August is Women in Translation month. It is a celebration of stories written by women that have been translated into English. The role of translation in a literary context is to take the story from its original language and translate it into English for publishing in the English speaking countries. That sounds amazing, right? We would be able to read all the amazing stories from around the world. Well, that isn’t necessarily the case.
When you really start to look at the numbers, they are dismal. Only 3% of the books published in the United States are translated stories. Whereas, in Europe that number is 10 times higher. Now, before you @ me, this issue is extremely complicated. There is so much to unpack when you are looking at the issue of books in translation.
One of the largest issues is the idea of cost. When a work is being translated from its native language, it is basically rewritten by the translator. If a publishing company is unsure whether the book is going to be a big seller, are they going to pay out the money to have the book translated? Can smaller publishing houses sustain the cost of translation? I personally don’t know how much translation costs, and I understand that companies need to make a profit. It would seem to me that if publishing houses would add more translated works, then the cost would over time be recouped by the publishing company. But I could be wrong.
One of the other issues that were mentioned was interest. Is there an actual interest in translated works? Based on the amount of translated works I have been able to find at my library, I truly believe so. In just my library I have been able to procure five horror translations by women. And anything that I haven’t been able to find in my local library I would be able to order through interlibrary loan. I truly believe that readers are excited by stories and where the story is going to take them.
I am going to make a very broad statement here: reading translated works is important for so many different reasons. However, I think the most important is that it expands a reader’s world view. As a reader, the door to other countries and experiences opens up to you. Readers have the innate ability to travel around the world without ever leaving home. Without works in translation many people’s world view would be narrow and perhaps a bit tainted.
In researching works in translation, I came across a quote by Goethe “…left to itself every literature will exhaust its vitality if it is not refreshed by interest and contributions of a foreign one.” In other words, without an exchange of different ideas then there is a stagnation of ideas. Which to be perfectly honest it is frightening thought. With that in mind the Ladies and I have put together a Horror edition of works in translation written by women. Furthermore, we felt so strongly about this topic we decided that each month we will write up a post about a region/country of the world with a list of women horror authors and their books.
Things We Lost in The Fire By Mariana Enriquez trans. by Megan McDowell
I am the Brother of XX by Fleur Jaeggy trans. by Gini Alhadeff
The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck trans. by Susan Bernofsky*
Revenge by Yoko Ogawa trans. by Stephen Synder
Mouthful of Birds by Samantha Schweblin trans. by Megan McDowell
The Vegetarian by Han Kang trans. by Deborah Smith
An Awkward Age by Anna Starobinets trans. by Hugh Alpin
Now You’re One of Us by Asa Nonami trans. by Michael Volek and Mitsuko Volek
The Graveyard Apartment by Mariko Koike trans. by Deborah Boliver Boehm
I Remember You: A Ghost Story by Yrsa Sigurdardottir trans. by Philip Roughton
This is not a complete list by any means. Rather, a start of a monthly project that the LOHF is going to be working on. If you have any you think we need to know about please leave a comment below.
* child death