Sunday, July 07, 2002

Potter imposter hits China

Young magician goes from Harry to hairy dwarf in fake fifth book

By Audra Ang
The Associated Press

        BEIJING — Roll away, Sorcerer's Stone! Step aside, Prisoner of Azkaban! Harry Potter and Leopard-Walk-Up-To-Dragon are here!

        Chinese fans of the British boy wizard with the lightning-bolt scar on his forehead are snapping up the fifth book in the wildly popular series.

        There's just one problem. It's fake — written by a Chinese author for a Chinese audience.

        The 198-page book — titled Harry Potter and Leopard-Walk-Up-To-Dragon after its mysterious villain — has the name and bio of British author J.K. Rowling on its cover. But the tale in which Harry turns into a hairy dwarf after a “sour-sweet rain” is the unauthorized work of an anonymous author.

        “We have not found who wrote the book or where they come from,” said Zhang Deguang of the People's Literature Publishing House, which has the series' publishing rights in China. “It's made a negative impact on our book sales.”

        Ms. Rowling is at work on the real fifth installment, which is not expected to be finished this year.

        Ms. Rowling's agent, the Christopher Little Literary Agency in London, said it was aware of the fake Chinese Harry. A spokeswoman who asked not to be identified refused to comment by telephone, but sent the Associated Press an e-mail saying, “We are taking this issue extremely seriously.”

        It was unclear what punishment the fake author could face, given the uniqueness of the situation. China's government has promised repeatedly to crack down on counterfeiters and intellectual property theft. Still, flocks of hawkers selling fake DVDs were plying their trade unpunished Friday in central Beijing, in full view of police.

Harry Potter or Ha-li Bo-te?

        Harry Potter — “Ha-li Bo-te” in Mandarin — has had authorized translations into 18 languages.

        A movie made from the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, ranked No. 7 on the all-time box office list in the United States, taking in $317 million. In China, unauthorized copies were being sold by DVD peddlers on the street four days after it opened in the United States and Britain.

        Publication in 2000 of the genuine Harry Potter — a boxed set of the four books to date — was a major literary event in China.

        A team of four translators, veterans who had rendered Alice in Wonderland and Tom Sawyer into Chinese, drew on China's own tales of ghosts, magic and kung fu for language to portray Harry's world of sorcery.

        Zhang said the People's Literature Publishing House has found copies of the unauthorized Harry in wholesale markets and private bookstores throughout Beijing.

        One unidentified bookseller told The Beijing Youth Daily that nine out of her 10 copies were sold in a matter of days.

        Most booksellers visited by reporters on Friday denied having copies. They said police threatened to fine them 10 times the $2.80 price if any copies were found.

        A shopkeeper in western Beijing sold a copy for $1.20, pulling it from a hiding place behind a stack of books.

        The cover of Harry Potter and Leopard-Walk-Up-To-Dragon shows a dark-haired, bespectacled boy in black robes riding a satyr battling a dragon.

        In a bizarre touch, the book is dedicated to the owner of a house in Edinburgh, Scotland, where Ms. Rowling lives, and to the owner's 3-year-old granddaughter.

True fans won't be fooled

        Characters well-known to fans of Ms. Rowling's series make an appearance — the Dursleys, Harry's friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasely and his archrival, Draco Malfoy.

        True Harry Potter fans won't be fooled for long. Ms. Rowling's imitator just doesn't have her touch. Consider the opening paragraph:

        “Harry is wondering in his bath how long it will take to wash away the creamy cake from his face. To a grown-up, handsome young man, it is disgusting to have filthy dirt on his body. Lying in a luxurious bathtub and rubbing his face with his hands, he thinks about Dudley's face, which is as fat as Aunt Petunia's bottom.”


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- Potter imposter hits China