Cornelia Funke’s children’s books are the very definition of enchanting. Whether you’re considering her works for younger children (e.g. Dragon Rider) or older ones (e.g. Inkheart, Inkspell), her storylines are unique and absorbing. But it’s her voice that we find particularly noteworthy for all its fluid grace, its hint of poetry. So what a shocker when we first learned Cornelia, a German author, didn’t produce the English version of her books. Who then was the voice behind the English works, and how–if at all–did this mysterious person affect the voice? Inquiring minds had to know, and so we discovered Anthea Bell, a translator living in the UK, and asked her for this interview; she agreed. Read on to learn about the translation process from the ever-delightful Ms. Bell (and learn more about Cornelia Funke’s upcoming books as well)!
Part 1: Interview with Anthea Bell
Q: How did you become a translator for Cornelia Funke’s novels?
A: I started translating Cornelia Funke’s splendid fantasy novels after Barry Cunningham of Chicken House in the UK came to see me about them. (The publishing house is now merged with Scholastic UK, and as you know Scholastic US is Cornelia’s American publisher.) I’ve translated a good many books for children and young people, although for a while in around the 1980s and 1990s I translated only adult books, because publishers in the English-speaking world were reluctant even to consider children’s literature from other languages. The situation is better now, and I think Cornelia herself has done a lot to make publishers realize that a book from a foreign language really can catch the imagination of young people. I especially value that part of my work. The more widely children read, the more open-minded they will surely get to be.
Anyway, after he had published The Thief Lord Barry came along with Dragon Rider, and I was enchanted. In fact Cornelia was writing Inkheart at the time – and I was if anything even more enchanted when I read it – and publication in English (after The Thief Lord) began with Inkheart, followed by Dragon Rider, followed by Inkspell.
This year, while Cornelia finishes revising the third in the Inkworld trilogy, there will still be a new Cornelia Funke novel in English, for slightly younger readers than the trilogy (Dragon Rider readers, I’d say), but enjoyable by anyone of any age. It is a chivalric Arthurian fantasy with a strong strand of humor in it, called in German Igraine Ohnefurcht – working title Igraine the Fearless. I delivered the translation a few weeks ago, and we all love the story.