Since we’re basically at the end of the year, I thought it would be a good time to do one last final update to the 2009 Translation Database . . . and to post the first one of 2010.
First off, here’s the link to download the 2009 Translation spreadsheet. As you can see, this file contains all the original fiction and poetry translations released in the U.S. this past year. (And by “original,” I mean never before published in English translation in any form. So no retranslations, reprints, paperback versions of hardcovers, etc.)
Although there may be a title or two that I’m missing, I think this is basically it for 2009. A few titles actually came off this list recently—two poetry books from a publisher that had to delay them to 2010 thanks to our awesome economy.
Here are some general comparisons:
In 2008 there were 362 total titles published (280 fiction, 82 poetry);
In 2009 there were 348 total titles published (283 fiction, 65 poetry).
So as I pointed out in the last update, the number of fiction titles stayed about the same (up slightly this year), the number of poetry collections published in translation in 2009 was down almost 14% mostly due to small publishers delaying titles, etc.
The most translated language in 2009 was Spanish (59 books), followed by French (51), German (31), Arabic (22), Italian (18), Japanese (18), Swedish (18), Russian (12), and Norwegian (11).
In terms of country, France was at the top (32 books), followed by Italy (19), Japan (19), Spain (19), Sweden (18), Germany (11), Norway (11), Russia (11), Austria (10), China (10), and Turkey (10).
(One thing that stands out to me from these numbers is just how published the Francophone countries are. There were 19 books translated from the French from authors living outside of France. A good number of these from Quebecois writers . . .)
I haven’t entered much of anything for 2010 yet, but just for fun (and to help write my next post), I ran the numbers we have so far for next year. Here’s the link to download the 2010 Translation spreadsheet.
Not too many really interesting numbers here, but I have already identified 73 books, the vast majority of which are coming out in January, February, and March, so maybe 2010 will be a good year for literature in translation . . .
With the end of 2009 approaching, it seems like as good a time as ever to post an update to our translation database and look at some comparisons and more interesting numbers. First off, you can click here to download the entire Excel file that lists all original translations of fiction and poetry released in the U.S. in 2009. Also included in this file are breakdowns by language, country, fiction vs. poetry, publisher, and pub month.
In comparison, the file for 2008 is available here, and if you download both, the first thing you’ll notice is that the total number of translations dipped in 2009 from 362 to 336—a 7% decrease.
Granted, I might be missing a few titles—it’s suspicious that there are only 13 translations coming out in December 2009, but maybe—and over the next couple weeks I’ll be e-mailing this to every publisher, consulate, distributor, translator, and international lit fanatic I can to make sure this is as accurate as possible.
But, on a gut level, I feel like this is damn close to complete. If you look into this dip a bit more closely, you’ll see that the drop off was in terms of poetry. In 2008, 82 translated poetry collections were published by 40 different publishers. In 2009 that number plummets to 57 titles from 33 different publishers. Welcome to the post-financial collapse publishing world . . .
On the other hand, fiction stayed remarkably steady with 280 titles coming out in 2008 and 279 in 2009.
Rather than look at all the same old comparisons (in terms of most translated language, in 2009 Spanish topped French, but France was the most translated country), I thought I’d run some more quirky queries and see what came up.
So, utilizing our complete database (which includes books from 2008, 2009, and 2010), here are the translators with the most translations published over that time:
Margaret Jull Costa (7)
Anthea Bell (6)
Antony Shugaar (6)
Andrew Bromfield (6)
Howard Goldblatt (6)
Clifford Landers (5)
Howard Curtis (5)
Nick Caistor (5)
Katherine Silver (5)
Chris Andrews (5)
Alison Anderson (5)
(Disclaimer: These are the translators with the most original translations published over this period. For example, I think Marian Schwartz would be on the list had we included her retranslations of Bulgakov’s The White Guard and Goncharov’s Oblomov, etc.)
And for authors? No surprise here:
Roberto Bolano (7)
Mehmet Murat Somer (3)
Gert Jonke (3)
Andrea Camilleri (3)
Imre Kertesz (3)
Karin Fossum (3)
Naguib Mahfouz (3)
Horacio Castellanos Moya (3)
Boris Akunin (3)
Mahmoud Darwish (3)
The month with the most translations is April (85), the month with the least is December (34). Bleakest month, my ass.
For whatever reason, April is a huge month for literature in translation. According to the translation database there are 39 works of fiction and poetry coming out in translation this month. We will be running full-length reviews of a number of these titles, but over the course of the month, I thought I’d highlight the April titles that catch my eye.
Also, more on this later, but since Shaman Drum is our featured indie bookstore for April, all of the “buy” links below go to their online catalog.
