A dog called Interlock

My current parallel text is “L’homme à l’enverse“, a Fred Vargas novel translated into english with the title “Seeking whom he may devour“. I guess the title translation should have tipped me off to the fact that this was likely to be a clunky read. There’s one translation detail that’s really beginning to wind me up though, and that’s the name of the dog.

The old shepherd, called “Le Veillard” in the french and “Watchee” in the English, has a faithful sheepdog. This dog, in the french, is called “Interlock“. When asked about the name by the protagonist, Camille, the shepherd explains that this is a weaving term, and that he picked it by chance from the dictionary. For the rest of the book, there is a kind of running joke as Camille has difficulty remembering the name and calls the dog related terms (or “whatsitsname”).

In the English version, the translator has chosen to call the dog “Woof“. This is, indeed, a weaving term. But it’s also the noise that a dog makes. And so the running joke now has the effect of making Camille look utterly stupid every 20 pages or so, when she forgets that the dog is called woof. Way to go, translator.


  1. Aha. Of course – being dim – I read the book in English only. That particular point seemed unworthy of Vargas.

  2. Ah, love this book (love them all). Interlock is a really weird name for a dog, unlike Woof… I wonder what you’ll make of the translation of the one set in Quebec, where half the jokes are about quebec french …

  3. Author

    Sandrine – which book is that? I’ve only read a couple of Vargas but have enjoyed all of them so far..

  4. Sous les vents de Neptune, iirc.

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