"They Seek It Here, They Seek It There, They Seek It Everywhere": Looking for the "Global" Book

Eva Hemmungs Wirtén (Uppsala University)

Abstract: At the brink of a new millennium, Harlequin Enterprises Ltd. has grown into an international publishing phenomenon, publishing in more than twenty languages on six continents and in more than a hundred markets around the world -- a long way from what began as a modest Canadian reprint operation in 1949. Concerned with the way in which the "global" becomes the "local," this article uses Harlequin's Stockholm office as a case study for a closer look at just how Harlequin romances are transposed from one cultural context into another. By arguing that translation and editing are local strategies with considerable power in changing the text as well as its production and consumption, this paper focuses on the way in which the Harlequin book, through the combined process of editing and translation -- what I have termed transediting, is given a "Swedish" identity.

Résumé: A la veille d'un nouveau millénaire, les Entreprises Harlequin Limitées sont devenues un phénomène international dans l'édition, publiant en plus de vingt langues sur six continents et dans plus d'une centaine de marchés autour du monde -- une longue distance de ce qui avait été au départ une modeste opération canadienne pour les réimpressions en 1949. Concerné par le moyen dont le "global" devient le "local", cet article utilise les bureaux d'Harlequin à Stockholm comme étude de cas pour porter un regard plus attentif sur la manière dont on transpose les romans Harlequin d'un contexte culturel à un autre. En soutenant que la traduction et la correction sont des stratégies locales avec un pouvoir considérable pour changer le texte autant que sa production et sa consommation, cet article se penche sur la façon dont le livre Harlequin reçoit une identité `suédoiseé, au moyen de la traduction et de la correction -- ce que j'ai appelé "transediting" (la "traducorrection").

In an undated press release, Harlequin Enterprises' CEO Brian Hickey reflects on the company's worldwide reach and, in doing so, describes Harlequin romances as "storytelling that translates into any language" (Harlequin Enterprises, n.d., p. 1). At a time when the North American romance market has become, if not stale, then at least mature, Hickey is comfortably assessing the remarkable success of a publisher that now sells close to half of its books outside what no longer is easily defined as a "home market." "Home" is obviously not only where the heart is, but also where the market is, and today that might be just about anywhere, anytime. If the global cultural economy is distinguished by any specific trait, then it has to be that its complex flow of money, people, products, and information is becoming increasingly difficult to envision as spatially grounded, particularly within the realm of nation-state boundaries.

The global village is certainly both revered and promoted as actually "being out there"; one only needs to think of the religious overtones in advertising for the Internet, where we are repetitiously told that no gender, race, age, or class exists in cyberspace, while our everyday life shows us with similar fervour that -- oh, yes -- it does. But between the two diacritical poles of absolute empowerment by superior technology and popular culture and gray repression by the heavy-handed gulags of market capitalism lies an interesting potential for rethinking flows of global production and consumption. Because we are finding it increasingly difficult to localize the precise beginnings and ends of this process, a deeper understanding of what transnational companies do, how, and why constitutes a challenge that resists straightforward cause and effect analysis and presents us with a configuration of the "global" as a context-bound and fundamentally fluid identity. Arjun Appadurai has discussed the global cultural economy in terms of homogenization and heterogenization, and I think he is right when he says that homogenization "subspeciates into either an argument about Americanization, or an argument about commoditization, and very often the two arguments are closely linked" (1990, p. 5).

This could not be more true about Harlequin Enterprises, a company that, at least in Sweden, has been categorized as the ultimate representative of all that is wrong with "Americanized" mass culture, and I would venture to say that very few of those who either buy or critique Harlequin romances in Budapest, Stockholm, Paris, or Moscow know that this is a Canadian publisher, not an American. But despite what its possible "Canadianness" might reveal, it is hardly controversial to state that Harlequin's global role today hinges in large part on a specific situation described as "imperialistic abroad and xenophobic at home" (Venuti, 1995, p. 17). Referring to the way in which English has become the lingua franca of the world, making its presence known in music, movies, advertising, on the Internet, and in academic conferences, global capitalism speaks it fluently. Lawrence Venuti's point, then, is to argue that the language English has aided and abetted in creating a tradition of cultural insularity in North America and Britain, into which minor languages -- his Italian, my Swedish -- are increasingly finding it difficult to "travel." The world is looking to English, but English is not looking to the world. Thus it may be very true that the image of "India" as it came to be introduced and sustained in Great Britain was associated with "primitive innocence, of simplicity and naturalness, and above all mysticism or spirituality" (Sengupta, 1994, p. 162) not because these are qualities apparent in the entity "India," but rather because these particular characteristics served the purpose of harnessing the foreign into a titillatingly, yet reassuringly safe and familiar, frame. Conversely, the image of Britain in India, or of the United States in Sweden, can not be controlled to any larger extent, but similarly allows for manipulation and reworking, counteracting at least temporarily what is, no doubt, the dominant language.1 Ironically, there is a kind of inverted economical and ideological logic lying behind these issues which are coming to the fore of academic discourse. In a nice twist of fate, ethnicity has become a bankable asset in a global intellectual economics that differentiates itself only marginally from global capitalism, and it is mainly through the astonishing financial resources at the elite research universities in the United States that the means, the money, and the visibility to make such criticism possible are provided in the first place.

