Monday, April 4, 2011

Americanized for Your Consumption

On Twitter this morning, one of my favorite authors wrote:

Monday: Done USA rewrite of Dragonslayer-1, finishing DS-2 for the UK in November

Which got me often are "foreign" books rewritten for American audiences? I'm not talking about translation, which in itself involves a certain about of rewriting so that the meaning and spirit of the words come across rather than the exact translation which, depending on the language, can be very broken.

My concern is with books originally written in English. I don't know if the rewrites for the author above were just to fix errors in the UK version or to clarify issues. BUT if it was to simply Americanize the book so it's easier for us to absorb, I don't agree with that. Even something simple, like changing the first Harry Potter book from The Philosopher's Stone to the The Sorcerer's Stone bothered me. Why was there a need to change it? So it was easier for the kids to immediately understand?

We Americans are very isolated in our culture. Yes, we travel across the US, but there is so much more to the world than the good ol' US of A. Traveling overseas is very expensive though, at least for me it is. It isn't something we can do casually or often. It requires planning and saving.

Some of the best ways to be exposed to different cultures is through literature, and most easily through popular books, books which are set in foreign places written by foreign authors  Let us learn about your society and traditions and customs. We're resourceful enough to figure out what we don't understand (hello wikipedia). Don't Americanize books for our consumption. Don't protect us from the world. Help us experience it and broaden our horizons.


  1. One of my favorite British women's fiction authors once left a comment on my blog. In my review of one of her books, I wrote that I appreciated the British slang left in the story -- even though I was sure many Americans wouldn't know what it meant. It gave it a certain flair, I wrote, but was still easy to understand if you're not an anglophile (like yours truly).

    The author responded by saying she was glad I felt that way, because so much of the British witticisms had been "toned down" or removed completely for American audiences. She and the publisher were concerned it wouldn't gel overseas.

    I'm not exactly sure how I feel about that... on the one hand, I guess it makes sense: "interpreting" the book for a new audience. But it takes away from the original work, of course, and almost feels like a way of "dumbing down" the story. It's a tricky line, I think!

  2. I completely agree with this assessment. For a huge percentage of Americans it is next to impossible for us to experience other cultures through travel. It is just too expensive. And I’m just talking getting there. So personally, I travel through the books that I read. Of course I would love to go to places like the South African plains, the Egyptian Pyramids, the Great Wall of China, or the watery streets of Venice. But I am for the moment state bound and sticking to my books. :)