The Linguist

The Linguist 55,4

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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14 The Linguist Vol/55 No/4 2016 FICTION IN TRANSLATION As Amazon's publishing arm becomes the biggest producer of translated literature, Brendan Cole looks at its modus operandi T hose who read a newly published work of fiction in translation in the UK or US are in a tiny minority. Less than 4% of new releases last year were translations, but the growing presence of AmazonCrossing in the translation sector is transforming the market for foreign works. Launched in 2010 as the 14th arm of the online retailing behemoth, Seattle-based AmazonCrossing has developed into a significant cultural conduit for foreign literature. In 2015, it grabbed headlines at the Frankfurt Book Fair, where it announced a US$10 million investment – a large financial commitment to be spread over five years. According to Senior Editor Elizabeth DeNoma, AmazonCrossing wants to increase the number and diversity of the books it produces. "While we're now one of the largest publishers of translated literature in the United States, translated fiction is still a tiny fraction of new publications. We believe great stories can come from any language and we are committed to introducing a wider variety of international writers to readers," she says. So much literature from around the world is written in English that for publishers wanting a taste of the 'exotic', books in English from South Africa to the Caribbean are easier to assess and put out than works in other languages. The tendency has been to select books for translation that are more literary, creating an image of a rather rarefied world. But AmazonCrossing is working in several other genres, including romance and science fiction. Since 2010, it has published 200 titles by authors from 29 countries writing in 19 languages. Its breadth of content includes work by renowned translators such as Marian Schwartz, whose translation of the novel Rachel by Andrei Gelasimov was long-listed for the Read Russia Prize. It has also worked with the Chinese-English translator Howard Goldblatt, award-winning translator Ellen Elias-Bursa ć. Writers in Greek, Turkish and Afrikaans are also represented. As DeNoma points out: "Certainly one of the most rewarding aspects of my role is getting to work closely with an impressive group of smart, creative translators from so many different languages, and grapple with the whole range of choices and decisions we make when helping a story meet a new audience." Controversy and concerns However, in 2014, the Association of Literary Translators in France (ATLF) sent an open letter criticising AmazonCrossing's "unacceptable" rates of pay (in some cases 5-12¢ a word) and voiced concerns that jobs would go to the lowest bidder – its nondisclosure agreement meaning that translators, in essence, had to 'bid blind'. The standard contract gives the imprint exclusive worldwide rights to the translation but with Translated by Amazon

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