Pretty much every book or movie released in Germany is translated into German.
While in general I have no problem with this, even though I prefer the English version of movies, which luckily are almost always included on the DVD, I do have a problem with what happens to titles when they are being translated.

In this post I want to highlight a few of my favorites “title rapes”, mostly picked from books, but usually equally applicable if there is a film adaptation. As I mostly read Stephen King the list will probably be limited to his works (with one exception). This of course is also due to the fact that now have a Kindle and I buy my Kindle books in English.

The format of the list is “English Title (Author) – German Title (English Translation of German Title)”, followed by some comments. Be warned, the comments may contain spoilers.
So, without unnecessary delay, here my list of badly translated titles, in no particular order:

  • Needful Things (Stephen King) – In einer kleinen Stadt (In a small town)
    Okay, the location of this story is a small town, and it’s about what happens in this small town. It also is about a new shop called Needful Things being opened in this small town. And the deals made in this little shop are what drives the story, as they are directly responsible for the events described in this book.
  • Tommyknockers (Stephen King) – Das Monstrum (The Monster)
    This translation is already wrong due to the simple fact that there is not only one “monster”. And the monsters are actually aliens.
  • The Dark Tower 1 – The Gunslinger (Stephen King) – Schwarz (Black)
    So how exactly does “The Gunslinger” turn into “Black”? This story is about Roland, a gunslinger, chasing down the Man in Black, and that’s the only major role the color black plays in this book. In my opinion not enough justification to change the title to Black.
    This problem continues with the other Dark Tower books, most of which are reduced to nonsensical one word titles.
  • Sphere (Michael Crichton) – Die Gedanken des Boesen (The Thoughts of Evil)
    How did this happen? We have a title only one word long, pretty much describing the central object of the book, and it turns into something long and completely inappropriate. Fun fact: The German version of the movie is called Sphere…
  • Under the Dome (Stephen King) – Die Arena (The Arena)
    Again, a title that nicely describes the situation we find in the book, a small town trapped under a mysterious dome, changes into something that has no obvious relation to the story. Sure, in the end we find out that the dome is created by aliens as some sort of playful experiment, which kinda turns the whole town into an arena, but that just doesn’t feel like proper justification for this title change.
  • Lisey’s Story (Stephen King) – Love
    This has to be my favorite translation of a title simply because we have taken an English title and translated it into a different English title. Makes sense? No? Exactly…

So, while all translations are great examples on how we Germans like to mess up the titles of books there are still a lot of cases left unnoticed, some may even be more nonsensical than those listed here, although I find it hard to believe that anything can top the “Lisey’s Story” “Love” fuck-up…

Thank you!
Dennis Wronka

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