Why Is It Sometimes a Good Idea to List Great Books by Their Name in Their Original Non-English Language?

I asked this question a while back, and no one could answer it. I guess you guys are a bit slow LOL. Well, here, let me help you out!

I take as my example Emile Zola, the great French naturalist writer. He mostly wrote novels, some of which are quite famous. As an aside, I’ve never read any of his books, but I have dipped into a page or so of a couple of them. Very descriptive.

The problem is that even his titles in English can get confusing. For instance, some of his French books have been translated under four or five different titles. There is a book of his called La Ventre de Paris, literally, The Belly of Paris. It’s been translated into English not only as The Belly of Paris, La Belle Lisa (The Beautiful Lisa), The Paris Market Girls, The Fat and the Thin, and Savage Paris. It’s been translated into English under five different titles! Not much similarity, huh?

Now if I say I read The Belly of Paris by Zola and you say you read a book by Zola called The Fat and the Thin, how in God’s name do we realize that we’ve both read the same book? The solution is simply to refer to the book first by its French name, La Ventre de Paris. If we both know that we read a book called La Ventre de Paris, no matter how it was translated, we both know we read the same book!

Now to make matters worse, I assure you that Zola’s books have been translated into all sorts of names in other languages, and some of those do not translate directly into from their French titles. For instance, the title in Swedish is Hallarna (The Halls). Not very similar, eh? If I have a Swedish friend and I tell him I read Zola’s The Belly of Paris, and he says he read a book called Hallarna, or The Halls in English, how do we know we read the same book? Once again, the only way out if we both refer to the book by its original French name, La Ventre de Paris.

Surprised you guys could not figure that out LOL. Note that this works best for old foreign works that have been around for a century or more, although even today, book titles may not be translated literally in foreign languages.

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