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Translated fiction continues to grow

Translated fiction continues to grow

Research commissioned by the Man Booker International Prize from Nielsen Book shows that UK sales of translated fiction grew last year by 5.5%, with sales worth £20.7 million. Within that, the category denoted as ‘general/literary fiction’ in translation stood out for its extreme growth, of 20% over the course of 2018. This is in marked contrast to the sales of English-language fiction in that category, which have plateaued.

The figures follow research originally commissioned in 2016, when the Man Booker International Prize evolved to reward the author and translator of the best book originally written in a language other than English. That investigation looked at a 15-year span (2001-2016), and found sales of fiction in translation to be rising steadily. The new research confirms and extends the trend identified then, and many are now celebrating this proof of translated fiction’s increasing popularity.

‘Despite what has clearly been a surge of interest in translated fiction, people still tend to cite the outdated “three percent” statistic about the proportion of translated fiction published in the UK,’ says Charlotte Collins, Co-Chair of the Translators Association. Collins, herself a translator, was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize in 2016, with Robert Seethaler’s A Whole Life. She points not only to the sales figures, but to the amount of translated fiction – new or classic – now available for sale: ‘As we can see, this proportion has almost doubled in recent years, and is now at 5.63%.’

This is really exciting news, and welcome confirmation that publishers have responded to the proven popularity and marketability of translated literature.’

Nielsen’s findings include the fact that translated fiction in the UK is overwhelmingly European, with French (17% of volume sales) being the leading language of origin overall. However, for new books published in the past five years, Norwegian and Swedish are the most popular languages of origin. Languages in growing demand include Chinese and Arabic, as well as Icelandic and Polish. The latter follows Olga Tokarczuk’s win of the 2018 Man Booker International Prize with Flights, translated by Jennifer Croft, and Poland being the subject of the London Book Fair’s Market Focus in 2017.

Nielsen further discovered that the crime and thriller genre, which has historically been a large contributor to the sales of translated fiction, has declined by 19%. And there has been an extremely substantial growth - by 90% - in sales of translated short stories and anthologies between 2017 and 2018.

‘Reading fiction is one of the best ways we have of putting ourselves in other people’s shoes. The rise in sales of translated fiction shows how hungry British readers are for terrific writing from other countries,’ comments Fiammetta Rocco, Administrator of the Man Booker International Prize.

Andre Breedt, Managing Director of Nielsen Book Research International, adds: ‘Fiction in translation allows us to experience narratives and perspectives in a way that otherwise would not be possible. We are glad to be working with Man Booker International Prize and others to better measure this important and vibrant genre.’

The relative rise of literary fiction is reflected in the top 20 works of translated fiction sold in 2018 (listed below): the majority of books are from that category, although books in the crime/thriller category take up the top three slots.

Position

Title

Author

Language

Publisher

Qty

Genre

1

The Thirst

Jo Nesbo
(tr: Neil Smith)

Norwegian

Vintage

123,066

Crime

2

Macbeth

Jo Nesbo
(tr: Don Bartlett)

Norwegian

Vintage

111,206

Crime

3

The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye

David Lagercrantz (tr: George Goulding)

Swedish

Maclehose Press

105,897

Crime

4

Lullaby

Leila Slimani (tr: Sam Taylor)

French

Faber & Faber

98,058

General Literary

5

The Accidental Further Adventures of the Hundred-Year-Old Man

Jonas Jonasson (tr: Rachel Willson-Broyles)

Swedish

Fourth Estate

69,372

General Literary

6

The Travelling Cat Chronicles

Hiro Arikawa (tr: Philip Gabriel)

Japanese

Doubleday

46,846

General Literary

7

The History of Bees

Maja Lunde (tr: Diane Oatley)

Norwegian

Simon & Schuster

44,602

General Literary

8

The Alchemist

Paulo Coelho (tr: Alan R. Clarke)

Portuguese

Thorsons

40,322

General Literary

9

Men Without Women: Stories

Haruki Murakami (tr: Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen)

Japanese

Vintage

37,547

Short stories

10

The Girl in the Spider’s Web

David Lagercrantz (tr: George Goulding)

Swedish

Maclehose

35,736

Crime

11

If Cats Disappeared from the World

Genki Kawamura (tr: Eric Selland)

Japanese

Picador

30,192

General Literary

12

My Brilliant Friend

Elena Ferrante (tr: Ann Goldstein)

Italian

Europa Editions

26,627

General Literary

13

Killing Commendatore

Haruki Murakami (tr: Philip Gabriel‎ and Ted Goossen)

Japanese

Harvill Secker

23,643

General Literary

14

The Sixteen Trees of the Somme

Lars Mytting (tr: Paul Russell Garrett)

Norwegian

Maclehose

23,620

General Literary

15

Convenience Store Woman

Sayaka Murata (tr: Ginny Tapley Takemori)

Japanese

Portobello

21,228

General Literary

16

A Man Called Ove

Fredrik Backman (tr: Henning Koch)

Swedish

Sceptre

20,415

General Literary

17

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared

Jonas Jonasson (tr: Rod Bradbury)

Swedish

Abacus

19,466

General Literary

18

Can you hear me?

Elena Varvello (tr: Alex Valente)

Italian

Two Roads

18,897

Crime

19

Norwegian Wood

Haruki Murakami (tr: Alfred Birnbaum 1989, Jay Rubin 2000)

Japanese

Vintage

17,742

General Literary

20

The Labyrinth of the Spirits

Carlos Ruiz Zafon (tr: Lucia Graves)

Spanish

Orion

17,055

General Literary

 

 

Polish

Andrzej Sapowski (tr. Danusia Stock) The Last Wish (fantasy)

Olga Tokarczuk (tr. Jennifer Croft) Flights (winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2018)

Icelandic

Ragnar Jónasson (tr. Victoria Cribb) The Darkness (crime)

Yrsa Sigurðardóttir (tr. Victoria Cribb) The Legacy (crime)

Chinese

Cixin Liu (tr. Ken Liu) The Three Body Problem (science fiction)

Jin Yong (tr. Anna Holmwood) A Hero Born (fantasy)

Arabic

Ahmed Sadawi (tr. Jonathan Wright) Frankenstein in Baghdad (shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2018)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Man Booker International judges will select the ‘Man Booker dozen’ of 12 or 13 books on 13 March, followed by a shortlist of six in on 9 April. The winner will be announced on 21 May 2019.

www.themanbookerprize.com  |  @ManBookerPrize  |  #MBI2019 #FinestFiction

 

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Translated fiction continues to grow