Interview with the translator

  August 27, 2003 at 1:10 PM ET
  grae     Wizard News (via Radio Prague)

You might say the Medek brothers Vladimir and Pavel have a great job: translating the Harry Potter novels into Czech. They've developed a system where each brother translates every other book, and now the task of translating Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has fallen on Pavel.

Here are some excerpts from an interviewopens in new window Pavel did for Radio Prague.

You yourself translated the third book in the series - 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' - it's one of the favourites when you look at some of the bookseller sites on the internet.

"Well, maybe the reason is that the third book is an adventurous story, it's almost, I would say, a thriller. I have the same experience because I have a lot of friends and acquaintances who say that the third book is really the best."

If I recall correctly, it's been some time, there was also quite a cathartic moment because there's the Hippogriff, known as Buckbeak, who is supposed to be executed but is saved by magic. How did you translate the name of this animal in the Czech edition?

"In the Czech edition his name is Klofan." {laughs}

This is something that I think will interest very many of our listeners and that is the sort of play of language, the game with language. Everybody today knows the names from 'Harry Potter', the settings. Could you just recall a couple of these names to show how the language is playful?

"Most of these basic names came from the first and second book and that means that my brother had the task of finding good equivalents. The Hogwarts houses: there we have Gryffindor, which in Czech is Nebelvir, Slytherin is Zmijozel, Hufflepuff is Mrzimor, and Ravenclaw is Havraspar, for instance."

Let me ask you this - the Harry Potter world - it's full of magic, wizards, strange creatures. Is there an equivalent, an analogue in Czech storytelling, in children's writing here?

"I can't really recall any book like this in Czech literature, but then I can't think of an equivalent in any language among any other writers. I think 'Harry Potter' is in a category by itself."


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