Friday, 1 October 2010

Literary Translation in the States and Britain

Anna Gielas has a cheerful (not) article about the dearth of translations in the USA in Die Zeit (in German). If you follow these things in English, you won't learn all that much, but it's interesting in that she talks to Riky Stock of the German Book Office, and the translators Esther Allen and Edith Grossmann.

I also like the way she doesn't bother brow-beating over why heavy German literature is to blame - because it's not, nothing much else gets translated either.

In fact, she points out:

But linguists and other experts see the lack of translations as a sign of a serious phenomenon: "English has become an invasive species," says Esther Allen from the Center for Literary Translation at Columbia University in New York. The language does not work as a lingua franca, as many claim. "Instead of taking in literature from other languages, it drowns it out and overwrites it – both in the USA and the rest of the world," says Allen. The German situation confirms her statement: 87 percent of the total 4155 literary titles translated last year were originally written in English.

Which brings us back to that "International" Literature Prize I wrote about on Wednesday...

Thanks to Harvey Morell for sending me the link. I'll just go and drink some bleach now.

Except no! I won't! Because Stuart Evers has a cheerful (really) article in The Guardian about my friends at And Other Stories, a "radical and community-based initiative, focusing on promoting great writing in translation".

Evers writes:

But can it really work? I would say yes. The whole operation seems carefully planned, well thought-out and radical not so much because of the involvement of reading groups, but in its acceptance of the reality of literary publishing. And Other Stories fully accepts that what they do is not just niche – it's a niche within a niche within a niche. The size of the opportunity for sales is tiny; tiny that is unless you know who you are selling to.

Hooray!? I've put the Domestos back under the sink.


Harvey Morrell said...

You had me worried after the first couple paragraphs. I would have felt really guilty had you taken to bleaching your innards.

David said...

One (tiny) bright spot: Tim Mohr reviews the translation of Daniel Kehlmann's "Ruhm" in today's NYTimes Book Review section: