The Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski

Though his the first two novels in Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Witcher series, starring Geralt the Witcher, an anti-hero who deserves to sit alongside the likes of Elric of Melibourne, were critically well received when they were published in English for the first time several years ago, and the videogame adaptations based on his series have sold millions of copies, the Polish author has had little luck in negotiating the English publishing and translation rights for the ensuing volumes of Geralt’s saga. That has changed, however, thanks to a group of ardent fans who have recently released their own translations of the books as free downloads for other Geralt fans.

Of course, the legality of this project is somewhat in question, given that the English rights to the stories presumably still belong to Sapkowski and these fan translations are being distributed (again, presumably) without his knowledge. On top of that, these being fan translations, the quality of the writing/translation is likely below the standard of the professional English releases of Sapkowski’s other novels. So ‘buyer’ beware on those two fronts, and I suggest you consider the ethics/legality of the project before downloading the files.

The fan translations can be found on the official forums for The Witcher, the videogame series based off of Sapkowski’s series.

Discussion
  • Bibliotropic October 30, 2012 at 3:44 am

    I’ve had to rely on fan translations a time of two, when my grasp of a language isn’t what I want it to be but there’s a book I really want to read. And it’s definitely legally shady. There’s some wiggle room when it comes to copyright and location, sure, but it’s still on shaky ground since it’s an unauthorized version, and the author would be within their rights to tell them to take it down.

  • Adam Whitehead October 30, 2012 at 7:28 am

    ” the Polish author has had little luck in finding a publisher for the ensuing volumes of Geralt’s saga”

    This is not accurate. Gollancz have always had the UK rights and Orbit the US ones. The problem wasn’t the publication rights but a legal tangle between Sapkowski, the publishers and the translator.

    And yes, this is very legally shady. The fan-translations may indeed be superior, but they are essentially releasing the books for free download without the author or the publishers’ permission. A big no-no.

  • Aidan Moher October 30, 2012 at 7:45 am

    Thanks, Adam. I’ve updated the original post to reflect the comment about the translation rights.

  • Weirdmage October 30, 2012 at 8:25 am

    This is not “legally shady”, it’s clearly a case of unauthorised publishing, or piracy if you will. Doing this without a contract with the one(s) who hold the rights is clearly illegal according to international copyright laws.
    And it is without doubt morally wrong. In fact I think the phrase “fan translation” is BS. If you really are a fan of someones work you wouldn’t steal it. A better phrase would be “pirate translation”, or perhaps “entitled idiot translation”.

    I don’t think you should link to where these translations are found. It’s just the same as linking to pirate sites for people who live in a territory where the e-book isn’t available beacause of rights issues, and it only encourages illegal behaviour. It can even be said to support illegal behaviour.

  • Aidan Moher October 30, 2012 at 8:34 am

    Point taken, Weirdmage, but the discussion and project is currently being hosted by forums with official ties to Sapkowski and the Witcher series, a highly visible forum, and has been running for almost two years without interruption from Sapkowski, Gollancz, Orbit or CD Projekt, who all have stakes in the series and have seen fit to let the project continue. If they take it down now, I will not, of course, link to any pirate sites with copies of the fan translations.

  • Liviu October 30, 2012 at 8:57 am

    I took a look and the translations are laughably bad, so while they may do for desperate fans in need of a fix, it is very unlikely they will offer any competition for good translation by competent translators who can adapt the prose rather than write a word-by-word translation. with no rhythm and which on the few pages I browsed is so bad that it read like a parody for the worst writing of the year award.

    Even using Google translator or current software may get better results than what I read there.

  • Aidan Moher October 30, 2012 at 8:59 am

    Funny you say that, Liviu. The translation was done by non-Polish-speaking fans. They ran the text through Google Translate and then ‘edited’ the resulting translations. If these *are* little better than generic Google Translate results, you may be onto the reason why the publishers, CD Projekt and Sapkowski have let this project continue to completion.

  • Weirdmage October 30, 2012 at 9:26 am

    Aidan, I understand. I wonder if it’s not been taken down because of the legal tangle Adam references.

    As to Google translate; I’m Norwegian and have on a few occasions tweeted Norwegian articles to my, mostly English language, Twitter followers. Having checked them with Google translate first, I can say that even for simple newspaper articles you are left with only the bare facts when it’s translated. There are so many nuances, and even whole words, that are lost in electronic translations.
    If I was to translate a text from Norwegian to English I actually think it would take me longer if I did a Google translation and worked from that than if I did it from scratch. And for it to do any justice to what was written I’d have to have the original text at hand.
    Also as someone who is bilingual, I think electronic translations will be viable shortly AFTER a computer is capable of writing a book from scratch. There’s just so many nuances and local slang that you would have to have experience of, and understand the background of, for it to ever be an alternative for getting a translation that does the original text justice.