However, even if music, advertising, CD-ROM games, and movies are cultural artifacts that rely on visual effects and perhaps are easily consumed without translation, books are different. Publishing, which has historically distinguished itself as a gentleman's profession, as well as nationally bound by language and tradition, is a business that has undergone changes of paradigmatic scope since World War II, shifting its emphasis both in gender and locale (see Barnet & Cavanagh, 1994; Davis, 1984; Radway, 1994a; Tebbel, 1987). What I would like to call the "myth of the patriarchal publisher," the man who is "vain, pompous, affected" but also "brilliant, charming and zestful" (Davis, 1984, p. 277, on Victor Weybright), symbolizes a nostalgic longing for a time when the publisher was the ultimate custodian of taste and distinction. Mass market publishing as we know it from the 1950s onward, both in North America and in Sweden, has radically altered this picture. First, although women have entered the ranks of publishing and bookselling to the point where they can be said to carry the book industry on their shoulders, they still have to revert to what remains a distinct hierarchization -- men at the helmet as CEOs and vice presidents, women working as editors and booksellers. Second, corporate structures of ownership have become increasingly complex and internationalized, making publishing more than ever part of the larger body of media and entertainment (see Barnet & Cavanagh, 1994; Lorimer & O'Donnell, 1992). Both of these distinct historic changes -- the shift from national to transnational publishing and the emphasis on books written, edited, and read by women -- are embodied in Harlequin Enterprises, a publishing company that rightly may lay claim to being "one of the midwifes of the new world economy" (Barnet & Cavanagh, 1994, p. 15). By selling "176.5 million books a year in 23 languages in more than 100 international markets" (Grescoe, 1996, p. 3), Harlequin is ultimately dependent on the process of translation, because reading is what they are all about -- an activity unthinkable without language, which in turn needs to be fully understood to be pleasurable. And English will just not suffice to reach the number of women that today constitute the company's consumer base. Perhaps deceptively, there is a kind of self-evident quality to a process that has been integral to language for so long, and bestsellers, academic criticism, and poetry, as well as computer manuals, video manuals, and movie subtitles are common-day items, read and acted upon without too much reflection on part of the consumer. So when Brian Hickey uses the operative word "translates," he is, I suspect, somewhat superficially presupposing just how this worldwide consumption comes about: not as one appealing-to-all story, but rather as a result of choices and deliberations which transpose Harlequin romances into other cultures and other readings and which, in doing so, may change the text as well as its production and consumption in ways that are not foreseeable from the outset.


Whether located in Moscow or Stockholm, Harlequin's international offices function independently in that they decide what books to publish, then they edit, translate, and print -- all to ensure maximum adaptability to the particulars of their respective markets. What they have to work with -- the book -- is in one sense "global" because even though Harlequin's stable of writers come from such different cultural backgrounds as the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, or New Zealand, they are united by the fact that they write in English (as yet, there are no Harlequin romance writers coming from Sweden, Japan, Hungary, or Poland). However, this is only half the story because the book is also "local" in the sense that it, through the very tangible intervention of a crucial set of key players, is incorporated, appropriated, and even altered to "fit" into what is perceived of as the conventions of another cultural context.

As I have argued elsewhere, romance writers are one of the nodes in the field of cultural production that differentiates it spatially; that is, the fact that romance writers are a strong presence in North America, both individually and through the powerful lobby group RWA (Romance Writers of America, founded in 1981), has certainly contributed in a multitude of ways to position both the romance and its writers in a fundamentally different way in North America than in Sweden, where there are currently no romance writers (Hemmungs Wirtén, 1998). Because of the way in which the field tends to reproduce the values of originality and individuality, even in parts of it that are not apparently involved in the negative economics of l'art pour l'art (see Bourdieu, 1991, 1992), the writer, regardless of whether he or she writes thrillers, romances, or Nobel Prize-winning novels, retains the possibility to be consecrated, admired, even dethroned. In contrast, editors and translators occupy far more self-effacing roles, positioned as faceless "middlewomen," as copiers or just keepers of a text that was produced somewhere else entirely. At both national and local RWA conferences that I have attended, interest in the international market for romances has been increasingly voiced. While not prompted by either straightforward economical reasons (Am I selling less /more because of the translation?) or creative (Is the text still "my own"?), the fact that "abroad" is becoming more important by the day makes the question "What happens to my book in translation?" not only viable, but thoroughly persistent. To the Harlequin writers, who have seen category romance publishing go from the sole marketing of lines and series to a situation where they are increasingly being recognized as "brand names" themselves, the global marketplace spotlights profound issues of individuality and self-determination in mass culture. Putting it bluntly, is the Harlequin romance "sacred" to the author or is it, after all, just a commodity to be used or abused in order for it to achieve maximum sales? By using Harlequin's Stockholm office as a case study, this paper attempts to characterize and analyze what Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (1996) has called "transnational transposition" (p. 58) or, in this particular case, the way in which the Harlequin book, through transediting, is given a Swedish identity.2 Understanding the process of localization as it takes place between the "initial" place of production (in the form of the writer) and the "ensuing" place of production (in the form of the editor and translator) should not be seen as an attempt to distill "right" from "wrong," but as an undertaking concomitant with shifting alignments in comparative literature and cultural studies and "a move away from looking at translations as linguistic phenomena to looking at translations as cultural phenomena" (Gentzler, 1993, p. 185).

Still, distinctions and evaluations are constantly made by the Stockholm editors and during the weekly editorial meetings, which I attended during a period of six weeks in the beginning of 1996, more or less formalized discussions on this topic were recurring and important features. During these discussions, I became curious about often-used comments like "this translation made the book" or "this translation killed the book," expressions apparently used to denote a shared consensus that needed no further explanation. Between themselves, they almost automatically knew what the verdict meant and, as Ewa Högberg, the editor with the overall responsibility for translations in-house, observes:

sometimes I would get a translation of a book that I had felt was a real tenpointer -- and then a translator had taken it and it comes out like nothing. Then you're so disappointed, because I had maybe laughed out loud when I read it or cried. It had made an impact -- not all books do that, but these are the ones you remember and then you expect so much of them. Then there's the opposite situation. Sometimes you have to take books that you don't believe in to 100%, maybe because it's a particular translator, maybe because the book contains certain parts that are supposed to work in contrast to others that month, so you get a good variation in contents. Sure, it's okay, but not that great according to my way of looking at things -- and then it comes back, and it's just -- YES! -- the best story, dynamite language, and you just feel that...sometimes I've gone back to my notes to check -- is this the same book? Can this really be? (Eva Högberg, Förlaget Harlequin AB, Stockholm, personal communication, May 20, 1996)

So the dullness and lifelessness of the first may become the vivaciousness of the next. As she talks about her own reading, the enthusiasm is almost tangible. The book is not just "simply" translated into another cultural context, where it comes out clothed in another language, but essentially "the same." Instead, the process of translation is hazardous territory and what she is suggesting is that translations do matter -- so much so, in fact, that they can "make or break" the book.

Following her line of thought, one could describe this process as taking place in two phases, where the first would roughly correspond to Roman Jakobson's (1959) translation proper or interlingual translation or, in other words, the work that 30 to 35 translators ranging in ages from 30 to 75 years do for Harlequin. Their productivity and preferences vary; some do 2 books a year, others 12, some will prefer working only with particular series, others ask for books without too much sex, but most prefer American books to English, a fact attributed by the editors to the more humorous, easygoing, and action-oriented American romances. None of them, however, make their living solely from translating for Harlequin, something that in reality would demand an output of maybe three books a month. When attempted, this has only resulted in "the same book being translated over and over again" in mechanistic and repetitious language, and most therefore combine this work with other forms of translation such as non-fiction or movie subtitles.

A steady stream of interested translators call the office regularly and give any number of reasons for doing so; although not one of them, the editors assume that many of them expect romance translation to be "an easy way to make a quick buck." In recent years, 100 to 150 standard packages have been sent out annually to those making inquiries. Each package contains four things: a short letter with a few hints to the translator, a more formalized list of do's and don'ts, a translated Harlequin romance and, finally, the first chapter of Penny Jordan's book Island of Dawn, a text which has been used as a test for a long time. The most important direction given to the translator is that he or she needs to shorten the chapter by 10 to 15% since all Harlequin books are shortened in translation from English to Swedish. Books in the Superromance and Historical series are cut from 304 pages to 272 pages, books in the Romance, Presents, and Desire series are cut from 192 pages to 160 pages (which leaves a few additional pages to work with outside the text itself, nearly always intended for promotion of forthcoming books). Aside from this, the advice is hardly rigid: "it is allowed to distance yourself from the English text to a substantial degree" and even though the recommendation is to keep personal names as they are, they are not holy. At one of the editorial meetings, the pros and cons of the names in the miniseries Calloway Corners (where the individual books are named after each of four sisters) were discussed extensively. Mariah was kept, Jo became Chris (due to a possible mix-up with a Swedish orange juice sold under the name of JO), Eden was considered too foreign for Swedish ears and transformed into Ellen, and the hero in Mariah, Ford (a car, not a name, according to the editors), was rechristened Robert.

There is a distinct drop-off in continued interest and only around 60% of those receiving this package will never send the test back, signaling to the editor that perhaps this was something not to be taken on blindfolded, after all. If a translation is accepted, the translator will almost immediately be sent two chapters of a new book (often a short one to begin with) and asked to complete it in two weeks. This time, a more extensive sheet with information and recommendations is included, similar to the first one but more detailed (it includes, for example, 166 variations to the word "said"). In reality, this is a second screening-out process, since it will determine not only if the translator has what it takes to finish the work on a deadline, but also show if this translation is as good as was initially promised. If everything goes according to plan, a whole book is finally sent out, together with a contract and a delivery date. When the finished translation comes back to the publisher, it nearly always does so on a diskette, after which it is up to the individual editor to edit it either on paper or directly on the computer. At this time, the editor never backtracks -- there is no time (nor is it her job) to check the translated manuscript against the original book. Certainly, she may once have read the English or North American original and then decided that it would be appropriate for the Swedish / Scandinavian market, but that might have been several months ago, during which time she has read and acquired an unknown number of new books. Not only that, but she may even have decided to publish simply based on what she has read in the tip-sheet, sent over in batches from Toronto. Scribbled on, underlined, and highlighted, these tip-sheets are worth gold when time is scarce, and may be the only means to determine whether or not a particular book will blend in well with that month's selection of titles.

Continuing to use Roman Jakobson's (1959) terminology, the second phase, when the editor goes to work on the translation -- "translating" the translated text so to speak -- would be rewording or intralingual translation. Because I was interested both in the translator's strategies and in how the editor edited, I needed access to the original book, the translator's manuscript, the editor's changes to that manuscript, and the translated book itself; together, these sources would make it possible for me to see any number of variations. In view of the practicalities involved, this had to be arranged some time in advance and when attending one of the weekly editorial meetings in January 1996, it became clear that the books in the Presents and Superromance series, at that time scheduled for June publication, were a possibility -- five books in all. The timing was right, the original books were available at the Harlequin office, and although I had no intention of interviewing the translators themselves, they made up a good selection: two had been working for Harlequin many years, one was in reality a couple (husband and wife), one had recently come back after maternity leave and, finally, there was a man (one of the very few). I began by reading the English book alongside the Swedish translator's manuscript (given to me on a printout directly from the diskette) and highlighted and then wrote down all changes, cuts, and other things that in any way deviated from the original. It was time-consuming but rewarding work. After the editor had gone through the manuscript and edited it on paper (for my sake, since one of them normally does this on her computer), I compared her cuts and corrections, changes in language, and changes in content with my own notes. After that I interviewed the editor responsible for the series as soon as possible, in order to ensure that she would recollect something of these particular books -- simply because she would now be in the middle of four or six new ones, possibly also dealing with six new translators. Finally, I read the Swedish book.


Relatively quickly, the material divided itself into what I perceived as two clusters. On one hand, there were changes, mistakes, and choices that could be questioned but did not really overturn the text in any fundamental way. On the other hand, there were what appeared to be more substantial and interesting choices and deliberations on the part of the translator and the editor, which indicated either that they had understood each other on some level or, reversely, that they were to collide head-on. Since there is ample evidence to suggest that, invariably, any given text will, at the hands of five different translators, result in five different translations, each with its own advantages and problems, any distinct norms for accuracy, errors, or equivalence seemed unnecessary to make. My interest lay beyond linguistic models, and more pressing methodological challenges laid ahead. Problematically enough, translation studies presuppose bilinguality, and hence, while the finer points of my examples make perfect sense to the few who read and understand Swedish, someone without this particular competence is oblivious to the underlying strategies unless some kind of re-translation is attempted. The choices I have made in my "translation of the translation" may therefore be questioned, but are unfortunately an unavoidable feature of this project.

