13 November 07 | Chad W. Post

Unfortunately, because of my stupid decision to spend two hours taking the “subway” from DFW Airport to the hotel, I missed Steve Wasserman’s keynote speech, which I heard was pretty fantastic. I did make it to Esther Allen’s panel about the recent PEN/Ramon Llull report To Be Translated or Not To Be, which has been mentioned here before, and which I plan to talk about in detail in a couple weeks.

Outside of the report’s findings, this panel featured a lot of interesting statistics worth noting:

  • According to Esther Allen, it’s increasingly not necessary to translate books out of English into other languages. In a lot of countries (such as in The Netherlands), English books are sold in the original. In fact, sales of books in English outside of English speaking countries exceed $3 billion a year;
  • Idra Novy primarily talked about Brazil and the fact that over 90% of the books for sale in Brazil are translations. (She also talked about the forthcoming issue of Bomb dedicated to Brazilian literature and art.);
  • Bill Johnston focused on Poland, pointing out that in 2005, of all 3,800 or so works of literature published in Poland, just about half were in translation. And of those translations, 70% were from English.

One of the most interesting aspects of the panel was Roger Greenwald’s presentation about the situation regarding Sweden’s recent decision to end—and then reinstate—funding for translations of Swedish works into other languages.

I knew a bit about this from the London Book Fair, but didn’t know many of the specifics. Basically, on April 11th, the Swedish Institute announced that they were ending support for translations abroad. At this time they had been funding a total of about 100 translations a year, giving translators approx. $3,000 on average. Not a ton of support, but enough to make the publication of many of these books possible.

Shortly after this announcement, various protests sprung up, including Christopher MacLehose’s outraged statement at the Nordic cocktail during the London Book Fair. . . .

That was the last I had heard of this until ALTA. Apparently, in July, the Swedish government announced that they were going to re-establish funding for the translation of Swedish literature, including nonfiction and children’s books. The situation of how these funds will be disbursed is complicated, and I won’t go into it here, but it’s worth noting that the government is allocating $7 million SEK to this, up from $2 million SEK in 2006 . . . Not bad, not bad.

To be honest, after the announcement at the LBF, I started ignoring all Swedish recommendations and submissions. Not so much because there wasn’t funding available for the translation, but because they had taken it away. That seems so insulting and short-sighted that I basically gave up on Sweden. This changes things . . .


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