themselves citizens of the world; and those who think about the other end of life often find enlightenment in remote spiritual traditions. Perhaps literary insularity belongs in the main to our frantic middle years...

I shall be taking part in this discussion, with some more eminent panellists: French novelists Luc Lang (see review, left) and Marie Darrieussecq; translator Peter France; and Peter Bush, who runs the British Centre for Literary Translation. Come along to the Globe at 4pm on Friday to appreciate our aperçus (without, I hope, many longueurs); or else attend one of the other Word events on Friday and Saturday within the Collins European Conference.

On Friday, Frank Kermode will talk about the Bible; Roy Strong will consider what sets British art apart; and Jonathan Coe comes face-to-face with his Italian, French and Swedish translators. On Saturday, the Italian novelist and dramatist Dacia Maraini discusses translation in theatre with director Declan Donnellan; and the St Jerome lecture of the art of translation will be given by the Triestino writer, Claudio Magris. More details on the entire Collins programme from the Orange festival hotline: 07973 100900/1/2.

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