This is one of the best 2009 books I’ve read so far this year. A very Nabokovian book, the novel is made up of a series of “commentaries” by a young Cuban tutor about his pupil’s mysterious family (possibly on the run from the Russian mafia) and about In Search of Lost Time, which J. refers to as The Book, claiming that it contains everything you need to know. (Proust hovers over this novel, especially in relation to the story of the fake diamonds . . .)
Del Paso’s Palinuro of Mexico is one of my favorite Dalkey books, so I was very excited to find out that they were bringing out another of his books. Epically long (704 dense pages), News from the Empire centers on Maximilian and his wife Carlota, the Emperor and Empress of Mexico from 1863 to 1867. This book was nicely reviewed in Publishers Weekly, where it was referred to as “a Mexican War and Peace.“
Last year Archipelago had more titles on the Best Translated Book Fiction Longlist than any other press—a testament to Jill Schoolman’s taste. I wouldn’t be surprised if this year’s list was much the same. The Twin is one of the first big titles Archipelago is bringing out this year, the story of Helmer, a young man who has to return home to take over the family farm after his twin brother dies in a car accident. The story sounds fine, but it’s the laconic writing style that the critics have been praising. Susan Salter Reynolds called Bakker’s writing “fabulously clear, so clear that each sentence leaves a rippling wake,” and Michael Orthofer ended his review with this: “Yet in Bakker’s telling — those simple descriptions and the terse dialogue, with all its lack of true communication — it is an absolutely fascinating read. Well worthwhile.”
A Thousand Deaths Plus One by Sergio Ramirez, translated from the Spanish by Leland Chambers (McPherson & Co., $25.00, not avail. via Shaman Drum)
I haven’t received a review copy yet, but this novel (which also received an “A-” from the Complete Review) sounds pretty intriguing. It’s a novel about Juan Castellon, a Nicaraguan photographer the author discovers during a visit to Warsaw. The novel is told alternating chapters of Ramierz’s quest to reveal the artist’s identity and Castellon’s own side of the story, and according to Michael Orthofer, “It all has the feel of an elaborate literary game of the sort that Enrique Vila-Matas and Javier Marías are fond of playing.”
Since today is such a lovely, warm, sunny day, I thought I’d spend most of the morning finally updating the translation database and seeing how 2009 is shaping up compared to 2008.
First off, click here for the 2008 translation spreadsheet, and click here for the 2009 one. As in the past, I’ve only been keeping track of original translations of fiction and poetry that are available for sale in the United States. Re-translations and reprints are both excluded from this database.
These spreadsheets contain a lot of information broken down ina number of ways, including by publisher, by country, by language, by month, etc.
The 2009 data is still coming in, so comparing totals isn’t all that telling. But just as a frame of reference, in 2008 there were 361 works of fiction and poetry published in translation, and so far I’ve identified 196 coming out in 2009.
Looking at this month-by-month is a bit more telling. The 2009 database numbers drop off dramatically after May, so I’m going to assume that there are a number of books coming out in June-Dec that I haven’t come across yet.
Through May, in 2008 159 works in translation were published; in 2009 that number is down to 143. (Again, disclaimer, I could be missing some titles—if you know of any, e-mail me at chad.post at rochester dot edu.) That’s a pretty significant 10% drop. Hopefully things will even out over the year, but in a recession, I suspect a lot of publishers looking to cut costs aren’t all that thrilled with paying a translator on top of the regular book costs. (Not that Random House didn’t just make $185.5 million before taxes and interest in 2008. But that is a “down year.”)
Looking at the breakdown by language, in 2008 the top five languages translated into English were: French, Spanish, German, Arabic, and Japanese, in that order. This year’s breakdown is slightly different, with Spanish coming in on top and French, German, Arabic, and Japanese right behind.
So far in 2009, I’ve found translations coming out from 81 different publishers, which gives me hope that these numbers could suddenly jump—last year 139 different publishers did at least one work of fiction or poetry in translation.
It’s still too early to draw any grand conclusions, but it is interesting to see what’s coming out from where and by whom, and to discover titles that haven’t gotten much attention.
It was just about a year ago that I started thinking about creating a “translation database” to keep track of all original translations of fiction and poetry published in the U.S. After all the speculation, guesstimation, and incomplete or inaccurate studies, I thought it would be useful to produce an actual list of translations instead of just a figure or percentage, a list that was available to everyone, and contained info about the books, translators, publishers, languages, etc.
While my dream of making this into an editable, online database/wiki has yet to materialize, I’ve been posting updates to this on a regular basis and receiving nice feedback about missing titles, misspelled names, etc. Additions to the database have been slowing down considerably, and hopefully the updated version is 97-98% complete.
You can download the spreadsheet by clicking here and see the complete list of titles along with breakdowns by country, language, month, fiction vs. poetry, and publisher. Please, if you have any corrections (like filling in the “??” entries for some translators), please e-mail me at chad.post at rochester dot edu.
I identified 356 titles published over the course of 2008, from 137 different publishers, and more than 46 languages. That’s a pretty miniscule number, especially considering the fact that 50,000 works of fiction were published in the U.S. last year . . . But it’s a starting point, and it will be interesting to see what happens in future years.
And speaking of the future, although this is grossly incomplete, here’s the first version of the 2009 Translation Database. There are tons of catalogs yet to enter, and websites to visit, and reviews to dig through, but I’ve already found 104 titles coming out during the first eight months of 2009. Not a bad start . . . And if you’re a publisher or translator or person in the know, and have books to add to this list, please let me know.
I’ll write a longer commentary and analysis of the 2008 list after the first of the year, and will start looking at comparisons between 2008 and 2009 around the same time. In the meantime, you can start planning your “one-translation-a-day” schedule in order to read all books published in translation over the course of 2009 . . . . We’ll start highlighting these books (and reviewing them) next month . . .
Barbara Epler gave me a copy of the new New Directions catalog at the 2666 party on Friday, and it’s so amazing that it deserves its own post.
There are a ton of translations coming out from ND next year—well, OK, nine—a good mix of classic authors (Walser, Borges, Bolano) and some new (like Guillermo Rosales). Here are some of the highlights:
The Tanners by Robert Walser (trans. by Susan Bernofsky) is coming out in May and features an introduction by W. G. Sebald (trans. by Jo Catling). Walser’s first novel, I heard Susan B. read a section of this at the PEN World Voices event last spring. It was a great reading (and great event), and made me excited to read The Tanners. The part she read wasn’t as wildly off-kilter as some of the other pieces, but it reminded me of The Assistant.
I think this is the season of Susan Bernofsky (and why not?) . . . Ini addition to the Walser, she translated The Naked Eye by Yoko Tawada, her first novel to be translated into English. (ND published a few story collections, and Kodansha brought out a few novellas.) (May)
Guillermo Rosales’s The Halfway House (trans. by Anna Kushner) sounds really intriguing. It’s about an exiled Cuban writer trapped in a halfway house after arriving in Miami in a very disturbed state. Rosales destroyed most of his work before committing suicide, but this novel survived and was published posthumously. (May)
Declan Spring is editing Inger Christensen’s novel Azorno (trans. by Denise Newman) and told me that it is as good as anything he’s worked on in the past few years. He mentioned Beckett, he mentioned Borges, and based on the description, this is the book that I’m personally most exited about from the new catalog. “Set in modern Europe, Azorno is a kind of logic puzzle or house of mirrors, concerning five women and two men. . . . Reminiscent of the works of Georges Perec and Alain Robbe-Grillet . . .” (July)
Also coming out in July is Seven Nights by Borges (tran. by Eliot Weinberger), a collection of seven lectures given by Borges in the summer of 1977.
Berberova’s Billancourt Tales (trans. by Marian Schwartz; July) and Yoel Hoffmann’s Curriculum Vitae (trans. by Peter Cole; July), both sound fascinating as well. As does the next Bolano title, The Skating Rink. Told by three male narrators, “The Skating Rink is not fundamentally a crime novel, or not exclusively: it’s also about political corruption, sex, the experience of immigration, and frustrated passion.” Translated by Chris Andrews, it’s due out in August. Which should be about the time that most everyone is finishing 2666 and looking for more Bolano . . .
Prose translators will likely disagree, but I believe translating poetry requires a significant level of talent, a commitment to the text, and near mania, all of which suggests that the undertaking is the greatest possible challenge. The task is to. . .
The biggest issues with books like The Subsidiary often have to do with their underpinnings—when we learn that Georges Perec wrote La Disparition without once using the letter E, we are impressed. Imagine such a task! It takes a high. . .
Following The Infatuations, Javier Marías’s latest novel seems, like those that have preceded it, an experiment to test fiction’s capacity to mesmerize with sombre-sexy atmospheres and ruminative elongated sentences stretched across windowless walls of paragraphs. Thus Bad Begins offers his. . .
Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe’s latest novel to be translated into English, practically begs you to read it as autobiography. Like The Changeling, as well as many other works not yet released in English, Death by Water is narrated in. . .
Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals is about the type of unique, indestructible, and often tragic loyalty only found in families. For a brief but stunningly mesmerizing 169 pages, Twenty-One Cardinals invited me in to the haunting and intimate world of the. . .
We know so very little; so little that what we think to be knowledge is hardly worth reckoning with at all; instead we ought to settle for being pleasantly surprised if, on the edge of things, against all expectations, our. . .
Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .