It has sold millions of copies around the world but now Diary of a Wimpy Kid, a book about the travails of school life, has been translated into Latin – by the Vatican cleric who handles Pope Francis‘s Twitter account in the ancient language.
The book, known in Latin as Commentarii de Inepto Puero, was rendered into the language of Cicero and Seneca by Monsignor Daniel Gallagher and is to be published in Britain on Wednesday.
It is the first time that the Vatican has involved itself in translating a popular work of fiction into Latin and forms part of a broad effort to try to keep the language alive.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid follows the misadventures of Greg Heffley, who is bullied by his older brother, irked by his teachers and frustrated by the challenges of scholastic routine.
The book is the first in a series written by American author Jeff Kinney which have sold around 150 million copies.
Rendering schoolboy slang and contemporary vocabulary into Latin was not an easy task, Msgr Gallagher said.
He translated “computer” into “computratum”, “video game” into the relatively straightforward “video lusus” and “heavy metal music” into the literal “musica metallica gravis”.
“It was hard work but it was a lot of fun,” Msgr Gallagher, 45, originally from Michigan, told The Telegraph.
Jeff Kinney, left, and Monsignor Daniel Gallagher (Rex/Giuseppe Fantasia)
He came to Rome as a seminarian 20 years ago and gradually developed a passion in Latin, despite not being taught the subject at school.
“The challenges were not so much finding the right vocabulary, but rendering the modern English into a Latin that captured the spirit of the ancient Romans,” he said.
“Exclamations like “Darn!” were tricky – you try to get as close as possible with the translation.
“It may not read like Cicero, but I hope it demonstrates that everything can be said Latinly – omnia dici possunt Latine – even the hapless but ultimately happy adventures of an undersized weakling like Greg Heffley,” said Msgr Gallagher, who works in the Vatican’s Office for Latin Letters, part of the Secretariat of State, which handles Latin documents and correspondence for the Pope.
The papal Twitter feed in Latin, with the handle @pontifex_ln, has proved surprisingly popular and has nearly 350,000 followers.
It was satisfying to be able to write at length, beyond the maximum 140 characters demanded by Twitter, he said.
The book is aimed at anyone with a working knowledge of Latin, from school pupils and university undergraduates to adults.
The project has the blessing of the Vatican, which is keen to see Latin flourish.
“Latin continues to be the official language of the Vatican because it’s universal, it doesn’t belong to any one country or culture. It doesn’t privilege or favour any one nation, it’s trans-national,” said Msgr Gallagher.