By Edward Nawotka
It is often said of Americans that they don’t read enough foreign books — whether translations from far away China or authors from countries as close as Canada. The defense against this charge of provincialism is that the United States is a vast country, one that contains many cultures, and a produces more than enough diverse literature in year to satisfy a reader in a lifetime.
In Europe, where languages and cultures abut each other in a more dramatic fashion, there is the assumption that readers have much greater access to books from other countries through translation — and they take advantage of this. Is this truth or hype?
Today’s feature story, for example, notes the glaring lack of translations from the German available in Danish bookstores and the preponderance of titles translated from English. Could this be a case of familiarity breeding contempt (as the cliche goes)? You can find similar examples of apparent cultural bias in publishing programs all over Europe…and Latin America…and Asia. The fact is literary xenophobia, however mild or extreme, is a global problem — not just an American one.