Lit In Translation Is 13 Percent Of 'NYT' Notables

The New York Times just released its list of the 100 most notable books of 2015, and there's a lot of interesting shtoof going on. I'm excited to see that some of my favorite books — which I'm sure are some of your favorites, as well — made the list. But it's more exciting to see that 13 percent of the New York Times list is made up of literature in translation.

That's big news, because only 2 to 3 percent of English language publishing is devoted to translated books. Some authors, such as Haruki Murakami and Elena Ferrante, have managed to pull away from the pack, of course. English translations of their novels hit North America, the U.K., and the Commonwealth in a timely manner, and routinely wind up on best seller lists.

But for other authors, getting an English translation can be difficult. Then there's the problem of getting readers to purchase the book, of getting reviews, of generating hype. It's hard enough for an English-speaking writer to make a living out of fiction, but for authors whose work occupies a minuscule niche of publishing? Fuhgeddaboudit.

Or, not. The 13 translated works on this year's NYT list mark a 62.5 percent increase over last year's numbers. If this trend continues, maybe we'll see a fix for that 2 to 3 percent problem.

The translated books on the New York Times' list of 100 Notable Books of 2015 are:

  • Beauty Is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan, translated by Annie Tucker;
  • The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector, edited by Benjamin Moser, translated by Katrina Dodson;
  • The Crime and the Silence: Confronting the Massacre of Jews in Wartime Jedwabne by Anna Bikont, translated by Alissa Valles;
  • The Door by Magda Szabo, translated by Len Rix;
  • The Fly Trap by Fredrik Sjoberg, translated by Thomas Teal;
  • Letters to Véra by Vladimir Nabokov, edited and translated by Olga Voronina and Brian Boyd;
  • The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud, translated by John Cullen;
  • My Struggle: Book 4 by Karl Ove Knausgaard, translated by Don Bartlett;
  • One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway by Asne Seierstad, translated by Sarah Death;
  • The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein;
  • The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli, translated by Christina MacSweeney;
  • Submission by Michel Houellebecq, translated by Lorin Stein;
  • and The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango, translated by Imogen Taylor.

Have you read any of these books? Do you regularly read literature in translation? If so, give a shout out on Twitter.

Image: Quinn Dombrowski/flickr