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Translation Award Winner Tells Story of Afghan Refugee

Reading stories from other languages gives you amazing insight into the lives of people from other cultures. However, unfortunately it can be difficult to get people in English-speaking countries to read literature that has been translated from another language.

In fact, according to the Guardian, only 3% of the books, poems and stories published in the UK are translations. Since 1996, The Marsh Award for Children’s Literature in Translation has been awarded every two years to highlight the best young adult translations and to encourage more translations in the future. Read more

Google Fined Over French Books

According to the BBC a Paris court has fined Google 300,000 euros (£266,000) in damages and interest for copyright infringement of books owned by French publisher La Martiniere.

La Martiniere was one of many publishers to take Google to court for digitising books without explicit permission.

Google have also been told that they will have to pay 10,000 euros a day until it has removed extracts of the books from its database.

Google had planned to scan millions of books to make them available online; this ruling may have ramifications for this plan.

The BBC report that this case will be seen as a victory for critics of the plan who fear Google is creating a monopoly over information.

The publisher Herve de la Martiniere launched his court case three years ago but Google continued to scan books throughout this time.

This is a big set back for the web giant Google.

9 Books to Read for Women in Translation Month

Did you know that August is Women in Translation Month? If you’re wondering what that means, let me explain.  Women in Translation Month is a month to highlight translated works by female writers. In the world of literary translation, women are seriously underrepresented.

How underrepresented? You’re probably familiar with the statistic that only about 3% of published works in the US and the UK are translated from other languages. Well, of that 3%,  only about 30% of new translations into English are books by women writers.  Books by female authors are translated at a lower rate around the world, even in Europe.

With that in mind, here are 9 books to read for women in translation month. Read the ones that pique your interest and you’ll soon start to wonder what else you’re missing out on!

Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was


Author: Angélica Gorodischer, translated by Ursula LeGuin

In a 2016 interview, Meytal Radzinski, the scholar behind Women in Translation Month, called this book her “go-to first choice for just about any type of favorite book these days! It’s such a special book, gorgeously written and so utterly magical.”

Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was is the history of an imaginary nameless empire, as told by multiple storytellers.  Translator Ursula Le Guin is an acclaimed fantasy author in her own right.  So it’s not surprising that publisher Small Beer Press boasts that “Rarely have author and translator been such an effortless pairing.” Read more

Nighttime Parenting in Translation

When it comes to parenting, some things are apparently universal- including the desire for your sweet little bundle of joy to JUST GO TO SLEEP ALREADY!

American author Adam Mansbach tapped into that perennial source of parental frustration with his 2011 book “Go the F— to the Sleep”, which became a viral internet sensation before it was even published. Read more

8 Horror Novel Translations to Curl Up With This Fall

Halloween is over. But there’s still a month of fall left, and I, for one, am not quite ready to start celebrating the winter holidays just yet.  So, join me in keeping the Halloween spirit alive a little longer by curling up with one of these 8 horror novel translations.

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Translated from the Swedish by Ebba Segerburg

First published in Swedish in 2004, Let the Right One In is a classic vampire novel that’s been made into a movie. If you haven’t read it yet, there’s no time like the present!

The Crimson Labyrinth  by Yusuke Kishi

Translated from Japanese by Camellia Nieh

Did you like The Running Man? Then you’ll like this novel from Yusuke Kishi, in which unwitting contestants are forced to compete to survive the deadly Mars Labyrinth.

From The Hunger Games to Doctor Who, this premise has become quite common in our reality-TV obsessed era.  But this is an especially well-done example, with 4.5 stars on Amazon and 3.7 stars on Goodreads.

And Unbound Worlds recommended it as one of the best novels for readers who are just beginning to dip their toes into Japanese horror.

Read more

“Origin of Species” Now a Chinese Kids’ Book

Since Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” was published in 1859, it has been translated into more than 35 languages, making it the most translated scientific text in history.  Now, a new Chinese translation, aimed at children, has been added to the mix.

