Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Importance of the Arts.

Oh, scrap that. I had something to say about the relationship between arts and foreign relations, but I think I'll save it for a day that's less... less... less of a Sunday, you know?

But I will say this: Isn't it highly ridiculous in this era of Globalization for a book to have different titles in different countries that speak the same language? Take Margaret MacMillan's new tome Nixon in China: The Week that Changed the World. Over here in England, it is called Seize the Hour: When Nixon Met Mao. I just read a review of it in The Sunday Times and felt completely thrown off when I got to the sentence, "Margaret MacMillan is famous for Peacemakers [The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and Its Attempt to End War], her study of the 1919 Versailles conference..." What? You mean Paris 1919: Six Months That Changed the World, surely.

Why confuse people this way? Perhaps the Brits need less of an excuse to read history books, whereas North Americans in the bookstore think, "Versailles? Meh... I'm not interested... WAIT! This event changed the world? The entire world!?! I've got to read that!"

Meanwhile, the Brits are all, "Oooh! The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 and Its Attempt to End War! Hand over that hardcover immediately! I must read more about this failed attempt to change the world!"

3 comments:

David said...

Well, but isn't there something to the fact that despite the common language the two countries (or three countries, if you will) don't share quite the same common culture? For instance, if you described something to a British chum as a "Nixon-goes-to-China" moment, would he or she understand the subtextual "only Nixon could go to China" element? I'm not sure how that stacks up in this particular instance; but in general it doesn't seem outrageous that countries with a common language nevertheless lack a common culture.

Unless you're arguing for a common culture!

Matthew said...

I read an article in The Star ideas section over the summer about the economics and politics of titling books in the publishing industry.

For example, the North American title of MacMillan's Versailles book was Paris 1919 because apparently anything with the word 'Paris' in the title sells very well in the United States. Who knew?

Another, American-England title variance that comes to mind is the first Harry Potter book. It was the Philosopher's Stone in England, but the Sorcerer's Stone in America.

Andrew said...

Damn it, Matthew, you beat me to my comment on Harry Potter... :)

In a bid to offer something unique, I love how TV show titles are translated between English and other languages.

Suddenly Susan became, "And Now, Susan!", except it read like "and now, Susan..." when translated into Polish.