Translating the Robert Galbraith books into another language is without a doubt a huge task. Below is a Q&A with the Spanish translator of the Strike books, Gemma Rovira. She has also translated many of J.K. Rowling’s other novels, including the final three Harry Potter books.
What are some of the biggest challenges in translating the Strike books and how long did it take you to translate Troubled Blood?
The main challenge is probably the same as with other books: being true to the author and her intention, and at the same time offering the Spanish readers a text that sounds absolutely natural. More specifically, it is important to maintain the general tone of the original text, as well as the ‘voice’ of the different recurrent characters in the dialogues.
Another challenge is time: I always work with a very tight deadline, and, to make matters worse, the books are getting longer and longer.
I need a glossary to remember all the facts about the characters, references to previous books, etc. Fortunately, when something is missing in my glossary, I can always find the information on your website. The plots of the books are quite complicated, so I have to be very careful not to make mistakes.
Sometimes it is difficult to describe the places (pubs, streets, buildings, underground stations…) with the same attention to detail as in the original books. This forces me to do my best, but it is a part of my job that I really enjoy.
What are some sources and tools useful in translating books?
My basic tools are monolingual and bilingual dictionaries; previous books by the author I’m translating; other books about subjects mentioned in the book; the Internet, of course (blogs, websites, Twitter accounts…).
With the Strike books, for instance, following your profiles is really useful because you provide me with a lot of information along the year: statements by the author, rumours, information about next releases… The books readalongs are another important source of information.
At another level: friends, people I know who are specialists in different subjects (medicine, engineering, law, clothes, architecture, the army… anything!); experience and memories; travelling; films, TV shows… (the Strike TV series helps me imagine the environments and the characters); reading in my own language; being in touch with young people to keep up to date with new vocabulary (in my own language); the author, when they are available and I can ask them questions about the text.
You also translated some of the Harry Potter books. Talk about that.
I started with book 5, so I translated HP and the Order of the Phoenix, HP and the Half-Blood Prince and HP and The Deathly Hallows. Then came The Cursed Child and also the scripts of the films (Fantastic Animals and Where to Find Them and The Crimes of Grindelwald). I have also translated the new children’s stories by J.K. Rowling, The Ickabog and The Christmas Pig.
The biggest challenge with the HP books was that I entered the project when the series was already very successful. There were lots of fans all around the world who read the books in Spanish and I was under quite a lot of pressure. I was not sure if I would be up to the task! Most importantly, I wanted to keep the ‘voice’ of the previous books so that the readers didn’t realize there had been a change of translator; and of course, there were hundreds of invented words I had to keep (and more that I had to invent myself, which was far more entertaining).
It was amazing to be involved in such a beautiful project. The series has probably been my greatest school as a translator.
What moments/chapters in Troubled Blood really stood out to you? Have you got a favourite Strike book so far?
My favourite Strike book is always the last one (I guess this is due to a subjective perception: I tend to fall in love with the book I’m translating).
As for Troubled Blood, my favourite chapter is the one in which the identity of the killer is revealed, or at least ‘hinted’ for the first time. I won’t say the number of the chapter…
My other ‘best moment’ is probably the end of chapter 58, when Barclay arrives at the office and finds Robin and Strike there. And the transition to chapter 59, where Robin reveals the truth about Morris.
You can follow Gemma on her Twitter account here: @RoviraOrtega
The Strike books are published in Spain by Salamandra. The fifth novel in the series, Sangre Turbia, is out now.