Demand for Translated Foreign Books Increases in the UK

Demand for Translated Foreign Books Increases in the UK
Bernadine Racoma

In Great Britain, popular authors from Scandinavia such as Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbø are getting popular as the demand for translated foreign books grow. More titles are coming as readership of foreign fiction increases, surpassing the sale of homegrown titles.

Various titles

Penguin Classics will soon publish the Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange, which is a collection of Arabic short stories. The titles were translated by Malcolm Lyons, an academic from Cambridge. This will be the first time in 1,000 years that these Arabic stories will be available in English.

Publisher Harvill Secker, who focused on translated literature is set to publish authors from 18 countries this year. He will have titles from Norwegian author Jo Nesbø, who had already sold over 23 million copies of his crime stories that have been translated into 40 languages. Secker will also publish books by Japanese author Haruki Murakami. Next year the publisher is scheduled to release book number four of the six-book autobiographical series penned by another Norwegian author, Karl Ove Knausgård.

Translated books are becoming more mainstream, according to Liz Foley, the publishing director of Harvill Secker. She said that in the beginning, the response was tepid, comparing it to something that a mother would say to coax a child to eat vegetables – they are good for you. Now readers have discovered that these translated books are wonderful.

Success of translated literature

The interest in foreign literature was initiated by the success of the Millennium books by Stieg Larsson. His books have sold over 75 million copies in 50 countries.

This is not the first time that it happened. Take the case of Hesperus Press, which was a small British firm. The company recognized the potential of a comic Swedish novel in 2012, which was rejected by major American and British companies. Hesperus bought the rights to the book, “The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared,” written by Jonas Jonasson. It became a publishing phenomenon in Europe, selling more than half a million copies.

Waterstones’ fiction buyer, Chris White said that they continue to discover many translated titles that are selling more than homegrown titles, such as the legal thriller, “The Collini Case” by German author Ferdinand von Schirach. This book sold more than the last novel by John Grisham.

Booksellers, editors and publishers were taken aback by the phenomenon, since they themselves were not familiar with some of the foreign authors. Just this month, book lovers lined up in front of the Foyle’s bookshop in London to get their copy of the latest novel of Haruki Murakami, a Japanese publishing sensation whose books can reach one million in sales within days of hitting the store shelves.

However, book translators are despaired by the fact that most English-language publishers omit the name of the translator from the book cover.

Image credit: People reading books on Piotrkowska street taken by Lxtlito under Public Domain.

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