Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie’s translations in Finland

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Images and bibliography courtesy of Ilari Haapasalo

Agatha Christie’s books have been translated into more than 100 languages.  The world’s bestselling author, she has sold, according to the Guinness Book of  Records, 2 billion copies of her mysteries. Initial sales were slow, however. The first edition of her first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920) sold 2 000 copies. Published six years later, her seventh book, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Collins, 1926) sold 5 000, and it would be more than 20 books and more than 15 years later before the first edition of her Three-Act Tragedy (1935)  would pass the mark of the 10 000.  The French translation of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was the first book in the famous and perennially successful “Le Masque” series, launched by the Librairie des Champs Elysées in 1927. There too, success came slowly. It took all of three years to sell 3000 copies.  In the same year, the same book was translated in Finland. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was actually published there under  three different titles and  by 3 different publishing houses : Odottamaton Ratkaisu (Satakunnan kirjateollisuus, 1927); Kello 9,10 (Otava, 1929) and Roger Acroydin murha (WSOY, 1959)

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Agatha Christie,  Odottamaton Ratkaisu (Satakunnan kirjateollisuus, 1927) Continue reading

How to rank the Top 20 novels by Agatha Christie ?

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Any project dealing with a large corpus, even big data, needs to construct its object of research. This often means defining it according to precise and telling criteria. Quantitative research also means careful selection. Sampling is the key. But how is one to sample within a canonical corpus such as that of the novels of “the Queen of Crime”? There are obviously some numeric indexes: sales figures, number of editions, number of translations. But what else? An interesting ranking of the 78 novels by Agatha Christie can be found at https://agathachristiereader.wordpress.com/christie-index/; Similarly a Goodreads ranking, based on readers votes can be accessed at http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/2126.Best_Agatha_Christie_Book. And there is yet another, more subjective one, below. Continue reading

The Golden Age of Murder

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The highly anticipated book by Martin Edwards on  “the mystery of the writers who invented the modern detective story” is being released today. It promises to shed new light on the 1930s authors who published in Britain and formed part of the Detection Club. It invites readers to undertake a long overdue reconsideration of both their literary output and their worldviews. The problem with authors who were, for so long, as famous and dominant as Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and John Dickson Carr is that it is easy to feel complacent about them. For a very long time, golden age authors have been seen as unfashionable in both literary and political circles. The noir genre, especially after WWII, seemed more exciting, modern and transgressive. While structuralists and narrative theorists have, from Todorov in the 1960s to Pierre Bayard, more recently, praised golden age authors’ artful plot construction, their politics had never really been reappraised. Chandler, in distancing the realistic, street-savy, brand of crime fiction he represents from the world of privilege and pure intellectual speculation he identified with the golden age output, inflicted terrible and certainly unfair damage to this group of authors. But treating them in an undifferentiated way, as conservative stalwarts of the established narrative and the social order, does not do justice to the great variety of authors and circumstances represented within the Detection Club. Continue reading

Yellow covers in Spain : The Biblioteca Oro

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Sax Rohmer, El Diabolico Doctor (Biblioteca Oro, 35, 1935

It was not long before  a Spanish publisher introduced the  1920’s fashion of Yellow Crime Fiction booklets to Spain.  Only a few years after Mondadori in Italy,  the Barcelona publisher Molino proposed in 1933 (the year of the publishing house’s creation),  a series of Crime Fiction  pulps with yellow covers in its series Biblioteca Oro. Like the Italian series, this Spanish counterpart would become a landmark series, publishing the most representative authors in the genre.  The books were on average some 100 pages long and cost 0,90 cts.

 The first period of the series starts in 1933 and finishes in 1936, the year of the civil war.  In its original period, the series published 25 authors, accounting for 68 books (see list below).  The authors who saw the most of their books translated  in the series were Oppenheim (8), Martyn (7), Christie (6) and Van Dine (5).  Christie published there in that period the following books, whose translated title remain close to the original    (this was not always the case in French)  as can be see here : Continue reading

Red Crime in Germany

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One of the most iconic of German Crime Fiction series is Goldmann Taschen-Krimis. It was created as a pocketbooks series in 1952. In this format,  together  with new titles it republished many  books, which had  previously been published by Goldmann before the War, such as  Christie’s Das Geiheimnis von Sittaford.  The Goldmann pocket books used to cost  less than 2 Deutsche Mark  (1,90) until 1960. The price was then set at 2 DM Continue reading

Translating Crime Fiction between the Wars

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(French Translators for Le Masque Series : click to enlarge)

Studying Crime Fiction Series in their cohesion and complexity, rather than works and authors for their originality, presents a radical departure from the type of literary work traditionally done in academia.  Compared with close reading and textual analysis, this seems a more appropriate way to approach the conditions of production of a material culture, and hence, to better understand Crime Fiction. It takes the  observer away from the ideology sacralising the unique and  celebrating the individual, and promotes  the discovery of the collective and relational nature of what we call literature.  It also requires different tools and poses different research questions.  The shift in  focus helps revealing   a series of phenomena and circumstances, as well as an entire population of agents usually falling under the radar of literary research. Such  is the case of the fascinating, yet totally under-researched subject of translators of crime fiction. Continue reading

The Collins Crime Club : Authors and Titles

  

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Having published  2 025 novels of Crime Fiction over a period spanning seven decades, between 1930 and 1994, The Collins Crime Club is another of the longest Crime Series worldwide. An imprint of  William Collins & Co,  it published almost the entire work of British women authors Agatha Christie (from 1926 and Murder in the Vicarage) and Ngaio Marsh (pictured)

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82 authors contributed to the Collins Crime Club Series. The most frequently published were Gilbert (55 books), Lorac (52) Christie, (48) Farjeon (36) and Rhode  (32). Books selected to be included in the Collins Crime Club Series certainly deserve to be described as murder mysteries. As the following visualization, based on the titles suggests it :

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bvcxMurder features prominently among the hundreds of titles published  by Collins Crime Club of the decades  :  see for example some of the novels by the prolific Anthony Abbott (aka Fulton Oursler (1893–1952), author  of The Greatest Story Ever Told), in his Thatcher Colt Series : The Murder of Geraldine Foster,  Collins Crime Club, 1931; The Murder of the Night Club Lady,  Collins Crime Club, 1931; The Murder of the Circus Queen, Collins Crime Club, 1932; Murder of a Startled LadyCollins Crime Club, 1937; Murder of a Man Afraid of Women, Collins Crime Club,1937;  Murder at Buzzards Bay, Collins Crime Club, 1940.