From Bedfordshire on Sunday 1st February 2004


A RETIRED schoolmaster found himself being given the most unusual homework by one of the world's most famous authors - translating Harry Potter into ancient Greek.

Former Bedford Modern School classics master Andrew Wilson was chosen to translate the multi-million selling author's first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.

Mr Wilson got involved after reading that the book had been translated into Latin and the author was keen for it to be produced in classical Greek as well.

He said: "I thought to myself 'I could do that' so I wrote off to the head of children's books at publisher Bloomsbury, although I didn't really expect anything to come of it.

"I didn't really give it any more thought and then six weeks later she called me on my mobile and asked me to send in a sample chapter - then I was offered a contract."

Beginning work in January 2002, Mr Wilson, 64, of Windrush Avenue, Bedford, allowed himself a year to complete the work.

"At the start a year seemed like a long time but about six months passed and I realised I had only done a quarter of it so I set myself a timetable, like students have for exam revision, to get myself organised."

The task was particularly difficult as Greek not only has a different alphabet to English but classical Greek uses various inflection signs which can impart anything up to seven different meanings to a single vowel.

Mr Wilson said: "This language has not been used in this form for around 1,500 years and I am pretty sure this will be the longest text written in it since that time.

"When I was studying it we used to translate short paragraphs and that took about three hours so this was quite a task but I really enjoyed it.

"One thing lots of people have asked me is why JK Rowling would want it in classical Greek. It could be that she has so much money she can do anything she likes.

"I know she studied Latin and French at Exeter and enjoyed Latin so perhaps she wants to bring the more obscure languages to young people's attention.

"Of course it could also be about worldwide sales figures and a desire to have it published in more languages than The Bible and Shakespeare.

"I don't for one minute expect it to be commercially successful. It will probably be the least read book in the world."

Mr Wilson is now working closely with the publisher and expert proof readers to get the text ready for printing and it is due to be released along with an Irish Gaelic version in July.

A Bloomsbury spokesman said: "We decided to do the Greek translation after the success of the Latin version. We thought it would be quite a fun thing to do and also useful for students who could read these alongside the English version as an alternative to some of the more traditional texts they have to work with."


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