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“In May 2018, Olga Tokarczuk and her translator Jennifer Croft won the Man Booker International Prize for Flights, a novel that was published in Poland in 2007. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, for which Tokarczuk is a Booker finalist again this year, was translated a bit faster; it only took a decade. One of the biggest stars in translation of this century, Roberto Bolaño, author of 2666 and The Savage Detectives, fared no better. Back in 2003, when New Directions put out his first translated book, By Night in Chile, Bolaño had already passed away; he was a famous writer by then, at least in Spanish.
The process of literary translation takes time, obviously, but there’s something else at play when it takes a decade or more for incredibly renowned authors to reach our shores. This is part of a much larger problem, frequently referred to as the “3 percent problem” by publishers of translation (like myself), which should be troublesome to anyone who believes the world is better off when cultures are in conversation with one another.
In an industry — publishing — that loves data about as much as a vegan digs barbecues, numbers are not normally dwelled upon. Whereas we can know to the dollar how much money Avengers: Endgame has made, almost in real time, book sales are guesstimates based on Nielsen BookScan’s admittedly incomplete reporting. So it was a big deal when a study back in 2005 — initiated by PEN World Voices — announced that less than 3 percent of all the books published in English were originally written in another language. Here was a number that was not only verifiable, but dire, and it raised a lot of questions about how broad and deep American book culture really is.”
JJ Editor's Picks
"U.S. President Donald Trump thinks he’s suffered more injustice than the alleged witches of Salem, but it could be worse. Pakistan’s former president Pervez Musharaff faced possible impeachment in 2008, leading to his resignation. In the end..."
"The 2000s felt like a decade of looking forward. Wi-Fi went mainstream, phones got smarter, social media connected us, digital tools let us rely less on physical ones. But the 2010s brought a shift. There was still tons of new technology, but..."
"While some women experience pregnancy and childbirth as joyful, natural and fulfilling, others find themselves recoiling in horror at the physical demands of carrying and sustaining a child in their womb, and even more so at the potential..."
"A few months ago, the New York Post’s Steve Cuozzo bemoaned the death of the Manhattan power lunch. Gone were the long, decadent afternoons filled with networking and Negronis: “Suit-and-tie-wearing machers in media and Wall Street gave way to..."
"Economic inequality has moved to the top of the political agenda in many countries, including free-market poster children like the US and the UK. The issue is mobilizing the left and causing headaches on the right, where wealth has long been..."
"If you’re not familiar with the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats — or even if you are — then you probably have many, many questions going into the film adaptation this weekend, especially if you’ve witnessed the widespread bafflement the trailer..."
"Despite his precisely targeted campaign and some unexpected support, the chances of Gideon Saar engineering a surprise defeat of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Dec. 26 primaries for the Likud party leadership are still considered modest.."
"Peter Thiel is Big Tech’s most prominent Trump supporter. He is an unabashed enemy of the free press, having covertly funded a lawsuit that bankrupted Gawker three years ago. He has become one of the most vocal pro-monopoly advocates, taking a..."