Cultural allusions to people or particular phenomena are treated either by exclusion altogether or by substitution. George Burns, George Strait, and Sadie Thompson are examples of characters that are simply deleted, presumably because they will not be recognized as references by Swedish readers; "Kleenex," a brand name synonymous with a product in North America is far better known as "paper napkin" in Sweden; similarly, the expression "Lead on, Macduff" becomes "Lead on, Sherlock" in all likelihood because the translator deems the detective to be better known than the character from Macbeth. References that require some previous knowledge of American culture to be understood at all, like a joke made on the concept of the Fifth Amendment or a pun on the word key (both as keys on a computer and the Florida Keys) are more problematic, either impossible to keep as they are or demanding an extra effort on part of the translator to come up with Swedish equivalents. More complicated than taking out and putting in words and phrases are actual mistakes, but since the editor is never in a position to see them, unless of course the whole logic of the text is reverted, they can only be found reading the original book at the same time as the translation. Take Mariah by Sandra Canfield, where the heroine has come back to her hometown, Calloway Corners, too late to attend her father's funeral. Standing alone at his grave, she is talking out loud: " `Goodbye, Daddy,' Mariah whispered, gently laying the rose across the raw, heaped earth. `I'm sorry I couldn't have been her' " (Canfield, 1989, p. 16). The preceding sentences had made it clear that what she is referring to is the fact that her mother died giving birth to her. But when the translators come across this sentence, probably in too much of a haste, and read her as here, the tone of the sentence alters: " `Goodbye, Daddy,' Mariah whispered, gently laying the rose across the raw, heaped earth. `I'm sorry I couldn't have been here' " (Canfield, 1996, p. 14).

Now, because this second sentence still remains within the logic of reason, the reader will be completely unconscious of the mistake, and so will the editor. It does not wreak havoc on the text, but one could also argue that to the characterization of Mariah, it does have significance. Mariah is voicing feelings of guilt that she has had all her life in dealing with both her own and her father's loss. Although we feel sorry for her if the word is here, and sympathize with her inability to make it to her father's funeral, the word her is much more critical to the text because it partly supplies the key to Mariah's character and her troubled relationship to her father, a fact that the writer expands on throughout the whole book. Perhaps an oversight, it might appear more disturbing that several other mistakes -- like "the pill" (Canfield, 1989, p. 103) obscurely ending up as "petting" (Canfield, 1996, p. 97) or, continuing on the line of sexual confusion, "diaphragm" (Canfield, 1989, p. 262) inexplicably becoming "the pill" (Canfield, 1996, p. 237), and finally, a term like "kinky" (Canfield, 1989, p. 264), which really does not have a good equivalent in Swedish, being translated as "ticklish" (Canfield, 1996, p. 237) -- are all errors made by translators who are some of the most appreciated by Harlequin and who the editor "trusts 100%" (Eva Högberg, Förlaget Harlequin AB, Stockholm, personal communication, May 20, 1996). This statement becomes more comprehensible when one considers that it is only marginally related to slip-ups and mistakes in translation, and more associated with the way in which the editor feels that the translators are able to treat the Swedish language, their ability to make the text vibrant and alive, to feel "Swedish."

Still, even though mistakes, exclusions, and substitutions may be discussed endlessly in terms of whether or not they should and are correctly executed, far more interesting are those instances where professional readings of this kind can be shown to open up or close down alternative routes. Because of the way in which the translator needs to shorten the original book while translating, she is in a position to do so while actually editing the book strategically at the same time. In Sally Wentworth's (1994) book, Duel in the Sun, the young heroine Catriona arrives in Egypt on her first archaeological assignment. Caught between two men and two cultures -- British and Egyptian -- this book inscribes itself firmly within the tradition of the British romance, relying heavily on the juxtapositioning of British virtues against the "foreign" and "exotic." There can be little doubt that the translator in this case has edited along two consistent lines: first, taking out everything that elevates or underscores the supremacy of the British and, second, deleting any comments on Catriona's part where she touches upon the inferiority or the incomprehensibility of the Egyptian culture. The following passage is a good illustration, first, of the author's style and, then, of the translator's strategy, editing large chunks according to the principles outlined above:

Everyone was in a brighter mood tonight, after their trip to Luxor. Bryan and Mike had been to an ex-pats club they belonged to where they had swum, played billiards, and had a traditional English lunch of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. It seemed to have done them good; they both looked relaxed and were quite talkative. Even Lamia and Mohammed chatted for ten minutes before Mohammed put the television on.

The next couple of days were uneventful, following the usual working pattern, except that Lucas went into Luxor first thing on Saturday morning, and on the Sunday told Catriona that Omar's cheque had been cleared. So now there was no going back. Catriona didn't sleep very well at night; apart from the terrible bed she couldn't help but wonder what she was letting herself in for, and whether she really could keep Omar at arm's reach if she had to. She was used to western men who, however randy they might feel, still lived by a certain set of rules. Arab men might have very different ones. (Wentworth, 1994, p. 90)

Everyone was in a brighter mood tonight, after their trip to Luxor. 1P Bryan and Mike had been to an ex-pats club they belonged to where they had swum, played billiards, and had a traditional English lunch of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. It seemed to have done them good; they both looked relaxed and were quite talkative. Even Lamia and Mohammed chatted for ten minutes before Mohammed put the television on.

The next couple of days were uneventful, following the usual working pattern, except that Lucas went into Luxor first thing on Saturday morning, and on the Sunday told Catriona that Omar's cheque had been cleared. So now there was no going back. Catriona didn't sleep very well at night; apart from the terrible bed she couldn't help but wonder what she was letting herself in for, 1P and whether she really could keep Omar at arm's reach if she had to. She was used to western men who, however randy they might feel, still lived by a certain set of rules. Arab men might have very different ones. 2.5P (Wentworth, 1996, pp. 75-76)

The expression "ex-pats club" invokes a better place and time, where whirling fans in the ceiling and cool swimming pools offer peace and quiet from a culture bustling with intensity and heat. Bryan and Mike become more relaxed after playing billiards and eating "roast beef and Yorkshire pudding," and Englishness is at least temporarily restored to the English. In opposition to their newly acquired serenity, Catriona is naïvely reflecting on The Arab Man who, she fears, perhaps lives by another "set of rules." To this passage could be added at least a handful more, showing the translator performing the same editing manoeuvre: Catriona deeming Omar's home to be furnished "too opulently for her English taste" and "everything seemed to be on a large scale, as if big was beautiful" (Wentworth, 1994, p. 9); Catriona finding the master of the house wearing a diamond ring "too big to possibly be real" (p. 15), or Catriona deciding to paint her room and being "afraid they [the servants] might resent her doing the job instead of them, [...] the huge grins on their faces told her they were only too pleased not to have the bother" (p. 121), all instances deleted in the Swedish version. Although I do not wish to suggest that the translator does this as a consciously formulated strategy in the vein of "this is a colonial text, therefore objectionable and I need to rewrite it," I think it is clear that by consistently taking out references like these, deploying exclusions and strategies that are unwritten but still persistent, and by relying on her own perception of how it should be read, she has de facto decolonized the text. Although seemingly considering the translation a good one, the editor in her turn has modified the text even further. Her interest lies not only in "neutralizing" it, but also in enhancing Catriona's credibility and character. In those cases where the translator has corrected or rewritten Catriona's slightly overbearing reflections on her own eminent personality to a not substantial enough degree, the editor will do so herself.

The relationship between editor and translator may be far more complicated, as is exemplified by the most heavily edited of all the books I read, Janice Kaiser's Monday's Child (1995). The synopsis on the tip-sheet indicates a fast-paced, exotic adventure yarn but because of the editor's workload, she has not read the book herself before acquiring it. She is less than certain about taking it even from the beginning and has scribbled "Too much?" on the tip-sheet, adding a note to herself that she needs to talk to the Editor-in-Chief to see what she thinks. But as she explained to me, that month needed a book like this and in light of the recent outpouring of books in the Superromance series about single parents with uproarious teenagers or other dysfunctional relationships, the prospect of two adults alone on an island seemed like a nice change. The book was given to a male translator who works sporadically for Harlequin and who has previously translated action-adventure books for another Swedish mass market publisher, something that the editor thought would be a suitable background for this particular book. As it turned out, both the translation and, in the end, the book itself caused the editors a lot of headaches, not to mention work. When the printout of the translator's manuscript and the edited version came to me, a bright yellow sticker was attached to the package, informing me that the editor had made so many revisions to the text that she deemed it necessary to give her version to a second editor to be looked over. She feared that because of her own extensive rewriting, the logic of the story might have been lost. Subsequently, this is the only one of the three titles in this series that was edited twice before being sent off to the printers. The translated manuscript follows Kaiser's book closely and results in the same staccato language as the original, and because of the dialogue and action, not many descriptive passages were taken out. The editor, however, is clearly dissatisfied with the result and the manuscript is filled with red penstrokes and changes. Not only does she alter individual words that are not considered romantic into words that she thinks are, but because this book has a substantial amount of very explicit sex scenes which, when compared to the other two books in the same series that month, is noticeable, she struggles particularly to get these right. The original English-language version of one such scene is:

Kelly took his head in her hands, sinking her fingers into his hair, pulling his face against hers. His penis was pressed against her, and when she opened her legs he slipped inside her, entering slowly at first, then inching deeper and deeper.

