The New York Times has an interesting article about foreign literature in translation. Why are there so few foreign books in translation in the US? Even with highly acclaimed writers, sales are dismal. The article also covers the weird mechanics by which a lack of translation into English affects a book’s sales in all other languages but its own:
“‘Since English is the lingua franca, translating a book into English puts it in a position to be translated into many different languages,’ said Esther Allen, a translator who is chairwoman of the PEN translation committee. ‘We’re the clogged artery that prevents authors from reaching readers anywhere outside their own country.’ ‘It’s a great paradox of American life,’ Ms. Allen said, ‘that on the one hand we feel very cosmopolitan, with Mexican restaurants and cab drivers who speak Swahili, and we feel that we inhabit a mind-boggling multicultural universe, but at the end of the day, it breaks down to different ways of being American.'”
Read America Yawns at Foreign Fiction.