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Women in Translation Month 2017

I just finished entering in all the data for the Translation Database (super huge mega astonishing absolute extreme update to come), I thought I’d run a few quick reports for Women in Translation Month.

First off, the big one: For the data I’ve collected between 2008-20181 only 28.7% of the translations in the database were written by women. That’s 1,394 titles out of a grand total of 4,849. That’s not great . . .

What are those 1,394 books? Click here and you can get the full list of all of them! Right now this Excel spreadsheet is sorted by Language, then Author Name, then Title, but you can do it by Year, Publisher, whatever you want. Go crazy with it! Publish excerpts for the countries/languages you’re most interested in. Use it to find out about books and authors you weren’t previously aware of. There’s a lot of data to mine there.

I could run a million of these reports, but I have some other work to do, so for now, I’ll leave off with two others: one organized by Country, one by Language and one by Publisher.

These results are a bit surprising, I think. First off, here’s a list of the ten countries that have produced the most total titles written by women.2

France 155
Germany 145
Sweden 84
Italy 64
Spain 64
Japan 62
Argentina 49
Russia 43
South Korea 39
Quebec 38

(Yes, I list Quebec as it’s own country, which probably is something that will bring down the Royal Mounties. But in my defense, this does capture every book translated into English by Canadian authors. So if you’re anti-Quebec, just replace that with “Canada”—it’s the same number.)

It’s interesting that there are so many books in translation by women from South Korea, yet there’s really only a couple of female Korean authors who are getting much play in the media or on Literary Twitter. (LitTwit? Kill me now.)

Obviously, certain languages are at a disadvantage when you look at their authors by country of origin, so here’s the top ten by language.

French 236
Spanish 186
German 185
Swedish 88
Italian 67
Japanese 60
Russian 46
Arabic 44
Korean 39
Norwegian 37

With all those Quebecois authors in tow, French really pulls away here. But Arabic coming in 8th? That was unexpected. Not terribly surprised about Swedish and Norwegian being on here, although keep an eye on Danish. That seems to be the hot language for women writers these days . . .

And, here are the top ten publishers.

AmazonCrossing 194
Dalkey Archive 58
Europa Editions 47
Seagull Books 37
Other Press 28
New Directions 26
Open Letter 24
Atria 19
Feminist Press 17
Penguin 17

Pretty similar to the list of the top ten overall publishers of translations, but still, pretty interesting. And wow, Amazon, wow.

Anyway, enjoy all the spreadsheets, all the data. And feel free to share any of this or to break it down in whatever way you want. I know there are a million other reports, and if there are one or two that a lot of people ask for, I’ll try and get to them later this week.

1 We only track fiction and poetry (all genres, including young adult, but not kids books, not graphic novels, not drama, not nonfiction) that is published in translation for the first time ever during this period. No retranslations of unexpurgated texts. No reissues. Just new voices that had never before been available to English readers.

2 This is different from the countries with the most female authors who have been translated. That would be really interesting as well, especially since some Scandinavian countries are probably getting a boost by having female authors who write crime series.



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