Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Not long ago, a journalist phoned me. She was writing an article about translated literature and she wanted some quotes from me. So far, no problem.

She brought up the infamous 2% number – i.e., only 2% of the books published each year in English are translations. Yes, I agreed, we aren’t great at publishing translated literature and we should try to learn from other countries/cultures. However, I also pointed out that that figure does seem to be going up, and I mentioned some of the publishers, literary magazines, and other organizations (such as the British Centre for Literary Translation) that are working hard to get translations out in English. The journalist muttered a bit, then cut me off.

A few days later, I saw the final article. I wasn’t quoted, which was fine, but what was irritating and frustrating was that she ignored all the positive things I told her. Instead, she wrote that just 1% of the books published each year in English are translations! She didn’t refer to any of the new translation-centered publishers or anything else. Instead she just lamented how sad this state of affairs is.

Sad, yes, but not for the reasons she claimed!

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