Books in translation: it’s time for others to join the fight – Publishing Perspectives

‘I am wary of translations,’ comments one reader on the booklovers’ website Goodreads, which begs the question: what is the problem with books in translation? Is it really true that readers do not want to read translations? And where does this attitude come from? When we talked to a number of booksellers we were told people who buy books don’t care if it’s a translated title or not, just whether it has a good story. And yet!

Last year during International Translation Day, Alexandra Büchler from Literature Across Frontiers provided evidence that translation makes up only 2.5% of all publications in the UK, with a figure of 4.5% for literature. The United States, a nation which prides itself on its immigrant history, is no better with a mere 3% of the market. By comparison other countries far outstrip the UK and US in this regard; in Poland a staggering 46% of books published are titles in translation, in Germany over 12%, in Spain around 24% and in France around 15%.

Britain is a multi-cultural society with a rich and vibrant immigrant history, a country where one in eight people were born abroad. British society has undergone profound social change in recent years, but are these changes reflected within culture? It seems that when it comes to letting the ‘foreign’ voices tell their stories, Britain is less open to cultural cross-pollination that perhaps we would like to believe.

Read the full article on Publishing Perspectives.