Some of the characters in the novels I’ve translated have been named Turing, Ashley, Adriana, Mr. Jiang and Voltaire. As names, they’re perfect as is in whatever language. Right?

But in the novel I’m working on now, names have meaning. Meanings that aren’t obvious unless translated. Yet, you don’t translate names. Or do you?

I wrote a whole post considering what to do with the name Olvido. In my draft thus far, I have left it as is. But the fact is, the vast majority of readers will miss the subtext behind her name. As an English reader, would you see any connotation to “forgetting”?

Then there’s Olvido’s daughter, Margarita. Lovely name. In Spanish and in English. Did you know, however, that margarita means daisy? And in this story, that flower plays a significant role. There are daisies everywhere. Persistent daisies. Readers won’t make the connection between the two.

Later in the novel, Margarita gives birth to Santiago. He’s named after a saint. The Camino de Santiago in Spain just might be called to mind in English. But would you know that Santiago is the name for St. James? I admit I didn’t.

So. A name is a name. Except when there’s an underlying meaning. Then a name may have to be changed. Olvido becomes Oblivia or Obscura or Lethia. Margarita becomes Daisy. Santiago becomes James. Ew. Yuk.

Neither option is ideal: the name stays and meaning is obscured, or the name is translated and makes the text unrecognizable.

In this case, a name is not just a name. Care to share what you might do?