The text was translated by Desui Miao, the collections manager of the Biodiversity Institute at Kansas University. He began the project at the request of a 10-year-old boy who attended one of his lectures in Beijing. The lecture was aimed at promoting Miao’s previous Chinese translation of the book, aimed at adults. Miao told the Kansas City Star that when asked for a children’s version, “I cavalierly said, ‘Sure.’ I didn’t know what this all entailed. But how can you say ‘no’ to a kid?”

It took Miao two years to complete the project, which is really two translations rolled into one: translating the original scientific work into Chinese, and translating adult scientific language into simplified language more appropriate for kids. Plus, since it was aimed at children, it needed to be fun!

The effort has paid off in spades, with the first two printings selling out completely. To date, Miao’s publisher has sold more than 20,000 copies since it was released in January. The book is popular not just among kids, but also among adults looking for a translation of Darwin that’s a little bit easier to grasp.

Miao told the Kansas City Star that both of his translations improve upon earlier versions of the book available in Chinese:

“My translation is easier to read and is overall a more accurate translation. I cannot say there are no mistakes, but I think there are fewer mistakes than in others…Taking complex ideas and making them simple was a great challenge. The children’s book is very fun, and the main concepts still remain.”

A Translation Experiment

Translators are supposed to hew as closely to the original text as possible. But often, there is not one “perfect translation” that captures both the feel and the meaning of the original. Even the most conscientious translator has to make choices.

How do those choices change the meaning? That’s the question author and editor Adam Thirlwell tries to answer in his new book, Multiples: 12 Stories in 18 Languages by 61 Authors.

Thirlwell starts by taking 12 stories written in languages from across the globe. He has them translated into another language, and then back to English.  Then that translation is translated again, and so on, to end up with between four to six translations of each story.

The result is a book that the Guardian’s Daniel Hahn calls “big, preposterously ambitious and pleasingly silly. But meaningful, too, if you look closely enough. The devil, as every translator knows, is in the details.”

As the stories go from one language to another and back again, details both big and small are changed. Settings move in time and space. For example, Hahn describes the evolution of a story in Arabic by Lebanese writer Youssef Habchi El-Achkar:

“A Lebanese story by Youssef Habchi El-Achkar features a setting rendered by Rawi Hage as a “coffee shop”. Tristan Garcia’s French translation calls it “le café” – not quite the same thing. In English, under Joe Dunthorne, this becomes a “cafe-bar”. In Francesco Pacifico’s Italian, next, “il bar“. So we’re now, apparently, in a bar. And it’s in London. Which is absolutely not where we started.”

It’s worth noting that not all of the writers involved in this project were highly skilled in the languages they were supposed to translate. Also, they weren’t all conscientious- some of them played fast and loose with the original text on purpose.

According to the Guardian’s Lucian Robinson, the most successful translations in the collection were the ones that stayed faithful to the original source material, providing an important lesson for translators:

Multiples shows us that the most innovative translations are still crafted rather than invented from scratch.”

 

British Readers Devour Translated Novels

In a refreshing change from the status quo, British readers are gobbling up translated novels and books from foreign authors. Previously, the conventional wisdom in the publishing industry was that consumers in the UK, as well as in other large English-speaking countries like America,  were simply not interested in reading translated literature.

As Liz Foley,  publishing director at Harvill Secker, told the Guardian:

“There used to be a feeling translations were ‘good for you’ and not enjoyable … like vegetables … But actually they’re wonderful books.”

That appears to be changing. For example, the Guardian cites research from Literature Across Frontiers that shows the market for translated books has grown by 18% over the past 20 years.  Translations that have made the bestseller list include work from Scandinavian authors, most notably The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series by Stieg Larsson and crime novels by Jo Nesbø.

It’s not just translations from our European neighbors that are making waves. Bookstores across Britain were mobbed by customers looking for the latest translation novel from Japanese author Murakami.

