Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Fast, good, or cheap: pick any two.

Writing for The Smart Set, Jessa Crispin uncovers the shocking rationale for the relative dearth of literature in translation (emphasis mine):
I decide to skip the translation panel I had planned to attend after lunch. The London Book Fair had declared this year’s market focus the Arab World. This meant two things that I could tell. One, instead of just hideously overpriced stale pizzas and soggy sandwiches, you could also now find hideously overpriced Middle Eastern food. Two, at every panel, some publisher had to himself on the back about the increased sales of works in translation. In reality, however, translated works now make up approximately four percent of books published in the English-speaking world, instead of the previous three percent. Whenever a representative from an Arabic publisher stood up during the Q&A section to ask why, if there’s so much interest in translated literature, more literature is not translated, he is answered with awkward silence. “Translation is expensive,” is a general answer given, once someone on a panel realizes no one is going to volunteer to speak first.

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