Eventually, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
After comparing the first chapter, both Polish and English versions, we may come to some conclusions. Certainly, the translation differs in many aspects from the original. The first thing that I drew my attention to is the translation of the names of protagonists and the title ‘Harry Potter’ that remained unchanged. For instance, the name Wormtail was translated as ‘Glizdogon’, ‘The Riddles’ as ‘Riddleye’ and ‘the Muggles’ as ‘Mugole’. I think that it is easier for the Polish readers to pronounce the changed names instead of the original ones. However, the title ‘Harry Potter’ was not translated and I think that if it was, it would not be accepted by the public. People are used to the English title and it is so widely used that it would be probably impossible to make them use some Polish equivalent. On the other hand, Andrzej Polkowski was not really consistent in replacing the English names by Polish ones. He left the name Frank Bryce unchanged, and he translated ‘the Riddle house’ as ‘Dom Riddleyów’ instead of ‘Dom Riddlejów’. Nevertheless, I suppose that because he did not translate the title, he also did not want to change every name into Polish in order not to lessen the text’s authenticity. Andrzej Polkowski simply did not want it to look unnatural, having that much contrasting Polish and English names. Thanks to that he made the text more fluent and easier to accept.
Andrzej Polkowski has not included some phrases or sentences that were present in the text of J. K. Rowling. Some of the missing excerpts had the positive impact on the whole of the reading; however, there were also some fragments that, if not included, diminished the value of the whole paragraph. For example: ‘widziano go, jak przy ładnej pogodzie uwija się wśród grządek’ was the translation of much longer sentence: ‘he could be seen pottering around the flower beds in fine weather, even though the weeds were starting to creep up on him, try as he might to suppress them’. Very similar example is with the omission of the fragment of the sentence in: ‘A slight pause followed, and the Wormtail spoke, the words tumbling from him in a rush, as though he was forcing himself to say this before he lost his nerve’, which was translated as ‘nastąpiła krótka przerwa, a potem Glizdogon znowu przemówił tak, jak gdyby zmuszał się do powiedzenia tego, zanim zawiodą go nerwy’. And although I believe that those two omitted fragments are not of prior importance, they should be translated as they add some poetic value to the text, it is more interesting to read the paragraph with such descriptions as it evokes more feelings than the shortened version and, moreover, it appeals to our imagination. The sentence ‘Brow furrowed, Frank inclined his good ear still closer to the door, listening very hard’ was translated ‘Frank przyłożył swoje lepsze, prawe ucho do drzwi’. The fragment ‘brow furrowed’ was not really necessary, so it was omitted. Here, the translation only simplified the reading, not taking away anything from the original text. The third case, where A. Polkowski did not include the fragment that was present in the version of J. Rowling was the sentence ‘It would be an insult to her memory not to use the information I extracted from her, Wormtail’ which was not translated into Polish at all. I think that here, the whole sentence should not be omitted as it gives some information to the reader and allows to imagine the whole situation better. Because of the fact that there were many fragments missing in the Polish translation of the book, and nothing new was added, the Polish version is much shorter than the English one, which is in some cases better, but in many others, it just takes away many details of the book, which makes it less picturesque than it really was.
In the chapter that I have chosen to analyze, there are a lot of phrases very nicely translated, which make the reading of the book the real pleasure. For example, the phrase ‘with shocked curiosity and ill-disguised excitement’ was translated as ‘lekko zszokowani lecz niezwykle zaciekawieni’. I think that such translation is simple and does not contain any incomprehensible or sophisticated vocabulary and thanks to that it is clear. The other phrase ‘overlooking the village’ was skillfully changed into ‘górując nad wioską’, which also reads good in polish. ‘Barked the cook’ was slightly changed in terms of its meaning into ‘warknęła kucharka’, which word is much more common and popular in Poland, than for example ‘szczeknęła kucharka’, which would not be acceptable. The sentence ‘To everyone’s surprise and amid a cloud of suspicion’ was changed into ‘ku ogólnemu zdziwieniu’, which gives the full meaning of the original sentence, and moreover, is short, easier to read and clearer. What I also found interesting was the phrase ‘there was a nasty feeling about the place’, which was translated as ‘w tym miejscu czuje się nieswojo’. I think that it also contains the full meaning of the original and sounds very polish.
The less fortunately translated fragments are also present in Polkowski’s text. There are both, the translations that do not convey the intended message and those, which just sound strange, because they are not used in polish, or very rarely used. ‘The wealthy man’ was translated as ‘obecny właściciel domu’ which is not very accurate. ‘It sounded timid and fearful’ was changed into ‘brzmiał w nim paniczny strach’. There is also some difference in meaning in this phrase, too, as the polish version is too strongly expressed. The long sentence ‘he groped his way towards it, his nostrils full of the smell of decay, ears pricked for any sound of footsteps or voices from overhead’ was translated ‘wciąż nasłuchiwał jakichkolwiek kroków lub głosów z góry’, which, in my opinion is not as dramatic and as poetic as the original. Moreover, it is devoid of any feelings and only gives us pure facts.
The other interesting aspect that drew my attention was the fact that in Andrzej Polkowski’s translation was milder in a sense that it does not include murders but only ‘magic forces’. For example ‘the report on the Riddles’ bodies was replaced by ‘raport z domu Riddleyów’, ‘if I murder’ was changed into ‘jeśli zaczaruję’ or ‘anyone else has died’ was translated as ‘jeszcze ktoś zniknął’. ‘One more death’ instead of ‘jeszcze jedna śmierć’ was translated as ‘jeszcze jedna przeszkoda’ and ‘one more murder’ as ‘jeszcze jedna klątwa’. It seems to me that Andrzej Polkowski translated those expressions in that way on purpose as it is the book for children and probably he wanted to avoid such strong words so as not to spoil children. Some parents disagreed on allowing their children to read ‘Harry Potter’ because of too many scaring and brutal scenes. Probably Andrzej Polkowski wanted to improve on the original, making the book less cruel and I agree that it is more appropriate for the younger children who read it.
The more Harry Potter
Summing up all the facts that I have given about the translation of Harry Potter
ESEJ ZOSTAŁ ZAPREZENTOWANY PRZEZE MNIE NA KONFERENCJI NAUKOWEJ PT. “Polskie przekłady literatury anglojęzycznej – Polish Translations of Literature in English”. UKAŻE SIĘ ON NIEBAWEM W PUBLIKACJI WYDAWNICTWA UNIWERSYTETU ŁÓDZKIEGO POD TYM SAMYM TYTUŁEM.