Yiddish translation of 'Harry Potter' sells out in only 48 hours

Such success of a Yiddish publication is unprecedented, as few if any Yiddish books published outside the hassidic sector sell 1,000 in the span of a year.

The books in the 'Harry Potter' series. (photo credit: FLICKR/LOZIKIKI)
The books in the 'Harry Potter' series.
(photo credit: FLICKR/LOZIKIKI)
Only 48 hours after preorders became available, the Yiddish translation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone sold out its entire first edition run of 1,000 copies, the publishing company Olniansky Tekst Farlag announced on its Facebook page.

Translated by Arun Schaechter Viswanath, of the well-known Schaechter family of Yiddish scholars, and published by Swedish publisher Nikolaj Olniansky, who also founded the Yiddish heavy metal band the Dibbukim, Harry Potter un der Filosofisher Shteyn was the latest translation of the world-renowned Harry Potter series, finally made available in the mame-loshen.
“It’s crazy, it’s hard to believe,” Olniansky told the Forward. “We thought that we wouldn’t be able to sell more than 1,000 copies of a non-Hasidic book.”
Copies have so far been preordered in the US, Morocco, China, Israel, Poland, Sweden and Australia, the Forward reported.
Such success of a Yiddish publication is unprecedented, as few if any Yiddish books published outside the hassidic sector sell 1,000 in the span of a year. New publications in Yiddish are usually self-published or by one of two Yiddish publishers in Israel. Even then, they usually only print a few dozen to a few hundred copies. Due to how obscure the Yiddish language has become over the years, the market for it is drastically shrinking, and authors and publishers often have to market their books by word of mouth.
Such ventures are rarely financially profitable as well. Even Olniansky usually only prints 500 copies of his books, though his publishing company does receive financial support from the Swedish government, due to legislation in place to fund the translation and publication of works in officially recognized minority languages, like Yiddish.
The key to the success of a Yiddish translation of Harry Potter, though, is the popularity of Harry Potter itself. The books are some of the most popular and widely read in human history, and have sparked one of the most successful entertainment franchises of all time. It has been translated in over 80 languages, even to obscure languages such as Faroese and Latin. In fact, some people even use Harry Potter as a tool to learn new languages through the translations.
It is therefore no surprise that many of the copies were ordered by current and former Yiddish-language students.
Viswanath hopes that the success of the translation can lead to renewed interest in the Yiddish language.
"I'm incredibly excited about it!" Viswanath told The Jerusalem Post.
"I think the enthusiasm it's generating says something about the deep relationship that many Ashkenazi Jews feel with the Yiddish language, even if they don't speak it. I hope that it inspires people to learn Yiddish, not only to read the book itself, but to discover the treasures contained in Yiddish literature, folk music and theater. And for those who do speak Yiddish, my hope is that they find a new and meaningful way to experience Harry Potter, or even read it for the first time."
In response to the success, Olniansky announced that a second edition of the book was already available for preorder for $28.