He withdrew, holding himself just clear of her opening. Kelly wanted him -- she wanted him deep inside. She arched against him. That set him off and he began plunging into her, then withdrawing and plunging deep into her again.

His orgasm came quickly, but she was ready, meeting each thrust, matching each desperate clench. And when he exploded, she came as well, her body shuddering under him. (Kaiser, 1995, p. 161)

Now, although the translator's manuscript shows that he has both shortened the scene and rewritten it to make it less explicit, the editor feels that he has essentially misunderstood the whole issue of romance as opposed to sex, something she sees in his failure to understand that the word "orgasm" is practically never used or when "opened her legs" becomes the equivalent of "spread her thighs," a clinical expression the editor alters to the more metaphorical "received him," which in the final version becomes "opened herself." This scene, and several more like it, are subsequently rewritten two times, by two different editors, adhering closely to their own rule of thumb: "We try to say like this: `it can be sensuous -- not sexual, but sensuous -- and to make something explicitly sexual into something sensuous, takes exclusion of the first and addition of the second' " (Eva Högberg, Förlaget Harlequin AB, Stockholm, personal communication, May 20, 1996). The second editor then alters some of the changes made by the first, and the overt physicality of the text is substituted with a more reflective, metaphorical language. Janice Kaiser does not have her heroine Kelly think: "it was like an intoxication, like a dream" but the editor does and, by doing so, adds to the text by writing in new sentences that were not there initially. In the end, the Swedish scene comes out very differently than the original one:

Kelly took his head in her hands, sinking her fingers into his hair, pulling his face against hers. She opened herself to him, and slowly he slipped inside her, inching deeper and deeper. It was like intoxication, like a dream. She couldn't resist and when he exploded her whole body shuddered in an emotion so wonderful it was impossible to describe. (Kaiser, 1996, p. 138)


Although the editors in Stockholm see themselves as working more "assembly-line-like" than their colleagues in Toronto, they are in fact performing a reading very close to what characterizes the traditional editorial role. Precisely because this work is based on the evaluation and distinction of a new book -- the Swedish translation -- reactions and subsequent actions mirror that of the Toronto / New York / London editors, with one difference: where there once was a writer, there is now a translator. To use hockey terminology, the editorial reading is one of "split-vision." Essentially, a professional reading is necessitated by work rather than being a deliberately chosen and privately enjoyed leisure activity; nonetheless, the editor reads simultaneously both analytically as well as enthusiastically, making decisions to publish based on a number of considerations: judging a book a strong sale, picking a title because she liked it when she read it, choosing a book because she is looking for an exotic setting that particular month, or possibly even because Toronto says so. But it is also a decidedly committed, enthusiastic, and verbal reading (see Radway, 1989). Her relationship to the text in its translated form therefore hinges on a complex set of expectations that go way beyond the translator's ability to give the book a "correct" Swedish form.

Thus, it is more important that the text comes back reading smoothly and with a rhythm and "feel" to it that makes it come across as fluent and transparent, than that it should prove to be as "faithful" or "accurate" as possible to the original. What this means is that the ability to write compensates for the fact that the editors in some cases have to consecrate many hours working with the translated manuscript in order to get it as they like. And as I found out, there is no direct correspondence between the amount of work the editor has to spend on the translation and how she views its quality. There are books being heavily edited that are considered good translations and vice versa. But of far greater importance to the editor is that the translator has an essential understanding not of the text, but of the context in which the text is read. More to the point, what the editor is looking for is that the translator think like the editor. By saying this, I mean to suggest that the editor wishes the translator not only to grasp the sentences on the page, but also to function as an "editorial extension," to be the one who transforms the book into that something that makes it a quintessential "Harlequin Romance" in the specific cultural configuration that goes by the name Sweden. Subsequently, although this context is constantly being produced and reproduced by the coming together of cultural images that both confirm and question our view of ourselves and others, as repositories of numerous calculations and deliberations on part of producer and consumer, it nonetheless underscores that the locus of translation and editing is contingent, ultimately dependent on the socio-economic context which produces it, and hence carries in it the potential for alignment with or opposition to local and global ideologies.

