En titt in bakom kulisserna i bokverkstaden

Vissa titlar är svårare att få fram än andra, och vissa textknådningar kräver längre korrespondens än andra. Det är ett konstaterande man kan göra kring boken Mamas sista kram, som vi länge talade om som En apas farväl.

Beteendevetaren och primatologen Frans de Waal är en världskändis och han har förväntningar därefter – vilket gör det desto mer spännande att ge ut en bok av honom och inte minst att få träffa honom när han gör en blixtvisit i Stockholm i april.

Under förberedelserna inför detta besök visade det sig snart att han tagit google translate till hjälp för att kontrollera hur boken framställts i den svenska lanseringen. ”En apas farväl” var INTE ok.
Här följer några klipp ur den långa konversationen som följde då Frans de Waal lyckades övertyga sin svenska redaktör Elina Lindström om titelbytet:

FdW: Mama’s Last Hug was also a goodbye by her, not just by humans to her. Your title may make it seem a one-sided encounter. I prefer the word hug over goodbye, as hug is warmer and more emotional. In French and Italian the translation has become “La derniere étreinte” and “L’ultimo abbraccio” because they could not handle the name of Mama in their title, but perhaps in Swedish you can, just as in Dutch it was “Mama’s Laatste Omhelzing.” This makes the title more personal.

EL: We chose this title since Swedes, unfortunately, might be too cynical for a literal translation. Not that they would spurn a mother’s hug, but rather that it is so personal and intimate that using it in the title would risk seeming cliché or even funny. This also has to do with the fact that the name Mama skews a bit close to the Swedish ”mamma”, making such a title hard to pronounce. With Mama’s soulful eyes on the cover, the ”farewell” in question also hints at the loss of an entire species, or indeed, the whole natural world, which really resonates with Swedes in these Thunberg times.

FdW: Hmmm … Of course, Mama in English is also used to refer to one’s mother, as it is in Dutch and German (“Mama’s letzte Umarmung”). I don’t see how this name can be an obstacle unless Swedes have a mother complex or are uptight about emotions in a way most people aren’t. Can you come up with a title, perhaps more like the Italian and French, as The last embrace, or The last hug, so that the title doesn’t carry the word ape in it?
I don’t know about the farewell of a species. This is really not what the book is about.

EL: You’re not completely off-base about Swedes being uptight…

FdW: Haha, sorry about that.

EL: The thing with using the name ”Mama” itself however, is that it is pronounced differently from the Swedish ”mamma”, which would cause confusion regarding how to pronounce it (and we of course want the title to be as striking and memorable as possible). The Swedish cynicism only really comes through in the full phrase ”a hug from mom”, which unfortunately seems very cheesy to a Swede.

FdW: Why? Do Swedish moms not hug their children? But anyway, a hug from mom is not the title. Mama is capitalized, it is a name.

EL: However, a title like the FR and IT titles would work really well in Swedish. It would translate to ”En sista kram”. Let me get back to you on this, as well as the cover which would need to be updated.

Vi gjorde efter denna vända ett försök med ”Mamas sista farväl”, vilket ledde till följande respons:

FdW: I like the cover and the reference to Mama, but the word farewell doesn’t occur in the book except that I assume that Jan van Hooff said his farewells to her. Whether she did to him is unclear. I discuss in the book that it is impossible to know if Mama saw the encounter as a farewell since we don’t know about her sense of mortality …
So, the current title is a stretch. Sorry!
What is “last hug’ in Swedish?

EL: We see your concern, but we don’t believe there is any cause for misunderstanding, precisely because you discuss the question in the book. It is very clear from the text itself and from our marketing materials that we cannot know what Mama meant, if there was indeed some deeper meaning, by this embrace. And that whether or not we see their last meeting as a farewell is up to our interpretation. With a title like this we aim to create the same melancholy feeling as the original.
However, if you don’t think this title works, we will go with MAMAS SISTA KRAM, a straight translation of MAMA’S LAST HUG.

Här klev faktiskt förlagschefen själv in och frågade om de Waals svar var att se som ett veto. (Vi började ju tycka att tiden sprang iväg och kände oss inte helt övertygade om det här med kramen.)

FdW: Yes, a veto.
I’d prefer a title that includes a hug or embrace and does not include the word for ape. Or, includes Mama’s name.

Klara besked, det fick bli Mamas sista kram – en titel vi nu älskar.