Today’s Publishing Perspectives includes an editorial that I wrote about the “state of translations” in America attempting to explain the dip in the number of translations coming out this year:
For years, people have speculated that the number of literary works in translation being published in the United States has been in decline. I say “speculate,” because the publishing industry — which is notoriously poor at market research and data gathering — didn’t really keep track of how many translations were being published here, instead relying almost entirely on wistful memories of days gone by and other equally questionable anecdotal evidence. Two years ago, I started a “Translation Database” at the Web site ThreePercent.com to finally quantify what’s going on with literature in translation, and although data for 2009 is still coming in, it looks like there will be a bit of a drop off this year — of as much as 10%.
On one hand, this is pretty easy to explain: it’s because of the economy. But in my opinion, we’re talking about two different economic problems causing this. Book sales are down, which really hurts commercial presses and makes them less likely to publish “expensive” books like translations. And at the same time, nonprofits and university presses (which publish the bulk of translations already), are struggling to find funding, what with foundations losing a lot of their endowments in the stock market, and individual donors struggling as well.
It’s a crappy situation, and unless a few rainmakers appear, 2010 will most likely see a further drop in translations being published in America . . . Just a little happy note to kick off your Friday . . .
The last five days of the eleventh-century Icelandic politician, writer of sagas, and famous murder victim Snorri Sturleleson (the Norwegian spelling, Snorre, is preserved in the book) make up Thorvald Steen’s most recently translated historical fiction, The Little Horse. Murdered. . .
We all know Paris, or at least we think we know it. The Eiffel Tower. The Latin Quarter. The Champs-Élysées. The touristy stuff. In Dominique Fabre’s novel, Guys Like Me, we’re shown a different side of Paris: a gray, decaying. . .
One hundred pages into Birth of a Bridge, the prize-winning novel from French writer Maylis de Kerangal, the narrator describes how starting in November, birds come to nest in the wetlands of the fictional city of Coca, California, for three. . .
At 30, the Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli is already gathering her rosebuds. Faces in the Crowd, her poised debut novel, was published by Coffee House Press, along with her Brodsky-infused essay collection, Sidewalks. The essays stand as a theoretical map. . .
Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia (narrated by Julio Cortázar) is, not disappointingly, as wild a book as its title suggests. It is a half-novella half-graphic novel story about . . . what, exactly? A European tribunal, Latin. . .
Marie NDiaye has created a tiny, psychological masterpiece with her Self-Portrait in Green. In it she explores how our private fears and insecurities can distort what we believe to be real and can cause us to sabotage our intimate relationships.. . .
Reading a genre book—whether fantasy, science fiction, crime, thriller, etc.—which begins to seem excessively, stereotypically bad, I have to make sure to ask myself: is this parodying the flaws of the genre? Usually, this questioning takes its time coming. In. . .
The Sicilian Mafia has always been a rich subject for sensational crime fiction. The Godfather, Goodfellas, and The Sopranos worked the mob’s bloody corpses and family feuds to both entertainment and artistic value. Giuseppe di Piazza’s debut novel attempts this,. . .
Antoine Volodine’s vast project (40 plus novels) of what he calls the post-exotic remains mostly untranslated, so for many of us, understanding it remains touched with mystery, whispers from those “who know,” and guesswork. That’s not to say that, were. . .
It hasn’t quite neared the pitch of the waiting-in-line-at-midnight Harry Potter days, but in small bookstores and reading circles of New York City, an aura has attended the novelist Elena Ferrante and her works. One part curiosity (Who is she?),. . .