As the problems involved in translating Janice Kaiser's book illustrated, the fact that the translator followed the text closely was not enough:

he has translated her, the writer's words, more or less word-for-word and then she hasn't expressed herself, or written a sex scene, in the way that we would like. She [the original author] would have been censured, and if we had gotten what we wanted, the translator would have done this to begin with. (Eva Högberg, Förlaget Harlequin AB, Stockholm, personal communication, May 20, 1996)

The editor objects to Kaiser's book on two levels. First, because the author has not written the kind of book that the editor wanted, and if it had been up to her to acquire it initially, she might not have. In this case, since she did not read the book herself but took it based on the tip-sheet, she had to rely on the translator to "make the book," something that did not happen. Second, the translator did not do what the editor hoped he would; he "broke" the book because he did not see or understand how it failed in its purpose -- to fit the Harlequin mould -- and because of this, he was ultimately unable to give it the identity that would have "saved" it. It is possible to view this as a deeply gendered and multifaceted conflict: on one level, the editors felt that part of the problem was the fact that this male translator was not able to turn the "sexual into the sensuous" and on a second, more complicated, level, their critique was as much directed to the original book, probably written by a woman. (According to the book, the copyright is attributed to "Belles-Lettres, Inc.," gender unknown to me.) Digressing slightly, I am sure there are those who find this chain of events strange and amusing in view of the die-hard and widespread view of Sweden as the final outpost of sexual liberation.

What takes place is, in reality, refraction or what André Lefevere describes as "the adaptation of a work of literature to a different audience, with the intention of influencing the way in which that audience reads the work" (1982, p. 4). I think that it is possible to suggest that the extensive rewriting of Sally Wentworth's (1994) Duel in the Sun is an example of refraction without the explicit intentionality that Lefevere is suggesting. Here, translator and editor have essentially, without each other's knowledge, streamlined the book into a new, ultimately more acceptable version. Considering the changes -- a heroine who is now not only different herself, but whose worldview has fundamentally shifted -- one can certainly ask: Is this not a new book? And where is the writer in all of this? Seeing refraction played out in a particular text means departing from the isolated examples of words or sentences to the overriding principles of how a text is treated as a whole. Whatever strategies depicted here are not the result of explicit intervention in the sense that they follow instructions put on paper by the publisher. Since there are no rules to be found anywhere on that which is considered "objectionable," the determining factor is the complex negotiation of personal and cultural values that are closely knit together in the process of transediting. Clearly, editors translate and translators edit -- be it in tacit disagreement or with a modicum of concordance -- but in either case intervening and challenging any simplistic notion of the Harlequin romance as an unmediated case of globalized mass culture.

What is important to remember is that it is becoming increasingly problematic to claim that the most universally acclaimed, sanctioned, or canonized texts are blank pages, put at our disposal without having been to some extent manipulated to suit a specific context, and to maintain that only the most commercial and popular texts are open enough to invite such manipulation in the first place (see Lefevere, 1992; Sengupta, 1994; Venuti, 1995). Finally, although the romance has long proven its potential for change and empowerment (see Radway 1991, 1994b), it is also true that the durability of what now stands as the one common denominator in what otherwise is an extremely diverse genre -- heterosexual love -- is neither overturned nor questioned in the textual transitions I have discussed. So, if we wish to maintain that the potential upheaval of heterosexual relations is the one thing that needs to be achieved in order for us to once and for all prove the power of the "local" as opposed to the "global," then this paper does not do it. Nor do I think it will ever come about. However, provided that the romance to an equal extent is about the negotiation of cultural and economic power structures, work-life issues, and the challenges of modern family life, then we might be able to say with more certainty that the "local" does show itself more forcefully. Certainly, Sweden is not that different from either the United States, Great Britain, or Canada, but what this material shows, I believe, is that a further study of translation and editing within transnational publishing, over a longer period of time, and from the perspective of, say Russian, Arabic, or Chinese may shed more conclusive light on what happens when different cultural values are applied to the "global" book.


By saying this, I am in no way underestimating the diversity of the English language or suggesting that "English" is a category that does not incorporate an extremely diverse body of dialects and accents that might be as incomprehensible to each other as Swedish would be to Swahili. I am thinking here, for instance, of the fact that the movie Trainspotting was dubbed in the United States for this very reason.
The office in Stockholm is the Scandinavian subsidiary in charge of operations in Sweden, Norway, and Finland. Denmark has a separate agreement with Harlequin Enterprises and publishes on a licence. Decisions regarding editing, marketing, and production for all three countries are made in Stockholm. Basically, the only thing taking place in Norway and Finland is translation. This article is based on a chapter in my dissertation which focuses in particular on Swedish translations.


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