6:00 a.m., October 12, 2021
Hold on to your wild boar, your menhir or… your Roman! Because the following figures will make you dizzy. 380 million Asterix albums have been sold worldwide. And of these 380 million, 240 were sold abroad, half of which in Germany. If we put them end to end, it would go around the Earth twice! Asterix is the most translated comic strip in the world with 116 different languages and dialects. Do you have a little spare time ? So here’s the list … No, I’m kidding, I’ll spare you that!
Just know that the first translations were Portuguese in 1961, then English, Dutch, Castilian, German and Turkish. Then there was Russian, Chinese, Arabic, Bulgarian, Bengali, Ancient Greek, Latin of course, and many others! Among future translations, Ukrainian is expected for 2022 and Japanese.
But that’s not all ! There are also regional dialects and languages. In Germany alone, there are many local editions translated into Swabian, Bavarian, Styrian, or Munich, for example. And in France too, you can read Asterix in Picard, Gallo, Alsatian, Corsican, Basque, Creole, Occitan… And I will only give you a few!
Translators read new adventures six months earlier
Are all these translations coming out at the same time? No, and for a simple reason. The process of creating and making an album is super secure so that there is no leak before D-Day. And with 5 million copies printed, it’s a hell of a gamble … So for to limit the risks, the worldwide release of the 39th album, Asterix and the Griffon, on October 21, will be simultaneously “only” in 17 languages. Other variations will be made in a second step.
And in your opinion, which is the most translated album? The first of course, “Asterix Le Gaulois”, followed by Asterix and Cleopatra and Asterix Gladiator!
The translators have the chance to read the adventure six months before the release, but, for them, it is a puzzle! Anthea Bell, the historical translator of Asterix in English, summed up the situation well. She said that the hardest part was translating the puns, puns, cultural allusions, songs… So the performers rack their brains, they adapt the jokes.
Why Coronavirus does not exist in Germany
Translators are obviously not free, because it could turn into a disaster! We saw it in episode 10 with the nationalist rewrite in a German version of Asterix and the Goths … After this incident, Goscinny took matters into his own hands. I quote: “I know English and Spanish. For these two languages, therefore, no problem. I check and I give my corrections. For the other languages, I have the foreign translation retranslated into French to verify two First, if the general sense of the story has not been changed. Second, if I see that some gags typically from our region, some allusions that are too local have been literally translated, I ask if that will make the reader laugh. . ”
Today, there is no longer a “back-translation” (from the translated language into French) but an audit report of the local versions is carried out for each album. And then, the screenwriter, Jean-Yves Ferri is consulted. And sometimes you have to make concessions. Example, in Astérix et la Transitalique, published in 2017. Testus Sterone’s nickname, the Roman tank pilot, is the sadly premonitory Coronavirus. We have seen that the character is called like that in all languages, except in Germany. Well that’s because the on-site publisher wasn’t comfortable with giving a character a disease name, no matter how bad. He therefore asked to replace Coronavirus with Caligarius. It doesn’t mean anything to the French, but in German, this word means ‘shoemaker’, and is synonymous with ‘Schuhmacher’. It was therefore also a reference to the German champion Michael Schumacher … and a little bonus gag since, at the end, we discover that the character, masked throughout the story is … the Frenchman Alain Prost!
“The 20 secrets of Asterix” is a podcast from Journal du Dimanche. It is a Europe 1 Studio production, in partnership with Editions Albert René (a property of the Lagardère group, like JDD and Europe 1). To listen to all the episodes, go to the JDD website or to your usual download platforms. And then do not hesitate to leave us stars, “Aster” … and comments! We will read you! See you tomorrow for a new episode.
“The 20 secrets of Asterix” is a podcast from Sunday Newspaper produced by Europe 1 Studio in partnership with Albert René editions
- Texts: Cyril Petit and Marie Quenet
- Presentation: Vivien Vergnaud
- Director: Xavier Jolly
- Production: Timothée Magot
- Edition and distribution: Clémence Olivier with Salomé Journo
- Graphics: Jérémie Cousin
Find all the episodes here: