The success of Go Set a Watchman has translated into success for the Spanish edition of the book. During its first week on sale, Ve y pon un centinela was #5 on Nielsen’s list of bestselling Spanish titles. We recently spoke with translator Marián Belmonte, who lives in Madrid, about the challenges of rendering one of the year’s most anticipated novels in Spanish.
Why did the publisher, HarperCollins Español, release two different Spanish translations of the book?
We did one translation for Latin America, and then the editor from HarperCollins adapted it for the Spanish market. We all felt it was necessary to have two versions of the novel. This is why HarperCollins also decided to do a new translation of To Kill a Mockingbird.
Did you also retranslate To Kill a Mockingbird?
No, we just did a version for Latin America, because the publisher already had one for Spain.
Did you use the version from Spain as a starting point?
Actually, we started from scratch; we didn’t want to use the version from Spain. We have not yet compared both editions to see how similar the translations are.
What was the most challenging aspect of translating Go Set a Watchman?
Translating Southern slang from a particular period was quite challenging. We also had less than four months to complete the translation, but we worked as a team with the editor, and that was exciting.
How did you become familiar with Southern slang and translate that to Latin American Spanish?
For both books, we had to do extensive research on slang. But our research also focused on [Southern] culture and society, and understanding what was happening at that place and time. This way we were able to understand the sentiment and ideas of the book, and that is what we focused on. We tried to do a translation in a neutral Spanish, so we also had to be careful not use terms that might have very different meanings from one Latin American country to the next. We try to achieve a very global Spanish.
What other big books have you translated?
I am part owner of Belmonte Traductores—we translated American Sniper [by Chris Kyle], a very interesting book but also a challenge to translate. The language he uses, as a soldier in the Army, was not familiar to us. Most of the books we translate are inspirational fiction, but we do quite a bit of [literary] fiction and nonfiction.