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Finally: Tintin Speaks Hindi!

Written By: Usree Bhattacharya on December 6, 2010 No Comment

As Hergé‘s iconic Tintin series turns 80, having been translated into 58 languages and sold 230 million copies across the globe, it will be available for the first time in the world’s fourth largest language, Hindi. In India, the series has been available only in English and Bengali till now, though Tintin travels to India three times in the series, in the Blue Lotus; Cigars of the Pharaoh; and Tintin in Tibet (where he visits my hometown, Delhi). As Saloni Meghani noted, his trips contained all the stereotypical representations of India: a fakir, an elephant, a holy cow, and a Maharaja.  Now, eight books from the series hit the market in Hindi: Tintin in Congo, Tintin in America, Cigars of the Pharaoh, The Broken Ear, The Black Island, The Blue Lotus, The Crab with the Golden Claws, and King Ottokar’s Sceptre (four more will follow). Each book will come at a wallet-friendly price of Rs. 195, half that of the English version.

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The project took some time getting off the ground-the translation process itself took five years. Ajay Mago, publisher and CEO of OM Books, which will publish the Hindi series, noted that because of “the inherent differences in the culture, sensibilities and language, it was very difficult to translate the jokes.”

The names have been recast for the Hindi audience: Snowy becomes Natkhat, Thompson and Thompson become Santu and Bantu, Professor Cuthbert Calculus becomes Ayabhatta Suryamukhi, and Bianca Castafiore becomes Malika Castafiore. The exclamation “Great snakes!” becomes “Baal ki khaal“; and Bianca’s song “Ah! My beauty past compare” is substituted by “Abh toh main jawan hoon.” But the biggest translational hurdle, according to Mago, was posed by Captain Haddock’s trademark phrase “billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles,” which is now translated as “karod kasmasate kaale kacchuve” (in my opinion, a satisfactory, but not great translation).  Interestingly, it appears that it’s the English version of the comics that have been translated, not the original French. So the translation is at second remove. It would be fun to check out the same text in all three languages…maybe a winter project for me?

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