This is great news for smaller publishing houses that focus on foreign books, according to Adam Freudenheim of Pushkin Press:

“There has been an increase. Pushkin Press’s sales doubled last year and are on track to double or even triple this year.”

However, we still have a ways to go.  BJ Epstein, of the  British Centre for Literary Translation, told The Guardian:

“Mainstream publishers are still very much about the bottom line. They really do underestimate the public, [assuming] that British people don’t want to read about people in China or Iceland.”

It’s wonderful that translated literature is becoming so much more readily available and accepted.  What translated books have you read recently? Do you have any recommendations? Let us know in the comments!

11 Great Books About Translation 

Are you looking for some good books about translation to add to your holiday reading list? We picked 11 of our favourites from several different genres.  Interested in history? Looking for romance? Suspense? It’s all here, so go get yourself a cup of hot tea and get ready to curl up by the fire!

Found in Translation

Found in Translation

How Language Shapes Our Lives and Transforms the World by Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche

Through a series of carefully chosen anecdotes, industry legends Kelly and Zetzsche show “the surprising and complex ways that translation shapes the world.”

This is a fun read for translation-industry insiders and language geeks alike. It’s smart, but also entertaining and accessible. It’s on the reading list of every localisation sales team I know and there are stories in there which anyone in the language industry can relate to.

If you work in this industry, it’s one of the best books about translation to recommend when people ask “So, what is it you actually do again?” If the translation professional in your life doesn’t have this, I recommend you ask Santa to put it in their stocking this year.

You can buy it on Amazon here.

Lost in Translation

An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World by Ella Frances Sanders

Lost in translationIn this New York Times bestseller, Ella Frances Sanders illustrates more than 50 words without direct English translations.  For example, take the German  Kabelsalat, meaning “a tangle of wires.” Here, it is illustrated by multi-coloured wires, tangled like spaghetti.

Razliubit, a Russian word for the bitter-sweet feeling of falling out of love, is illustrated by the figure of a person tumbling off a giant rose, with rose petals falling all around. It’s a beautiful piece of work.

Available on Amazon here.

Read more

French Readers Devour "50 Shades of Grey" Translation

50 Shades of Grey may have effortlessly taken the English-speaking world by storm, but what about the French? The answer may surprise you.

After all, in the country that gave us the Marquis de Sade, you’d expect readers to have more discriminating tastes when it comes to sadomasochism. French literary critics most certainly did. Here’s a sampling of the book’s critical reception, from the Daily Mail:

  • ‘It exposes the cultural gulf between the Anglo-Saxon hypocrisy and the old authentic sado-masochism of the French.’ — Les Inrocks Magazine
  • ‘Some couples may say it has helped their sex lives by reading it, but it’s as close to literature as Whiskas cat food is to gastronomy.’ — L’Express

And one more from the Guardian:

  • “It’s 50 shades of boredom.” — Slate.fr

The critics in France must have been sorely disappointed by the reactions of their countrywomen, as according to the Daily Mail the translation has become “the fastest selling book in French history.”

Here’s how Isabelle Laffont, managing director of JC Lattès, the book’s French publisher, explained the book’s appeal to the Guardian:

“We have been pleasantly surprised by the way the book has been received. Everyone says it’s not literature, which is true, but we are promoting it as the story of love like you have never read before. For the first time this is a book that is erotic but also about love. Previous books have had the eroticism but have been rather brutal, but this is a love story. It’s a bit hot in places, but it’s not perverse and the heroine is not a victim.”

Other possible explanations:

  • Curiosity killed the cat. (If you’re curious and haven’t read it yet, this post from the Everywhereist might help you resist the urge.)
  • Sometimes, you don’t want fine champagne and brie….you just want to curl up on the couch with a bottle of cheap wine and a box of Twinkies. This would be the literary equivalent of doing just that.