Translation News

Endgame: The Translation Scandal That Shook the World

Translation services may not be a place you’d generally look for scandals, particularly royal ones, but here we are.

The British flag in tatters after a translation service scandal with Prince Harry's book, Endgame.

The intricately woven tapestry of publishing and translation services is nothing less than magical when the machine is well-oiled. However, the recent scandal surrounding the Dutch translation of Omid Scobie’s book “Endgame” will ever serve as a poignant reminder of how little it takes to throw off the delicate balance between accuracy and accountability.  

For those who perhaps don’t keep up with the happenings within the House of Windsor, “Endgame” by royal author Omid Scobie delves into the complexities and challenges faced by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex within the British Royal Family, reigniting discussions about racism and media treatment that were initially sparked by Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2021.  

Nearly a year after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, this long-running controversy took a mysterious new turn when the Dutch version of the book (and only the Dutch version) named King Charles and Catherine, Princess of Wales as the individuals who allegedly made comments about the skin color of Meghan and Harry’s son, Archie.  

While this event is indeed referenced in the book, the specific names of the royals involved were not present in the English version nor in any other translations. This led to a whirlwind of speculation and investigation after “Endgame” was pulled from shelves in the Netherlands

So, what happened? Does this mean that translation service providers shouldn’t be trusted? Initially, the blame was laid at the feet of the translator and labelled a “translation error”. Unsurprisingly, though, this explanation was not enough to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes for long. Speculation and further investigations eventually lead to the realization that there were, in fact, passages in the Dutch translation missing from the English version of the text. 

The root of this scandal most likely lies in an error on the publisher’s end, possibly involving the circulation of an early draft that inadvertently included the names (though Scobie denies this). Alternatively, some commentators and industry insiders have speculated that this “error” might not have been entirely accidental, suggesting a more complex interplay of intentions and oversights. Regardless of the intent, this situation underscores the critical importance of rigorous quality assurance processes in the publishing and translation industries

Accountability is clearly paramount in these fields, where the potential for miscommunication and misinformation can have far-reaching consequences. At GORR, we emphasize the significance of quality assurance as a foundational pillar of the translation industry. By adhering to stringent standards and protocols, GORR aims to ensure that translations are not only accurate but also faithfully convey the intended message without addition, omission, or alteration of any kind. 

For anyone who has ever read a translation or attempted to create one, it is very difficult to believe that any fault lay with the translator. As we’re sure you can imagine, translating a name incorrectly is virtually impossible, which means the translator, Saskia Peeters, was simply working with the text presented to her.  

Peeters herself stated, “As a translator, I translate what is in front of me. The names of the royals were there in black and white. I did not add them.” As the names of the royals are clearly not ones that require linguistic alteration, it is more probable that the issue stemmed from the material that was originally provided to the translator

The cover of Endgame, written by Omid Scobie, which ignited a translation scandal upon release.

Moreover, the fact that this discrepancy was not caught by anyone at the publishing house who reviewed or proofread the book before its publication adds another layer of mystery and complexity to this revelation. It highlights a potentially critical gap in the quality assurance process as such a significant oversight slipped through the cracks.  

Every step, from initial manuscript preparation to final publication, must be meticulously checked and rechecked to ensure fidelity to the source material. This includes verifying the accuracy of names, facts, and details, as well as ensuring that translations accurately reflect the original text’s intent and tone.  

Quality assurance is not just about preventing errors; it’s about preserving trust in the written word and the integrity of the authors and translators who bring these words to a global audience. For an “error” of this magnitude to have occurred requires a massive oversight at a very high level or some miscommunication (at the very least) that went too far. 

The “Endgame” scandal must serve as a cautionary tale for the translation and publishing industries alike. It underscores the continued need for unwavering attention to detail and robust quality assurance mechanisms to prevent such errors from arising in the future. 


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