When taking in Mich Vraa’s experience while translating author Dan Brown’s blockbuster novel ‘Inferno' into Danish earlier this year, one could be forgiven for thinking that it sounds more like a spy thriller than the life of a translator.
What was supposed to be a fun challenge turned into something a lot more sinister, Vraa revealed in a narrative entitled ‘Interno – A farewell to Dan Brown’ that has been published by Zetland magazine.
For nearly five weeks in February and March this year, Vraa and translators from several other countries found themselves surrounded by bodyguards in a top-secret bunker located in a hidden corner of London.
The translators were forced to hand over their mobile phones and cameras, before being locked in a room equipped with a computer without internet access and an English version of Brown’s book. Every night, the manuscripts were locked away in a safe and when Vraa had completed his task, his editor flew back to Denmark with the finished work saved on an encrypted USB stick that was hidden in her bra.
When he returned home 26 days later, Vraa had a bitter taste in his mouth about the whole episode and decided to write about his experience.
“After I came home I felt like I had damaged myself by agreeing to abide by these rules, so I wrote this to let off some steam,” Vraa told Politiken newspaper. “But I also did so because I feel that it is important that someone reveals what is going on in the publishing industry, where content is being sacrificed in order to cater to the circus that surrounds publishing.”
Ridiculous security measures
Vraa, who also translated Brown’s previous novel ‘The Lost Symbol’ in 2009, feels that the security measures employed by the publishers this time around were completely disproportional.
“The crazy thing is that I doubt that Dan Brown’s manuscript was in any danger of being leaked. I think it was more of a PR stunt from the US publishers,” Vraa argued.
The translator was bound by contract not to reveal his London experience, and his revelations will burn bridges with Hr. Ferdinand, the publisher of Dan Brown’s books in Denmark.
But Vraa didn’t expect any reprisals from Brown’s publisher and said he wouldn’t be working on any Brown projects again in the future.
“The other translators and I were stepped on by the unprofessional treatment in London. We translators may just be a tiny cog in the Dan Brown machine, but the work we do should be respected,” Vraa said. “I am done with Dan Brown. There are books from many other authors that I would rather translate.”
Vraa, who said he earned 185,000 kroner for translating 'Inferno', is one of Denmark’s leading translators and has translated close to 1,000 books, including works by Jonathan Franzen, Ernest Hemingway, James Meek and Jeffrey Eugenides.
Brown’s publisher in Denmark, Hr. Ferdinand, refused to comment on the story.