A title has to do a lot of work. At the least, it should entice readers and encapsulate the spirit of the text. So it’s no surprise even the greatest authors have struggled to craft the perfect one.
Who are the rest of us to judge? Heck, some of us can’t even settle on a useful subject line for an email nine times out of 10. (Does “Hey” even count as a subject line? But we digress (离题).)
Though some book titles seem so iconic now that it’s hard to imagine they ever had to be dreamt up to begin with, many of those classic works featured completely different working titles (暂定标题) prior to their publication. This fascinating infographic from Jonkers Rare Books unearths the unpublishedappellations (名称) of some of the most famous books of Western fiction (and Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf (《我的奋斗》), and throws in the backstories behind the title changes for good measure (附加的).
First Impressions /
Pride and Prejudice
Although First Impressions was completed in 1796, Austen couldn’t find a publisher until she wrote Sense & Sensibility which was published in 1811. First Impressions was significantly revised in 1811 and 1812, so the title probably changed then in order to reflect the new storyline.
Trimalchio in West Egg /
The Great Gatsby
It was thought that the original title made a reference that was too obscure for people to understand—Trimalchio being a lead character in Petronius’ Satyricon. Fitzgerald does still include a quote about Trimalchio in the novel, but agreed to change the title.
Strangers from Within /
Lord of the Flies
It was originally thought that the working title was too explicit and too absurd by one of the publishers, so an editor came up with the idea of Lord of the Flies which is a translation of the Hebrew for “Beelzebub”—a contemporary name for the devil.
Four and a Half Years of Struggle Against Lies, Stupidity and Cowardice /
Hitler’s publisher suggested the much shorter and more succinct title of Mein Kampf which translates as My Struggle, rather than the long and wordy (啰嗦的) original title for his autobiography which he started to write while in prison.
To Kill a Mockingbird
Even though Atticus is one of the most prominent characters in To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee decided that she didn’t want her novel to be named after just one character, and instead changed it to a reference from the book.
Tomorrow Is Another Day /
Gone With the Wind
The initial title is the last line of the novel, however, Mitchell decided that she wanted to instead take the title from the first line of the third stanza (诗节) of the poem Non Sum Qualis Eram Bonae sub Regno Cynarae by Ernest Dowson.
The Kingdom by the Sea/
Nabokov was heavily influenced by Poe’s poem Annabel Lee, and the working title of The Kingdom by the Sea was taken from this poem. The title Lolita, which he eventually settled on, was again influenced by this poem.
The Last Man in Europe /
There are many different theories as to why Orwell’s famous novel was finally titled1984, but it was originally called The Last Man in Europe because of how isolated Orwell felt while writing it, and his physical loneliness as he was living on the isle of Jura at the time, as well as how isolated the character Winston feels in the novel.
All’s Well That Ends Well /
War and Peace
After deciding on the original title, Tolstoy then wanted to include more of a background to the wars that took place before 1863, such as the Crimean War and Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, and thus War and Peace seemed more fitting.