Harry Potter: 25 Years Of Success
It has been 25 years this year since Harry Potter has enchanted his French fans. J.K. Rowling's literary saga crossed our borders a quarter of a century ago. Since then, its hero has given his name to countless merchandise, and the "Harry Potter saga" has become a unique social phenomenon.
500 million books sold.
Since the publication of the first volume, "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone," in 1997, the young wizard has grown up and his success among readers of all ages has never waned.
In France, it was on October 9, 1998 that the first book arrived in bookstores, thanks to the intuition of Gallimard Editions. At the time, Gallimard Jeunesse was the first foreign publishing house to acquire the rights for the translation and publication of this novel.
The adventures of Harry, the bespectacled young wizard imagined by JK Rowling in the early 1990s, took time to take root in the author's mind and find a publisher as the manuscript received about ten rejections from publishing houses.
The first volume, with a reasonable print run, eventually exploded in popularity through word-of-mouth. Starting with the third volume, published in 1999, the success of this magical story became worldwide. In France, starting from the fourth book in the series, each release became an event: fans dressed up and waited for the bookstores to open at exactly midnight.
On January 11, 2007, in Edinburgh, JK Rowling put the final dot on this saga. The different volumes have been translated into 80 languages and sold 500 million copies worldwide, including 35 million in French!
To this day, Harry Potter is the best-selling youth saga in history and made its author the third wealthiest woman in England in 2008, surpassing Queen Elizabeth II.
A literary phenomenon, including in the original version.
Not only did the little wizard (re)ignite the children's love for reading, but he also promoted reading in English.
During the initial release of the different volumes, the most impatient Harry Potter fans delved into reading his adventures in the original version because the English release preceded the French translation by a few months...
A record-breaking film adaptation.
It was in 2001 that the first of the eight films in the Harry Potter series was released in theaters. The literary phenomenon then turned into a true societal phenomenon. In France, the film topped the box office with 9.5 million admissions.
The actors playing the heroes Harry, Ron, and Hermione (Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson) became international stars. The film adaptation once again skyrocketed book sales and enchanted an increasing number of Muggles!
A classic of youth literature
JK Rowling remains, to this day, the best-selling children's author in France. The saga she has imagined has become a classic of children's literature, one of those stories that are passed down from generation to generation.
The first generation of readers had the chance to grow up alongside the hero, but the young wizard has more than one trick up his sleeve to attract new readers.
These novels present the essential ingredients of a good children's book. Orphaned and persecuted but marked by an exceptional destiny, Harry Potter has the makings of a hero. The young audience's identification with this character is facilitated by the school setting in which Harry evolves, surrounded by his classmates and his friends Ron and Hermione.
To better captivate its readers, the story gives a prominent place to action and takes us, at least in the first three volumes, on a journey to solve a mystery. However, reducing these novels to the application of commonplaces of children's literature would be to misunderstand the deep reasons for the enthusiasm they have aroused...
An exceptional creativity
Few authors can boast of having created such a complete universe as J.K Rowling. She has indeed imagined both a natural world (with fauna, flora, and magical creatures that are only partially inspired by mythology) and a magical society.
The Harry Potter saga, as it progresses, explores in increasingly detailed ways the world of wizards, an international community with its own institutions and cultural references, such as Quidditch, the favorite sport of wizards.
The author's stroke of genius may be not making the magical world a parallel world to ours, but rather a neighboring world. The interactions between the two magical and Muggle cultures (adjective that describes ordinary humans without powers) are a source of humor (the need to preserve the secret of the existence of magic, the wizards' perspective on Muggle craftsmanship) but also of reflection on the coexistence of communities, on racism and mixing.
To be convinced of the writer's talent, just reread the novels, in which the author's language creativity is well served by the work of French translator Jean-François Ménard. If you haven't kept copies from your childhood, know that the 7 volumes illustrated by Jean-Claude Götting have been reissued by Gallimard in a collector's box set to celebrate the 25th anniversary of this literary success.