This past weekend, Pat Reardon featured Dalkey Archive Press, Northwestern University Press, University of Illinois Press, and University of Chicago Press in an article for the Chicago Tribune about how the State of Illinois is one of the centers of translation in the country.
Translators are unofficial ambassadors, negotiating the meeting of two cultures, says Willis Regier, director of the University of Illinois Press.
And, although little recognized locally, one of the major centers of this sort of literary diplomacy is Illinois, home of four publishing houses with strong translation programs, responsible for some 50 translations each year.
Put together, these four presses are pretty impressive—Northwestern’s “Writings from an Unbound Europe” series alone is pretty remarkable and includes a ton of impressive authors.
It’s also worth noting that Reardon is talking about all translations, not just fiction and poetry. (For instance, the bit about U of I Press mentions that they specialize “in non-fiction works by scholars and great writers, such as Simone de Beauvoir and Ludwig van Beethoven.”) In terms of fiction and poetry, a small segment of Brooklyn would compete with Illinois in terms of translation dominance . . . In Gowanus and Dumbo alone one can find Ugly Duckling Press, Archipelago Books, and Melville House, three of the top publishers of literary translations in the country.
Personally, my favorite part of this article is John O’Brien’s quote that “This area is translation territory.” It calls to mind images of Illinois as the wild west of international writing, where roving editors carry around bilingual dictionaries . . .