News | 20.05.2010

Amazon’s new chapter in literary translation

Amazon.com, Inc has just announced a new chapter in its history with the arrival of AmazonCrossing – a service that will provide English translations of non-English language titles. The first translated book is due to be published in both print and digital formats in November 2010 and will no doubt be available on the Amazon Kindle App for Android platforms which is also coming soon!

The field of literary translation has already attracted a lot of attention this year alone. March 2010 saw the publication of Edith Grossman’s book Why Translation Matters. In its introduction, Grossman – acclaimed literary translator of works by authors such as Gabriel García Márquez and Carlos Fuentes – states how her intention is to “stimulate a new consideration of an area of literature that is too often ignored, misunderstood, or misrepresented”. The book also discusses how UK and US publishers ‘who limit the number of translations to 2%–3% of their lists, are not meeting their “ethical and cultural responsibility” to literature*.’

Also in March of the same year, Three Percent announced the winners of its 2009 Best Translated Book Awards. Three Percent is the website of the University of Rochester’s translation programme, and named after the amount of books published in the US that are translated works and at only 3%, this is hardly an impressive number laments the website. The longlist contained 25 books, written by authors from 23 countries and covered 17 different original languages. A valuable resource for translators, the Three Percent website has been generating excitement in the world of literary translation since its launch in 2007.

This is why Amazon.com, Inc’s new publishing imprint AmazonCrossing will be such a welcome addition to this sector. It works by using customer reviews, feedback and data to identify the most popular non-English titles, the rights are purchased and the translation process can then start. The first translated book to be published is Le roi de Kahel (The King of Kahel) by Tierno Monénembo and is due out in November 2010. “Such translation and distribution of good literature from so-called minor languages can only stimulate our cultures and inspire writers to widen their horizons” said the President of the Nobel Committee for Literature and is a view echoed by Edith Grossman in Why Translation Matters.

These resources, services and sheer passion on the part of translators and book lovers alike in the literary translation sector all work towards making that shamefully low figure of 3% a thing of the past.

*Publisher’s Weekly from Yale University Press
Sources: https://www.rochester.edu/; www.independent.co.uk; Amazon.com, Inc;


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