16 January 14 | Chad W. Post

This is a special post from Katherine Rucker, a MALTS student here at the University of Rochester who is doing an independent study with me on Latin American literature. As you’ll see below, she’s planning on doing sample translations—and reader’s reports—from a bunch of underrepresented Spanish language literatures. Problem is, she’s having a tough time finding interesting, contemporary, untranslated books from some of these places.

Once I realized that I’d never really translated anything by an author who wasn’t from Spain or Argentina, I decided to do a sort of choose your own adventure Spanish class this semester. It’s basically an independent study where I’ll only read books from Spanish-speaking countries that are less represented in translation. But first I’ll have to choose some books. Beyond the usual challenge of finding books that are both a) good and b) have translation rights available, I found that it’s actually damn near impossible to find any kind of book from countries like Nicaragua. Or Costa Rica. Much less Panama.

Granted, part of this might have to do with the actual number of books coming out of those countries. (At one point in my Internet-crawling I realized that what I was looking at wasn’t a “Best Books of 2013” list, but actually a list of “All the Books Published in This Country Last Year”.) The more I looked, the more I became convinced that this has a lot to do with the framework of publishing throughout most of Latin America–namely the fact that most of the publishers are incredibly out-of-touch with the modern methods of reaching a wider audience . . . by which I mean the Internet.

As an example, I found a book I wanted to read from Uruguay. It was on one of the only publisher’s websites I stumbled on that wasn’t hard to look at and actually seemed functional. They even had a decent catalog. Great. I figured I could just order the book online—but every search I did brought me back to the same publisher’s website . . . who wanted me to either send them a message or give them a phone call saying which books I wanted and then come pick them up from their office. Shipping was extra, and they only shipped within Uruguay.

I guess what I might be experiencing here is something that other translators have confronted before: even if I’m actively seeking out books from a particular countries, I’m going to have a hard time finding them. And if I’m not actively looking for them, I’m never, ever going to find them—and books that are invisible to translators stay invisible to everyone else, too.

So unless someone wants to fly me to Uruguay for Spring Break, I’ll keep sorting through bad publishing websites, trying to find something promising. But since I know you all wouldn’t be reading Three Percent if you didn’t care about promoting translation, I’ll go ahead and say that I’d love to hear from you. If you’re the biggest fan of Bolivia’s best-kept secret, if you’re a translator or publisher with a giant library, or even if you just happen to be a bit better at googling than I am, I’d love it if you helped me find some books from these under-translated countries. I’m eager to see what we’ll find.

—Katherine Rucker (krucker [at] z.rochester.edu)

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