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The Translation of Heidi [ADIBF 2010]

Over the next day and a half, while everyone watching basketball I’m going to repost a number of the things that I wrote for the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. The ADIBF is the premiere professional fair for the Arab world, thanks in part to an arrangement with the Frankfurt Book Fair. Everyone involved with the ADIBF is amazing, and the events, opportunities, meetings, etc., are all really interesting. And being able to see Abu Dhabi and Dubai is fascinating in and of itself.

This post was written for the amusement of a small handful of people. It’s pretty much insider baseball, and hardly about books. Enjoy!

Although I think about Heidi quite a bit, I have to admit that to prep for this event I visited Wikipedia to refresh my memory of the actual story. I know a lot about Heidi, but didn’t know that there’s an asteroid named after her. Or that NBC cut off part of the Super Bowl in 1968 to show the scheduled airing of a new made-for-TV version of Heidi. (That’s a decision that I can get on board with. Especially since Raiders fans missed their team’s big comeback. No wonder y’all are so bitter.) That the story has been adapted more than 20 times, including a 1937 version starring Shirley Temple, and a new live action movie in 2005. That’s a lot of Heidi-love.

Point being, Heidi is basically mythical. She represents something bigger. I mean, you don’t get a town named after you (“Heididorf”) without having some sort of universal appeal. A girl, her grandfather, the Alps, reading and writing, and quasi-mysterious healing. Heidi has a power in the book—in the affect on her grandfather, in helping Clara to recover and even regain the ability to walk—which is intriguing. Captivating even.

I didn’t realize this until Peter Stamm mentioned it during this panel (which I’ll get to in a minute, promise), but the cartoon version of Heidi—which is the version most people are familiar with—is from Japan, where the story of Heidi is incredibly popular. (Like Super Bowl interrupting popular.)

All this is to explain why Heidi, and why a panel that reeks with softcore double entendre. She really has global appeal. Which is what led Swiss novelist Peter Stamm to produce a new version of Heidi—although “new version” is overstating it, since he basically stuck to the original, but made it 1/10 of the size, a shrinking of Heidi that I’m not sure I approve of—and why Kalima (more on this program later, but for now, know that Kalima is responsible for translating hundreds(?) of works of world literature into Arabic) published an Arab edition of the book.

Actually, I’m not really going to get to this panel. My first attempt at live-blogging an ADIBF event led to Heidi-distraction and suddenly the panel was over. Ah well. The main point was that there are new versions of Heidi—one in German, one in Arabic—and that her translation is successful. She reaches audiences. I wholeheartedly approve of this admiration of Heidi. This is great work. Great publishing.

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