Here are two more myths about fiction in translation that deserve upending.
Myth 3. Nobody publishes translated fiction.
The most-repeated statistic about translation is that only three percent of all US book output consists of works in translation. Yet, Open Letter Books’ Three Percent blog reports a 26.3% increase in the total number of works of fiction translated in the United States in 2012. This is due in part to the rise in new publishers that are specializing in translated fiction. Some are digital-first and very focused, like Le French Book, which does mysteries and thrillers from France, or Stockholm Text, which concentrates on books from Sweden. Others are major publishers, such as HarperCollins, that are releasing international works, often in digital format. And the most prolific publisher of translation is, in fact, Amazon, with their imprint AmazonCrossing.
Myth 4. Who needs it anyway, we’ve got machine translation.
Many people have no idea at all what goes into translating a work of fiction. It’s just another story from another place, which is exactly what it should be. However, translating fiction is far from mechanical. Take this example from the conspiracy thriller The Bleiberg Project by the French author David Khara:
- Original: “Je suis une ordure et j’ai la gueule de bois, comme tous les matins. Le cigare est en panne, normal. Ça cogne à mort là-haut.”
- Online machine translation: “I’m a scumbag and I have a hangover, like every morning. The cigar is down, normal. It knocks to death there.”
- Human (the book’s translator, Simon John): “This morning, like every other morning, I’m hung over. My brain is fried. I’m a piece of shit. My head is pounding.”