Book lovers wary of what Brexit will mean for the arts and culture in the United Kingdom can take some small comfort: British readers are going international.
This year, a survey commissioned by the Man Booker International Prize found that literary fiction in translation is outselling its English-language counterparts. Right now, translation seems more important than ever—suddenly, it seems, world literature has taken root in this island nation, where fiction sales are stagnating overall. How did this happen? Is the movement permanent? Mindful of this year’s celebration of Women in Translation Month (#WITMonth), the release of the first Kurdish novel translated into English, and the globalization of Korean literature, how are publishers continuing to surface underrepresented voices?
In partnership with Waterstones Piccadilly—Europe’s largest bookstore—we welcome you to meet innovators leading the rise of translated fiction in the UK publishing industry:
Deborah Smith is the founder of Tilted Axis Press, a not-for-profit press focusing on contemporary fiction from Asia. Her translations from the Korean include four novels: Han Kang’s The Vegetarian and Human Acts, and Bae Suah’s A Greater Music and Recitation. Han and Deborah were awarded the 2016 Man Booker International Prize for The Vegetarian. In October 2016, Tilted Axis will publish Korean writer Hwang Jungeun’s One Hundred Shadows, translated by Jung Yewon. Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay’s Panty, published in May, is Tilted Axis’s first title. An excerpt of the book is available as part of the Guardian’s Translation Tuesday series.
Adam Freudenheim is the Publisher & Managing Director of Pushkin Press. Its title, Affections by Rodrigo Hasbún, translated from Spanish by Sophie Hughes, is a winner of the 2016 PEN Translates award. Adam has worked in publishing since 1998 and was Publisher of Penguin Classics, Modern Classics and Reference from 2004 to 2012. Born in Baltimore, he lived near Düsseldorf and in Berlin for nearly three years and came to the UK in 1997.
In a 2015 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Adam said: “I don’t believe they are much greater than the general challenges facing publishers today—particularly of fiction. English-speaking audiences are more open than ever to reading books from all over the world, and there have been any number of recent successes of books in translation even though 95 percent of books published in English are not translations. But we’re working on changing that—one book at a time!” Read the full interview here.
Laura Barber is currently the Publishing Director of Portobello Books. She joined the team in 2005, after directing the Classics list at Penguin. Her translated authors include the Man Booker International contender, Peter Stamm and the Man Asia shortlisted Hiromi Kawakami, as well as Valeria Luiselli, Etgar Keret, Hubert Mingarelli, and Jenny Erpenbeck, winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2015. Listen to Laura discuss women in translation with Nicky Smalley (And Other Stories), Deborah Smith, and Katy Derbyshire at this year’s British Centre for Literary Translation Summer School.
Jonathan Ruppin is the Literary Director of Orson & Co and a member of the English PEN Writers in Translation committee. Jonathan has been a bookseller for nearly twenty years, including thirteen years with Foyles bookshop. He has been featured on panels for many literary prizes, including the Costa Novel Award and the Guardian First Book Award. Jonathan is the founder of the English PEN Translated Literature Book Club. Read his reflections on its first year of discussions, published in August.
Are you not based in London, or otherwise unable to join us a Waterstones Picadilly? Fear not! We’re crowdsourcing questions from our readers worldwide, and we want to hear from you! Tweet us @asymptotejrnl, or reach out via Facebook. We may read it live at the event, in addition to your name and location in the world.
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