Women in Translation Month: Three Percent’s Chad Post Runs the Numbers

In News by Dennis Abrams

‘Keep an eye on Danish,’ advises Three Percent’s Chad Post. ‘That seems to be the hot language for women writers these days.’ It’s Women in Translation Month: #witmonth.

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Open Letter publisher Chad Post at the University of Rochester is looking at some statistics on women in translation at his Three Percent website. We’ve asked Dennis Abrams to give us some highlights. —Porter Anderson

By Dennis Abrams | @DennisAbrams2

1,394 Titles Out of  4,849: ‘Not Great’

Chad Post

AThree Percent, Chad Post draws on his recent updates to the Translation Database to generate some preliminary reports relative to Woman in Translation Month.

Between 2008 and 2018, 28.7 percent of the translations in the database were written by women. “That’s 1,394 titles out of a grand total of 4,849,” writes Post. “That’s not great.”

Post clarifies in a note that these are translations written by women: “This is different from…the most female authors who have been translated,” he writes. “That would be really interesting as well, especially since some Scandinavian countries are probably getting a boost by having female authors who write crime series.”

These are the 10 countries that Post’s data indicate have produced the most total translations written by women:

  • France 155
  • Germany 145
  • Sweden 84
  • Italy 64
  • Spain 64
  • Japan 62
  • Argentina 49
  • Russia 43
  • South Korea 39
  • Quebec 38

Post points to the fact that he’s listing Quebec as its own country, which, he writes, “probably is something that will bring down the Royal Mounties. But in my defense, this does capture every book translated into English by Canadian authors.”

When Post gauges the data by which languages (regardless of country) have produced the most translations by women, here’s how the list looks:

  • French 236
  • Spanish 186
  • German 185
  • Swedish 88
  • Italian 67
  • Japanese 60
  • Russian 46
  • Arabic 44
  • Korean 39
  • Norwegian 37

Post writes, “With all those Quebecois authors in tow, French really pulls away here. But Arabic coming in eighth? That was unexpected. Not terribly surprised about Swedish and Norwegian being on here, although keep an eye on Danish. That seems to be the hot language for women writers these days.”

AmazonCrossing Tops Post’s Publishers List

Here are the Top 10 publishers in terms of producing translations written by women, per Post’s figures. At Publishing Perspectives‘ request, Post has confirmed that this is for the 2008 to 2018 period.

As he notes, this list runs quite close to his annual counts of overall translation output by publishing houses. And, looking at that figure for AmazonCrossing—almost for times the next contender, Dalkey Archive—the ever-personable Post adds, “Wow, Amazon, wow.”

  • AmazonCrossing 194
  • Dalkey Archive 58
  • Europa Editions 47
  • Seagull Books 37
  • Other Press 28
  • New Directions 26
  • Open Letter 24
  • Atria 19
  • Feminist Press 17
  • Penguin 17

As promised, here’s Episode No. 132 of Chad Post’s Three Percent Podcast. You can find out more about it here and subscribe to it on iTunes, Stitcher, and elsewhere. 

  • To see the full list of titles broken down by language, author, title, year, and publisher, you can download an Excel spreadsheet here.
  • Chad Post’s complete entry at his Three Percent site on the subject is here.
  • A PDF copy of the program for Frankfurt’s The Markets can be downloaded here.
  • And another helpful note from Post on just what’s tracked in his Three Percent work: “We only track fiction and poetry (all genres, including young adult, but not kids books, not graphic novels, not drama, not nonfiction) that is published in translation for the first time ever during this period. No retranslations of unexpurgated texts. No reissues. Just new voices that had never before been available to English readers.”
About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.