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06 May 2013

The translation bunker

Returning to this blog after nearly a year, I pick up again with Dan Brown, annoyingly. But I couldn't let this story go past.

Brown's new book, Inferno, is to be published in about a week, and it will be instantly available in translation into several languages. This article, in El Pais, reveals the extraordinary lengths the publishers have gone to to keep the book's story a secret.

Since 18 February eleven translators have been working in a bunker somewhere in Milan. Every morning they are taken from their hotel to the bunker, where they work until 9pm. Every move they make is noted. Obviously, they are not allowed mobile phones or internet access. They've had to lie to their families about where they are spending these months

As the El Pais article says, this translation bunker could be the setting for a thriller itself. There aren't many thrilling novels about translators, and there probably should be more. The problem with the story, though, would be that any rogue translator, who tried to give away Brown's plot, would surely only be motivated by money, and that wouldn't be heroic. We'd have to imagine a translator who was so sickened by Brown's success that he wanted to sabotage it for artistic reasons. Frankly, from the little I've read of his writing that would be an over-reaction.

Obviously, I'm never going to buy or read Inferno, but that's precisely because with Angels and Demons I found myself desperately blasé about how the plot turned out. Spoilers would have come as a relief.

Anyway, perhaps I won't give up on The Translation Bunker. Actually, I think I'll go further, and here's the outline. A novelist, let's call him Brian Haines, has written a Dan Brown-style book, LXX, about the Septuagint, which severely challenges an understanding of the Septuagint that no-one actually holds. It dares to suggest that the seventy translators existed, but cheated. Its publishers are expecting a huge controversial success, so they set up a translation bunker, and there are all sorts of intrigues, betrayals and murders, which Brian Haines, who is by chance also a priest, has to investigate. Uncanny parallels with the legend of the Septuagint abound, and in a dramatic ending something dramatic happens. Naturally I'm not going to give that way here. You'll have to buy the book, in a language of your choice.

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