I’ve already mentioned it in the linkbar on the right, but you really should take a gander at this page by the translator of Harry Potter into ancient Greek.
The question of how best to translate has always taxed even the nimblest linguists and the most poetical of scholars. In essence, the translator must find a satisfactory point along the continuum that runs from ‘what the original author must have meant’ to ‘what sounds best in the destination language’. The problem is clearly seen in attempting to translate idiomatic phrases (such as ‘as happy as Larry’), but will occur throughout.
The problems are usually seen, though, in the light of wishing to translate a living language into another living language, or from a dead language into a living one. Andrew Wilson’s experience in translating a modern book into ancient Greek isn’t unique (I have a copy of the fabula de petro cuniculo tucked away somewhere), but it is very unusual, and his comments on the exercise are fascinating.
He’s particularly good on the problem of translating fictional names. Now, for most translations you wouldn’t bother even translating the names - maybe just tidy up the endings a little - but Wilson has made a serious attempt to acknowledge that the names in fiction (not always, but certainly, as with so much children’s fiction, in JK Rowling) are intended to trigger associations.
So, Voldemort, by name alone, must be a villain. Wilson goes for Pholidomortos, meaning ‘Scaly Death’. Hareios Poter himself means ‘goblet belonging to Ares’, which seems a good compromise between homophony and meaning.
I was most pleased, though, to learn of the untranslatable Greek verb phthano, meaning, according to Wilson, “I do something before someone else realises that I’m doing it”. It is, you must agree, a vital concept. The next time I’m asked what I’m doing, I’ll reply that I’m just phthanying about.