American Publishers and Foreign Languages at the Frankfurt Book Fair

American Publishers and Foreign Languages at the Frankfurt Book Fair –

As a follow-up to several previous posts about the recent announcement of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Motoko Rich, writing from the Frankfurt Book Fair, explains why most Americans had never heard of the winner:

Although there are exceptions among the big publishing houses, the editors from the United States are generally more likely to bid on other hyped American or British titles than to look for new literature in the international halls.

According to Chad W. Post, the director of Open Letter, a new press based at the University of Rochester that focuses exclusively on books in translation, 330 works of foreign literature — or a little more than 2 percent of the estimated total of 15,000 titles released — have been published in the United States so far this year.

A week before the Nobel Prize announcement, Horace Engdahl, permanent secretary of the organization that awards the Nobel Prize, explained why the prize did not go to an American:

‘The U.S. is too isolated, too insular,’ Mr. Engdahl said in an interview with The Associated Press. ‘They don’t translate enough and don’t really participate in the big dialogue of literature.’

One French publisher told Rich, “American publishers are depriving the American readership of the cultural diversity through translation to which they are entitled.”

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