Article: You’re Missing Out on Great Literature

You’re Missing Out on Great Literature

“Only three percent of everything published in the U.S. each year is translated from another language — and the majority of that is computer manuals and other technical material. Why don’t Americans read beyond their borders?”

(From Pacific Standard, February 11, 2014)

This article focuses on the lack of translations as an American issue, but I wonder how the US compares to other markets where English is primary or prominent. Is the UK also lacking in translated literature, for example?

I also wonder about the reasons behind it, some of which the article touches upon. Is it more that readers aren’t interested in books from other countries, even if translated into English, or more that publishers don’t want to invest the money translating something they aren’t sure will sell? My guess is that it’s more the latter, but perhaps this is a chicken-and-egg kind of thing.

Personally, I’m very interested in reading works from other countries, to learn about people from different places and cultures, and just for something different to read. As long as it’s translated well though. I’ve read some translations that were pretty poorly done. Granted, there are plenty of native English books published today that aren’t written very well either!

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