‘HARRY POTTER’, THE LAST SPELL CAST?: CRITICAL REFLECTIONS, JULY 2007

I have posted, on my site at:
http://yatrarollason.info/files/HarryPotter2007.pdf,
the full text of a 3-page article entitled:
‘HARRY POTTER’, THE LAST SPELL CAST?: CRITICAL REFLECTIONS, JULY 2007
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EXTRACT (1)
**

After ten years and 3407 pages, with the worldwide release of "Harry Potter
and the Deathly Hallows" on 21 July 2007 the saga is at last complete, the
last spell is cast, and fans and critics alike can now, dragon-like, get
their teeth into the flesh of the seven-novel series without fearing J.K.
Rowling will catch them out with new material that might magick away their
cherished speculations. The whole phenomenon is unprecedented in the world
of books. The number of people reading the seventh volume simultaneously
across the planet, as if in some huge global meditation, over last week –
and I was one of them – must surely have broken all simultaneous reading
records. The initial print run of 12 million (compared with 1000 for the
first book) was more than the population of Portugal, Joanne Rowling’s
onetime country of residence; the combined worldwide sales of the first six
volumes, even before Deathly Hallows came out, were reported to be 325
million, or one and one-fifth times the entire population of the USA. (…)
Much has been said already about the Potter books that has become cliché
and yet remains true, above all about how they have unexpectedly and
triumphantly rekindled interest in the written word in today’s media-savvy
kids, but from now on something has changed to put the discussion on more
solid foundations: we can at last meaningfully speak of something called
Harry Potter, in other words, the whole chronologically evolving series of
seven novels whose sequence J.K. Rowling had mapped out for herself before
the first volume ever saw print. This article looks briefly at what we can
now call Harry Potter, from a number of specifically literary and critical
perspectives, including translation, genre and intertextuality, and with
particular reference where relevant to the new, final volume.

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EXTRACT (2) ON TRANSLATION AND "HARRY POTTER"
**
Harry Potter, in many ways a very British creation with its boarding school
complete with house system and its culinary Englishness, has paradoxically
become an international phenomenon. The boy wizard’s adventures have been
translated – or at least one of the volumes has – into (on my count) 62
languages, including Galician, Greenlandic, West Frisian, Khmer, Marathi,
Malayalam, Afrikaans and some like Latin and Ancient Greek that are
normally considered dead – not to mention the ‘localised’ American English
versions (and similar dual versions for Chinese and Portuguese). Replete
with invented words and names, the books pose their translators a
formidable challenge, and indeed starkly epitomise the traditional dilemma
of the translator, caught again and again along the decision-making chain
between the Scylla of domestication and the Charybdis of foreignisation (do
I translate ‘Crumpled-Horned Snorkack’ or keep it in English?). The very
title of the new volume will cause translators headaches worldwide (in
French ‘the Deathly Hallows’ will be the rather less arcane and archaic
‘les Reliques de la Mort’). The Potter books point up the importance of
translation, yet at the same time are also a curious case of what in
certain circumstances can only be called its redundancy. Living in one
mainland European country and working across the border in another, last
week in both countries I saw vast piles of Deathly Hallows in bookshops and
stationers – in the original, by definition, and obviously by no means
destined only for Anglophone expatriates. It is clear that there are Potter
readers, children and adults, worldwide who have been making translation
redundant, at least for themselves, by snapping up the English version as
soon as it comes out, preferring to struggle through a foreign-language
text to find out what happens to Harry, rather than wait a couple of months
for the translation. One also wonders how much these books by a former
teacher of English to non-native students have done, and will do, for the
teaching, learning and understanding of the English language around the
globe.

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