On Saturday, October 7, signandsight.com took part in a panel discussion at the Frankfurt Book Fair entitled "The Non-English Patient" , on the state of translation in the globalised world. The event, hosted by media specialist Rüdiger Wischenbart, featured Esther Allen, compiler of an eye-opening study on translation and today's book industry; Susan Harris of Words without Borders; Anne-Bitt Gerecke of Litrix.de; and Thierry Chervel, founder of signandsight.com's sister site Perlentaucher.de. Full info and bios here.
The panel: Esther Allen, Susan Harris, Rüdiger Wischenbart, Anne-Bitt Gerecke and Thierry Chervel
Rüdiger Wischenbart: Good morning ladies and gentlemen, my name is Rüdiger Wischenbart. Our subject today is one of the key issues of book fairs and today's reading globally in general. You can approach the issue of translation in two very different ways. The one is just with figures. We all know that many books are translated from English, and very few are translated back into English. For the case of German – or French and English: between 55 and 60 percent of translations into our languages have English originals. And at the same time there is a tiny line pointing in the other direction. We have only 3 to 5 percent – so one tenth – of translation back into English. To make things worse, just think of what it means to be Hungarian or Romanian, and how difficult it is not only to find someone to buy, read and translate your books into German or English, but just to communicate with your neighbour in Hungary, Serbia, or Poland. There are almost no translations on that horizontal level. So we are in a very odd situation. But we can also measure the situation by telling stories. Let me give you one: you have all heard of the wonderful novel "The God of Small Things" by Arundhati Roy. She was a writer in one of the poorest Indian provinces, in Kerala. And it was possible for her, and this is the benefit of globalisation, within a few years to become a worldwide star. However we have to bear in mind: that story could have never happened if Arundhati Roy had written her novel in the local language of Kerala, and not in English. read full article