Finally! French fans go mad for Harry Potter translation

French Harry Potter fans queued up to be the first to get their hands on 'Harry Potter et l'Enfant Maudit', the translated version of the 'Cursed Child' play.

Finally! French fans go mad for Harry Potter translation
The English-language version came out on July 31st, but French speakers have had to wait an extra 75 days. Photo: AFP

The original English version of the play – considered as the 'eighth' in the Harry Potter series, though it is set 19 years after the seventh book ends – first appeared in French bookstores in English on July 31st (the birthday of both the boy-wizard and his creator, J. K. Rowling). 

But now French people can catch up with Harry's latest adventures in their native language, as the translated play hit bookstore shelves on Friday. 

Over 100 bookshops across the country – including around ten in Paris alone – stayed open throughout the night to allow fans to get their hands on the book as soon as possible.

Quizzes, film screenings and costume competitions were held at many of the events, with many Potter fans dressed in robes and the colours of their chosen Hogwarts house.

“The Cursed Child” was written by Jack Thorne and director John Tiffany, in collaboration with J. K. Rowling.

The English version topped bestseller lists in France throughout August – a surprising feat for a play, let alone one written in a foreign tongue. 

“Only a Harry Potter could sell so many copies in English,” Livres Hebdo, a literary magazine, said in July.


Got it ! #CursedChild #HarryPotter #VF #FuretduNord #EnfantMaudit #Friendship #childhood

A photo posted by laurineptie (@laurineptie) on Oct 13, 2016 at 2:58pm PDT

The French edition was translated by Jean-François Ménard, who was also responsible for bringing the seven original Harry Potter books to a Francophone audience. Ménard had just a month to complete the job.

In the play, which is currently running at a London theatre, the wizard grows up, marries Ginny Weasley and has three children. 

Harry Potter and France

The hero of Hogwarts has also long been a favourite in France – despite the French having a famously fraught relationship with his native tongue.

The seventh and final novel in the original series, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” sold 200,000 English-language copies in France within two weeks of its launch in 2007. It went on to sell around 315,000 copies in total.

J K Rowling herself has a strong French connection; she had a French great-grandfather, studied the language at university and even worked as a French teacher for a stint in Scotland.

And the admiration is mutual; the author has received the French Legion of Honour, the country's highest award.

In her acceptance speech, she apologized for her rusty French accent and for giving two of the villains French-inspired names. Linguists will have noticed that Rowling took inspiration from her French studies to come up with the names of both dark wizard Voldemort (vol de mort = flight of death) and the snooty Malfoy family (mal foi = bad faith).

And there's more exciting news for France-based Potterheads.

In late December, the Salle Pleyel in Paris will host a subtitled screening of the first film of the series, accompanied by a symphony orchestra.


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‘Lost’ manuscript of pro-Nazi French author published 78 years later

A book by one of France's most celebrated and controversial literary figures arrives in bookstores this week, 78 years after the manuscript disappeared

'Lost' manuscript of pro-Nazi French author published 78 years later

It is a rare thing when the story of a book’s publication is even more mysterious than the plot of the novel itself.

But that might be said of Guerre (War) by one of France’s most celebrated and controversial literary figures, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, which arrives in bookstores on Thursday, some 78 years after its manuscript disappeared.

Celine’s reputation has somehow survived the fact that he was one of France’s most eager collaborators with the Nazis.

Already a superstar thanks to his debut novel Journey to the End of the Night (1932), Celine became one of the most ardent anti-Semitic propagandists even before France’s occupation.

In June 1944, with the Allies advancing on Paris, the writer abandoned a pile of his manuscripts in his Montmartre apartment.

Celine feared rough treatment from authorities in liberated France, having spent the war carousing with the Gestapo, and giving up Jews and foreigners to the Nazi regime and publishing racist pamphlets about Jewish world conspiracies.

For decades, no one knew what happened to his papers, and he accused resistance fighters of burning them. But at some point in the 2000s, they ended up with retired journalist Jean-Pierre Thibaudat, who passed them – completely out of the blue – to Celine’s heirs last summer.

‘A miracle’
Despite the author’s history, reviews of the 150-page novel, published by Gallimard, have been unanimous in their praise.

“The end of a mystery, the discovery of a great text,” writes Le Point; a “miracle,” says Le Monde; “breathtaking,” gushes Journal du Dimanche.

Gallimard has yet to say whether the novel will be translated.

Like much of Celine’s work, Guerre is deeply autobiographical, recounting his experiences during World War I.

It opens with 20-year-old Brigadier Ferdinand finding himself miraculously alive after waking up on a Belgian battlefield, follows his treatment and hasty departure for England – all based on Celine’s real experiences.

His time across the Channel is the subject of another newly discovered novel, Londres (London), to be published this autumn.

If French reviewers seem reluctant to focus on Celine’s rampant World War II anti-Semitism, it is partly because his early writings (Guerre is thought to date from 1934) show little sign of it.

Journey to the End of the Night was a hit among progressives for its anti-war message, as well as a raw, slang-filled style that stuck two fingers up at bourgeois sensibilities.

Celine’s attitude to the Jews only revealed itself in 1937 with the publication of a pamphlet, Trifles for a Massacre, which set him on a new path of racial hatred and conspiracy-mongering.

He never back-tracked. After the war, he launched a campaign of Holocaust-denial and sought to muddy the waters around his own war-time exploits – allowing him to worm his way back into France without repercussions.

‘Divine surprise’
Many in the French literary scene seem keen to separate early and late Celine.

“These manuscripts come at the right time – they are a divine surprise – for Celine to become a writer again: the one who matters, from 1932 to 1936,” literary historian Philippe Roussin told AFP.

Other critics say the early Celine was just hiding his true feelings.

They highlight a quote that may explain the gap between his progressive novels and reactionary feelings: “Knowing what the reader wants, following fashions like a shopgirl, is the job of any writer who is very financially constrained,” Celine wrote to a friend.

Despite his descent into Nazism, he was one of the great chroniclers of the trauma of World War I and the malaise of the inter-war years.

An exhibition about the discovery of the manuscripts opens on Thursday at the Gallimard Gallery and includes the original, hand-written sheets of Guerre.

They end with a line that is typical of Celine: “I caught the war in my head. It is locked in my head.”

In the final years before his death in 1961, Celine endlessly bemoaned the loss of his manuscripts.

The exhibition has a quote from him on the wall: “They burned them, almost three manuscripts, the pest-purging vigilantes!”

This was one occasion – not the only one – where he was proved wrong.