Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The year in translation

Three percent "a resource for international literature at the University of Rochester" and named after the oft-cited statistic (first established by Bowker) that only 3% of books published in the U.S. are translations, offers an overview of the year in translation, including a 2009 translation spreadsheet of the original fiction and poetry translations released in the U.S. during 2009.

In translations by country of origin, France tops the list, accounting for 32, or 9.2%, of 348 translations, while Spanish is the most translated language with 59 titles. 11 Norwegian titles in translation were released in the U.S. market in 2009 - the same number as lil'old Russia (lots of space and people, but evidently lacking in significant writers and literary tradition) and 1 more than measly China.

Three percent more than suggests that translations are a measure of a reading nations' insularity: The motivating force behind the website is the view that reading literature from other countries is vital to maintaining a vibrant book culture and to increasing the exchange of ideas among cultures. In this age of globalization, one of the best ways to preserve the uniqueness of cultures is through the translation and appreciation of international literary works. To remain among the world’s best educated readers, English speakers must have access to the world’s great literatures. It is a historical truism and will always remain the case that some of the best books ever written were written in a language other than English. 

According to statistics compiled by the Norwegian publishers association  279 adult fiction titles were translated into Norwegian in 2008, along with 333 titles for children.  In both categories, the number of translations exceeded the number of original Norwegian titles (275 and 233 respectively). Naturally, translations will be comparatively more numerous in nations of minor languages, but these are still striking figures: 279 titles for a population of under 5 million, as compared with 348 translations for a U.S. population of more than 300 million.

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