  • kara-karina October 31, 2012 at 4:59 am

    If it’s gone through google translate, even with a bit of a clean up, it’s going to be absolutely unreadable, guys! I’ve done good translation of literary texts before and I’ve seen the difference with google services. It’s godawful. As it was said above, it’s good for bare facts, but not for any kind of enjoyment.

    Apart from that, I wanted to say that I’ve read most of Sapkowski’s work in Russian and enjoyed it immensely. There is also Polish TV series based on books which I thought was pretty good (don’t think it’s translated in English though). When the books are finally published in English, grab them – they are awesome! :)

  • Nerds_feather October 31, 2012 at 7:45 am

    Clearly shady, from a legal perspective, and I think if you’re an Anglophone fan, you have to support the author and his publisher by getting the legit versions of The Last Wish, Blood of Elves or the subsequent 4 novels, which are slated for publication in English. For a dedicated, non-Polish reading fan, though, it brings up a quandary with regards Sword of Destiny, the collection that Orbit/Gollancz declined to publish. As far as I know, they aren’t planning on it either, which makes (probably poor) fan translations the only real way to access the stories. This, of course, would be solved if Orbit/Gollancz decided to actually publish SoD…

  • Weirdmage October 31, 2012 at 8:05 am

    @Nerds_father
    You can solve the quandary in several ways legally, without resorting to pirated editions. You can learn to read Polish, you can start a campaign to get the books published, or you could even start a publishing company to publish the books in English. For the last alternative I’d suggest funding it through kickstarter.
    Getting the books illegally has nothing to do with being a fan, and everything to do with entitlement. If you are a fan and really “need” these books in English, I have given examples of how it’s possible to do so. It requires a bit, or even a lot of work, but a true fan shouldn’t think it is too much.

  • LuisB October 31, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    Ok this probably comes from a different place but as a “professional” manga letterer this sort of fan initiative is what convinces publishers that there’s an audience for a character/series and gets the ball rolling with either a publisher picking up a series or someone else giving it new life. As someone else on this thread pointed out it’s something legal but speaking from a fan perspective it’s baffling that after 2 games that were sales and critical hits there’s been zero development with the rest of the books (which I own and had to resort to read the definitely crappy Spanish versions because I just wanted my Witcher fix).

    And frankly @Weirdmage your “examples” are some of the most extreme I’ve ever seen like I said it might’ve happened in a different medium/genre but this type of fan initiative usually gets things done, I see it more as a sort of grassroots campaign to show that there’s a hungry audience waiting for more. To be honest it’s refreshing to see this with books because to some degree with video games and manga and comics it has worked in the past.

  • Weirdmage October 31, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    @LuisB Seriously? You think it’s extreme to do something legal instead of resorting to piracy?
    One of my examples was to start a campaign to get the books published in English, do you really think that is too extreme?

    Since you mention that fan translation usually get things done, I’d be interested to see ten examples of official translations that have been done for the reason that the fan translation was popular. Because I have never heard of a single example of that being the case. But I’ll admit that I don’t follow Manga, so I have very little Idea of what goes on there.

  • LuisB November 1, 2012 at 6:06 am

    But wouldn’t these fan translations count as a sort of campaign? I can see your point and while the piracy part remains it’s not like these people are making money off this right? (or at least as far as I know).

    And for examples to this example in manga you can pretty much add any series not really “mainstream” i.e something you’d later see on tv dubbed, in fact quite a few of the translating/lettering teams get recruited and given the “official” mantle. Granted this is really different and I only used it to show how fan initiative gets the ball rolling it’s not the same to translate like 800 pages of prose for like 220 of like 20 dialog balloons per page in a typical volume.

  • Maria November 9, 2012 at 2:04 am

    Hello there! I wanted to share my opinion on the matter. Before i continue, i have to say that i am a member of The Witcher community, and that i found this page incidentally, wile searching for Sapkowski’s news.
    The fan translations (or whatever you may call them) have been made out of love. These people really love the Witcher story and wanted to share it. I don’t think it’s such a crime, because the files are not for sale. Furthermore, as some of you already said, the translations are not even close enough to the original text, so everyone who is willing to buy the official English version of the books will not think it twice.
    Believe me, everyone who bothers to read a fan translation is so dedicated that he ‘ll have the books when they are on market. I ‘ve given this link to several people; nobody read through the whole work except me; and i ‘m the one who wants to buy all the books in all the languages (and i will, at least in three of them). So, if i was Mr. Sapkowski i wouldn’t consider this as a nuisance; i dare say it’s only more popularity.

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