10 Famous Books That Have VERY Different Titles In Other Languages

by Charlotte Ahlin

Translation is a subtle art, especially when it comes to books. In some cases, what works in one language simply doesn't work in another. In the French translation of the Harry Potter series, for example, Voldemort's middle name was changed from "Marvolo" to "Elvis" in order to make the anagram "I am Lord Voldemort" work. But sometimes it's the book's title that gets completely changed in order to sound better in a new language... with mixed success. Here are a few book titles that are VERY different in other languages, because sometimes things get lost (or gained!) in translation.

Books are often released under different titles in different countries, based on what the publisher thinks their readers will be drawn to. The British book Northern Lights is called The Golden Compass in America, presumably because Americans like shiny objects. The book Where's Wally? is inexplicably changed to Where's Waldo?, and the American series Outlander is known as the far less sexy Cross Stitch in the U.K. But all those titles changes are within English. When you add the complication of bringing a book title to a whole new language, things start to get a little weird. Here are some translated book titles that are completely different from their English counterparts:

'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' or 'Men Who Hate Women'

The book that Americans know as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was originally published in Swedish as Män som hatar kvinnor. That literally translates to "Men Who Hate Women." That's... pretty different. The Swedish title makes it clear that this is a book about sexism and hateful men, whereas the American title focuses on the body of our female lead... it feels like we're kind of missing the point here, America.

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'The Great Gatsby' or 'A Man Without Scruples'

On the other hand, Sweden went in a weird direction with their translation of The Great Gatsby. The Swedish version is called En Man Utan Skrupler, or A Man Without Scruples. Does that mean that Gatsby has no scruples? I mean, I know he's a party guy, but that's a little harsh, Sweden. Maybe Swedish book publishers just hate men in general?

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'The Fault in Our Stars' or 'The World is not a Factory for Fulfilling Wishes'

The Macedonian translation of The Fault in Our Stars is not pulling any punches. Светот не е Фабрика за Исполнување Желби literally translates to The World is not a Factory for Fulfilling Wishes. That's... technically accurate? But it sure does feel a lot more pessimistic than John Green's original title. Or at least, this title is a lot more direct about being pessimistic than the poetic Fault in Our Stars.

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'The Grapes of Wrath' or 'The Angry Raisins'

To be fair, most Japanese translations of The Grapes of Wrath translate the title as Ikari no Budou, which literally means The Grapes of Wrath. Pretty straightforward. But a New York Times article from 1996 claims that there was once a translation on sale in Japan that had literally translated the title as The Angry Raisins. It's not that far off, I guess?

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'Bridge to Terabithia' or 'Bridge to the Afterlife'

YIKES, Hungarian book publishers. Híd ​a túlvilágra translates to Bridge to the Afterlife. That's a pretty major spoiler, guys. The death is this book is generally thought of as a plot twist, not a given from page one. Other languages also cut the word "Terabithia" from the book's title, but they went with titles like The Bridge to the Other Country, or The Kingdom of the River. No one else is talking about going to the afterlife in the book's title. That's just you, Hungary.

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'Twilight' or 'Fascination'

The French translation of Twilight is simply titled Fascination. I mean... it honestly makes about as much sense as the original title does? Bella and Edward are definitely fascinated with each other? In French, the rest of the books in the series are called Tentation (Temptation), Hésitation, and Révélation, and I'm starting to think that the French titles are somehow much more sexual than the entire contents of the books in English.

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'Animal Farm' or 'Animals Everywhere!'

France went in a slightly less elegant route when translating George Orwell's Animal Farm, though. Les Animaux Partout! literally translates to Animals Everywhere! That sounds like the title of a charming children's book, but it's just a little too excited for a fable about the Russian Revolution.

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'Before I Fall' or 'When You Die, Your Entire Life Passes Before Your Eyes, They Say'

It feels like a bit of a leap to go from the three word English title Before I Fall to the German title, which is Wenn du stirbst, zieht dein ganzes Leben an dir vorbei, sagen sie. It translates to When You Die, Your Entire Life Passes Before Your Eyes, They Say. There must have been a more succinct way to put that, Germany.

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'Catcher in the Rye' or 'Over the Abyss in Rye'

Rita Rait-Kovaleva's Russian translation of Catcher in the Rye was a huge hit in the Soviet Union, even though the title literally translated to Over the Abyss in Rye. I'm not... entirely sure what that means, but Russian readers dug it. In fact, when the 2008 translation by Max Nemstov changed the title to Catcher on a Grain Field, people were upset that the new title was "wrong."

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'To Kill a Mockingbird' or 'Don't Shoot at the Mockingbird' or 'Who Disturbs a Nightingale'

In French, To Kill a Mockingbird is Ne tirez pas sur l'oiseau moqueur, or Don't Shoot at the Mockingbird, which kind of makes it feel like the title is screaming at you as you prepare to murder an innocent bird. But at least they got the type of bird right. The German title is Wer die Nachtigall stört, or Who Disturbs a Nightingale. I guess it's understandable, since the German word for mockingbird is Spottdrossel... which doesn't sound quite as poignant.

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