Literary Translation Today—A Lament, a Shout-Out, and a Totally Random Guide
What gets translated into English by whom is an occasional but painful topic among writers, readers and scholars of foreign literatures. The answer is consistently and increasingly, “not much, and mostly writers that are already best sellers.”
The problem is emblematic of the American market, which is shrinking for fiction in general and almost nonexistent for foreign fiction (proof that American isolationism is still a thing), but which can be a gold mine for that very rare foreign thriller or Nobel Prize winner. Milan Kundera and Orhan Pamuk will have contracts for English translations even before their next novel is published in Czech or Turkish; By contrast, Paula Maia, the award-winning writer from São Paulo, Brazil, has published ten books, only one of which has been translated into English– Saga of Brutes, a triptych published in 2010 and translated six years later.