Thursday, April 2, 2009

What's In A Name

It’s a bit of an old story now, but one that I was thinking about again  recently when Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes was named the CBC Canada Reads winner for 2009. 

The story is, that with the US publication of his novel back in 2007, the American publisher requested that the name be changed to Someone Knows My Name. Changing a book title is actually a relatively common practice when books are published in a new market, and there may be any number of reasons why this happens. In this case it was felt that the word “negro” in the title would be incendiary in the US market. (Hill himself wrote an interesting piece on the name change in the UK newspaper the Guardian when the book was gearing up for it’s UK release - where, by the way, it’s also known as The Book of Negroes).

It got me interested in investigating some other books
with varying titles. One not-so-long-ago famous case was the first book in the Harry Potter series which was released in the UK as Harry Potter and the Philosophers’s Stone but in the US as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone(sorcerers being more popular than philosophers in the US, I guess). The first title in another popular UK fantasy series The Golden Compass is actually known as Northern Lights in the British release.

Sometimes film adaptations come into play as well in this name game. The recent box office smash Slumdog Millionaire is based on a book, but that book is called Q & A (although bookstores are now selling a repackaged version with the new title). There’s also the case of a recent hit from Sweden: the vampire novel that was the inspiration for the film Let the Right One In was originally released in the US as Let Me In (publishers thought the shorter title worked better), but with the popularity of the movie, the book is being repackaged under the original title. If you check the website of the Man Booker Prize, the archive lists the 1982 winner as Schindler's Ark by Thomas Keneally. The book was released in the UK under that title, but in the US under the title that the Oscar winning film eventually took: Schindler's List.

Here’s a few more that I stumbled across - no explanations this time though:

Alice Munro’s Who Do You Think You Are is  published in the US as The Beggar Maid.

Tess Gerritsen’s The Keepsake is known as Keeping the Dead in the UK.

Joanne Harris’ The Lollipop Shoes (British and Canadian title) is called The Girl With No Shadow in the US.

A recent UK release by Chris Cleave known as The Other Hand in the UK has been released in North America with the title Little Bee

1 comment:

  1. I enjoy this blog site and check it out from time to time, just wish there was more time in teh day to read all these wonderful books!