"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" is by Mark Haddon, a
children's book writer, and is published in UK by Jonathan Cape.
The story is fiction, but is told in the voice of Christopher, aged 15 who
has Aspergers syndrome. This explains his point of view as being entirely
and supremely logical as to facts, but rather less understanding of personal
relationships. For example, the chapters are numbered in rising prime
numbers. Christopher finds a dog stabbed to death on a neighbour's lawn, and
decides to investigate who the killer might be.
The passage which Raffaello Belli refers to is on page 33 of the UK edition.
Christopher is telling his educational psychologist that he wants to be an
astronaut, but even though he is considered to be very clever, he knows
becoming an astronaut will be difficult because he couldn't take orders from
other people, and has less than 20/20 vision. He goes on - "But I said you
could still want something that is very unlikely to happen." Then he
describes a conversation with another boy at school -
"Terry, who is the older brother of Francis, who is at the school, said I
would only ever get a job collecting supermarket trollies or cleaning our
donkey shit at an animal sanctuary and they didn't let spazzers drive
rockets that cost billions of pounds. When I told this to my Father, he said
that Terry was jealous of my being cleverer than him. Which was a stupid
thing to think because because we weren't in a competition. But Terry is
stupid, so quod erat demonstrandum which is Latin for Which is the thing
that was going to be proved, which means Thus it is proved.
I'm not a spazzer, which means spastic, not like Francis, who is a spazzer,
and even though I probably won't become an astronaut I am going to
university and study Mathematics....." (and later in that same paragraph) "
But Terry won't go to University. Father says Terry is most likely to end up
Thus, the UK version does not suggest spastic *is* retarded. Only Terry who
is clearly shown to be socially ignorant, calls Christopher "a spazzer".
This derogative term is currently widely used slang, or street language, to
describe any personal clumsiness - it is not neccessarily used only for
people who have cerebral palsy, learning difficulties or any other condition
that makes them different.
The translation thus mistakes the colloquial 'spazzer' with the specific
term, and also mistranslates the the specific term 'spastic' with 'retarded'
and perhaps indicates the translator confuses the two terms.
This would be a difficult book to translate, since many of the points that
Christopher makes cause readers to think again about the literal meanings of
words and logic. I found it a stimulating read, which reminded me of
conversations I have had with a young friend who does have Aspergers, and to
that end it does help to reveal some of the frustrations and
misunderstandings between those with and without Aspergers. However, the
author has said it was not a book about a boy with Aspergers, more a book
about a young mathematician who happens to be different, and although a few
have said it reinforces the 'Rainman' stereotype, it has been widely
commended by many people who have Aspergers in the UK.
Consultant for Disability Awareness in Children's Books
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Happy Ever Afters - a storybook guide to teaching children about disability
Trentham ISBN 1 85856 213 9
Disability Culture in Children's Literature edition of Disability Studies
Quarterly is now online at www.dsq-sds.org under "current issue" link.
Disability Studies Quarterly: Winter 2004 (February) Volume 24 No. 1
> Date: Mon, 15 Mar 2004 11:36:45 +0000
> From: Raffaello Belli <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time"
> I am said in UK a best-seller book is:
> "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time"
> Here in Italia, in the Italian translation of the book, it is written:
> page 35 "Io non sono un ritardato, che vuol dire
> spastico, ................. "
> that is, in English, approximately:
> "I am not a retarded person, who means spastic, ...."
> Anybody knows the original phrase in English?
> And, if this is the concept, I think it is a shame to write that "spastic
> means retarded".
> Moreover in a 2003 best seller!
> Raffaello Belli
> Date: Mon, 15 Mar 2004 07:54:54 -0500
> From: Maria Barile <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: Re: "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time"
> I don't see the same meaning in the English and Italian translation.
> However, from living in a part of Canada where things get translated all
> the time. I do know, that sometime the title of books in one language
> no direct link to original tittle. A translation Prof., at McGill
> to me that its done that way to make the title make to the audience, in
> their language. take a look at these 2 phrases :
> in bocca al lupo" became "break a leg" both have connotation of good
> I can see however, that prase in Italian is offensive. Especially with
> the historical connotation of the word "spastico" and as you cite it its
> totally mis-translation. A big problem when the language of disability
> mixed or double mixed with other preconceived ideas. ps. who is the
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