The Czech edition of my novel, The Art of Baking Blind, is published today and – as with many of my foreign editions – the title has changed: in this case, to Love with the Taste of Macarons. What really delights me, though, is that my surname has also altered – from the staid, monosyllabic Sarah Vaughan (my married name, chosen because there was already a literary, Man Booker-shortlisted author with my byline, Sarah Hall), to the altogether more diva-ish Sarah Vaughanová.
Fellow prime writers have also experienced this change. Here’s Louise Walters’ Czech cover for Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase, in which both her and her eponymous heroine’s surnames are given a feminine suffix to become Watersová and Sinclairové respectively.
And here’s her Serbian one in which her name is changed almost beyond recognition to Luiz Volters.
As for Fionnuala Kearney, who has long had to contend with excessive vowels in her first name, the Slovak edition of her debut novel, You, Me and Other People bestows an extra two syllables, an accent and two vowels – to create ten in total – and make her Fionnuala Kearneyová.
But do these name changes matter to writers, for whom a name – or a carefully-chosen pseudonym – is so important to their identity? Not in the least, if our experience is typical.
Louise Walters describes Luiz Volters as “kind of cool” but admits that seeing her and her children’s names altered in the Czech edition was “funny and odd.” She adds: “On closer inspection, most of the names [in the book] had been changed. The kids’ names in the dedication looked so strange. They found it amusing, too, and for a while we were calling each other Emilyova, Judeove etc.”
Fionnuala Kearney, who was christened Ann, admits: “Though I love my name it really is completely non-phonetic and has too many vowels which has only worsened when I took my husband’s name in marriage [and changed my name to Kearney – from Moore.] I actually laughed with joy when I got the cover through of my novel You Me and Other People to see I’ve acquired two more vowels in Slovakia.
“Fionnuala Kearneyová. Love it! Were I called by the name which I was christened and kept my maiden name, I’d have been Ann Mooreova – which sounds a bit too like “and moreover.” I much prefer Fionnuala Kearneyová, which sort of keeps you guessing.”
As for me, for one day only, I’m going to imagine I’m a Sarah Vaughanová: the sort of author who might recline on a chaise longue, eating lavender macarons and plotting novels about illicit love affairs that end in tragedy – for I cannot help but think of Anna Karenina with a name like that. Just as my novel has shrugged on new titles for most foreign editions – The Ingredients of Happiness (Germany); The Best Amongst Us (France); The Unknown Taste of Love (Italy); Baking for Your Life (The Netherlands), and now Love with the Taste of Macarons – so I am relaxed – even excited – about the Czech take on my name. What’s in a name? Given a good translator, our novels should, hopefully, read just as well.