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Will 2011 Be the Year Translated Lit Gains Traction in the US?

By Edward Nawotka

Today’s lead story looks at the surprise success of Words Without Borders and their new anthology Tablet & Pen.

Yes it might merely be wishful thinking, but could translated lit finally be gaining some traction in the US? The consensus is that “American’s don’t read translated lit” and as we’ve written here before, there are valid reasons why more books don’t get translated for publication in the US. But — and this is a big “but” — the success of Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy certainly demonstrates that a translated title can sell to US readers.

As publishers chase the opportunity to publish the “next Stieg,” will readers follow?

It could happen, if only in genre fiction: already this year we’re seeing Three Seconds by Anders Roslund & Borge Hellstrom pick up some buzz that is translating into sales. It’s also interesting to note that the title is the first from Silver Oak, a new imprint resulting from a publishing arrangement between Sterling in the US and Quercus in the UK.

Let us know what you think in the comments.

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  1. Posted January 11, 2011 at 4:33 am | Permalink

    These could be exceptions, and if at all, such success could result only with cult-status fiction titles such as those of Larsson. “Tablet and Pen” is an occasional snapback from the narcissism that generally characterizes publishing in the West.

    According to the rights director of a major German publisher in the personal growth field, translations proposals from German to English for books in this genre are generally received with arrogance by publishers in the U.S. and U.K.

  2. Bridget Patterson
    Posted January 12, 2011 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    How many Americans have read my translation of Irène Némirovsky’s short stories? Not as many as have read Stieg Larsson, I’ll bet! The collection is called Dimanche and was published by Vintage last April.

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