Sans Famille

If you are one of my Dutch readers and would like to help out proofreading for Project Gutenberg, there is now a little project doing the rounds that seems to fit these dark, cold days just nicely: “Alleen op de Wereld” by Hector Malot is currently being processed by Project Gutenberg’s Distributed Proofreaders. Anyone can sign up and correct a page or two.

If you don’t know Alleen op de Wereld (original title: Sans Famille), it is the story of the orphan Remi, who gets bought by the owner of a dog troop, Signor Vitalis. The small troop visit villages in the French countryside where they perform sketches with the dogs as actors. Then Vitalis dies and Remi is left alone with his dogs, with nowhere to go…

(Yes, boohoohoo, now go and proofread.)

9 responses to “Sans Famille”

  1. G. Schaap says:

    I’m looking for a film of “Alleen op de wereld” with a Dutch translation, so I came to tour site (google…google). Tell me what to do!

    Gerrit Schaap

  2. brankl says:

    The German Wikipedia has an article on Sans Famille / Das Findelkind with links to IMDB entries for five movies. Unfortunately, none of these entries show DVD or VHS versions.

    Your best bet is to call or e-mail the producer and ask them when the next showing of the film is near where you live.

    Also, if you search the English language IMDB for the name of the author, Hector Malot, you get some more versions of the story, it seems. It could be worthwhile to check the “movie connections” of these.

    Good luck!

  3. Laurens Sipahelut says:

    I live in Jakarta and have a translation agency. Now I’m trying to branch out into the publishing business.
    As a first project I’d like to translate and publish “Alleen op de Wereld”, which was published by Van Goor Jeugdboeken Amsterdam/Brussel in the mid 1980s if I’m not mistaken. It was published into 4 books (Remi op weg met Vitalis, Remi verliest zijn meester, Remi’s avontuur in de mijn, en Remi eindelijk gelukkig) based on the cartoon TV series at the time, and they had copyrighted stills of the TV series as illustration.
    I’m completely new to publishing. Can I just translate the text and publish the book minus the illustrations? Or are there copyright arrangements I have to heed?


  4. brankl says:


    A 1981 text may have been a heavily edited version of a public domain translation. If and when it is a new translation, the entire text is copyrighted, because both the original author and the translator are awarded a copyright.

    The only version I can say with certaintity is in the public domain is the original, 19th century French version. Also, any translations from that period may be in the public domain.

    So, yes, you would have to get into a copyright arrangement with the published of the modern version if you want to translate that.

    Now, this is all based on my understanding of Dutch copyright law. If you are going to publish in Indonesia, you need to adhere to Indonesian copyright law. There are several copies of this law available on the web.

  5. Laurens Sipahelut says:

    Thanks. Can you give me a ballpark figure of the cost involved in obtaining translation rights to books in Holland? Is there a standard rate or do they vary among publishers?

  6. brankl says:

    Laurens, I have never been involved in securing translation rights for commercial purposes, so I would not know. My guess is anywhere between 0 and whatever the copyright owner thinks he can extract from you. Perhaps the owner would settle for a percentage of copies sold.

    Even then it might be more lucrative to have the book translated from the original, 19th century, uncopyrighted French text. You can download scans of this original version from the French national library at

    (Just go to Rechercher, enter Hector Malot as Auteur, choose Sans Famille from the list of results, select volume 1, and select the menu Telecharger from the pop-up window. You then get the choice to download the entire collection of scans as multi-page PDF or multi-page TIFF.)

    Best thing, I guess, would be to ask the publisher for a figure, and ask a French to Indonesian translator for an estimate, and negotiate between the two to get the better deal.

    In the past I have managed to convince authors of text adventures to make their games available again, but this time for free; but there was no residual commercial interest in these titles. If you want to publish this book for money, I am sure any gatekeepers that manage to throw themselves into your path will want a cut. Even the BNF claims some sort of reproduction right (although that seems to be more about you disclaiming them from any copyright claims; something you are fairly safe from with an author this long dead).

  7. Julie Chiu says:

    i am looking for a “sans Famille’ DVD in English. would someone help me and let me know. I read this book when I was a little girl, now I would like my granddaughter to watch this movie and read the book when she gets older.

    Thanks, Julie Chu

  8. OOT perhaps, but I’d just like to share here that so far I’ve translated into Indonesian, and published, two books: ‘Marco van Basten. De jaren in Italië en Oranje’ by Zeger van Herwaarden and ‘De brief voor de koning’ by Tonke Dragt.

  9. brankl says:

    Hi Laurens, thanks for the update! I enjoyed reading “De brief voor de koning” when I was young, but have unfortunately never revisited it. Other books by Dragt I liked were the science fictions stories, “Torens van februari”, and “Ogen van Tijgers.”

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