Translation Unawareness

October 18, 2008

Upon the occasion of the Frankfurt Book Fair and on the heels of the American-unknown French Nobel winner JMG Le Clézio, the New York Times reports that Translation Is Foreign to U.S. Publishers. While this is, unfortunately, just the most recent of many similar articles, here the focus is on the publishers’ perspective, like David R. Godine, who adds some interesting points:
“When you look at how much is paid for a mediocre midlist author” in the United States, he said, “and how much you have to pay to get a world-class author who has been translated into 18 languages, it is ridiculous that more people don’t invest in buying great literature.” Mr. Godine said he had purchased the rights to a foreign book for as little as $2,000.

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