The worldwide bestseller “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling has been published in 80 languages, including Latin and Ancient Greek. Two years ago, that collection expanded to include a Yiddish translation published as "Harry Potter un der filosofisher shteyn" - and sold out in 48 hours.
How did such an unusual edition come to be produced nearly 23 years after its source material’s publication? The work of Arun Schaechter Viswanath, an Indian-American Jewish translator, and printed by a publishing house in Sweden, is as remarkable as the story it tells.
Growing up with Yiddish as his first language he always wanted to experience the magical world of sorcery in a language that was close to his heart. Multi-language capability ran deep in his family. His grandfather, Mordkhe Schaechter, was a professor of Yiddish at Columbia University and devoted his life to the propagation of the language. Viswanath’s mother, Gitl Schaechter-Viswanath, is the author of the 856-page Comprehensive English-Yiddish Dictionary. And his Kerala, India-born father, Prof. P. V. Viswanath, is a polyglot as well.
The book took one year to translate, and another year and a half to edit. It was something of a family affair, with Viswanath’s mother and brother-in-law serving on his editorial board along with a Yiddishist friend.
Join us for a fascinating conversation between Arun Schaechter Viswanath - ‘Harry Potter' Yiddish translator, and Gili Bar-Hillel Semo, 'Harry Potter' series Hebrew translator.
Arun Schaechter Viswanath grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey in a Yiddish- and Tamil-speaking home and has a BA in Linguistics. Harry Potter marks his first foray into literary translation, though he also recently completed a translation of a Faroese children's book about a wayward young puffin (expected publication in 2023). In his free time, Arun enjoys bouldering, learning new languages and playing musical instruments. He lives with his wife and daughter in Manhattan, where he works in analytics at a tech company. The book can be ordered online www.harrypotter.olniansky.com, and a recording of the first chapter is available on Youtube - listen here.
Gili Bar-Hillel Semo is an English-Hebrew translator from Israel, best known for translating the Harry Potter series into Hebrew. Bar-Hillel studied at Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University, and Harvard University, and received a Bachelor of Arts in dramatic writing and dramaturgy.
Before translating the Harry Potter series, Bar-Hillel was editor of children's books for the Israeli publishing house Keter, worked for the major Israeli newspaper Haaretz, directed plays, and produced radio programs. In 2012 Bar-Hillel founded Utz Publishing, where to this day she continues working as owner and editor in chief. Gili translated over 80 books into Hebrew, including classics such as The Wizard of Oz and sequels, an annotated edition of Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, 101 Dalmatians, and soon to be published The Catcher in the Rye. She lives and works in Tel Aviv, and is married with three children.
Sunday, December 4, 8 pm Israel / 7 pm CET / 6 pm UK / 1 pm EST
Sunday December 4th 10 Kislev 08:00 - 09:15
Arun Schaechter Viswanath & Gili Bar-Hillel Semo
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Olniansky Tekst Farlag & Arun Schaechter Viswanath & Gili Bar-Hillel Semo by Lia Yaffe