Who knew the world of translation was so exciting?

What a fascinating look into the seedy underworld of rogue translation. It’s like if James Bond were reedy and pastyfaced and possibly had a sinus cavity condition that forced him to sniff after every sentence.

Close-up view of computer keyboard with national flags of world countries on keys and translate button

What Defert and Delporte describe is one publishing house’s attempt to solve an age-old problem. For as long as our modern notions of copyright have existed, publishers have attempted to slay the multi-headed beast of leaks and outlaw translations, which can be financially disastrous for highly-anticipated new releases. Brown’s Italian publisher, Mondadori, devised an intricate solution entailing collaboration with the American publisher Doubleday to fix a global release date with simultaneous publications in English, French, German, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, and Catalan. Eleven translators, under strict confidentiality, worked long hours over the course of two months in an underground bunker in Milan. Brown’s manuscript, along with the drafts of the translations, never ventured outside the room or the watchful eyes of the armed guards. Comings and goings were recorded diligently and access to the internet was restricted to a single computer provided for double checking vocabulary. The translators were advised to keep a low profile when outside and to have an alibi for being in Italy, as journalists were reportedly attempting to track down scoops on the novel. These harsh conditions proved successful for the publishers who, in May 2013, released the book simultaneously in dozens of national markets. 

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