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Translation Database Update: The Bolano Effect?

It’s been a couple months since the last Translation Database update, and quite a few titles have been added in the meantime. And a few from 2008 were shifted to 2009, etc., etc. So, the current totals are:

2008: 363 books (283 fiction, 80 poetry)
2009: 235 books (196 fiction, 39 poetry)

Looking at this breakdown by month, I think 2009 is pretty accurate through August. If that’s the case, and the end of 2009 is similar to 2008, I think we’ll end up with around 340 translations in 2009—a substantial decrease. (Hopefully I’m wrong, and hopefully I’m missing some 2009 titles. Next month’s post-BEA update should be a much stronger indication of how the year will break down.)

In terms of publishers, American University of Cairo Press, Dalkey Archive, Europa are still at the top, along with New Directions, which has tripled it’s new translation output from 2008 to 2009. (Open Letter will jump up as well if I ever get around to adding our fall titles to the database.)

What’s most surprising though is the slight shift in the most translated languages. Here’s the stats for 2008:

French 59 titles, 16.25% of all translations
Spanish 49, 13.50%
German 33, 9.09%
Arabic 28, 7.71%
Japanese 23, 6.34%

So the top five languages account for 192 of the 363 books published in 2008, or approx. 53%.

For 2009, the same top five languages are there, but the order is slightly different:

Spanish 40 titles, 17.02% of all translations
French 35, 14.89%
German 21, 8.94%
Arabic 16, 6.81%
Japanese 12, 5.11%

That amounts to 124 of the recorded 235 translations, or approx. 53%.

It’s almost spooky how similar the years are in terms of the top five languages as a percentage of the total (53% in both 2008 and 2009), and that the only shift is Spanish taking over the top spot from French.

Because of the amount of time that it takes to acquire a book, commission a translation, and then bring it out, it’s impossible for this to be the case, but I’d like to think that Roberto Bolano (and Horacio Castellanos Moya) are somehow responsible for this surging interest in Spanish-language literature.



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