Tuesday, May 18, 2010

AmazonCrossing to publish translated foreign-language books

From AP
Amazon publishes translated foreign-language books

Amazon is launching a book imprint, AmazonCrossing, to publish foreign-language literature translated into English.
' The first book will be "The King of Kahel," 2008 winner of the prix Renaudot French literary prize. Its author, Tierno Monenembo, was born in Guinea and now lives in France. The book is due out in paperback and in an electronic Kindle version on Nov. 2.

Amazon said it will use customer reviews and other data from its websites around the world to choose AmazonCrossing titles. '
AmazonEncore reissues books it considers exceptional but overlooked.

A press release has a bit more:
' "The goal of our publishing programs is to introduce readers to terrific authors they might not otherwise have the chance to know," said Jeff Belle, Vice President of Books. "Our international customers have made us aware of exciting established and emerging voices from other cultures and countries that have not been translated for English-language readers. These great voices and great books deserve a wider audience, and that's why we created AmazonCrossing."

"As president of the Nobel Committee for Literature, I have seen how recent laureates--Elfriede Jelinek, Imre Kertesz, JMG Le Clézio, Herta Müller--were virtually unknown and unprinted in England and U.S. and only after the Nobel Prize were they able to find readers in English, yet they are in my view equal to anyone writing in English," said Per Wästberg, President of the Nobel Committee for Literature. "AmazonCrossing deserves praise and support. Such translation and distribution of good literature from so-called minor languages can only stimulate our cultures and inspire writers to widen their horizons."

"There are many thousands of books out there worthy of being translated and published in English, but that are currently unavailable to us monolingual readers," said Chad Post, Publisher at Open Letter Books. "The more international books that are available in English, the better. It's exciting to see a company like Amazon investing in such a worthy cause like AmazonCrossing, and in a way that will definitely help expand the audience for literature in translation."

Tierno Monénembo's "The King of Kahel" was originally published in France in 2008 and was the winner of the French literary prize, the prix Renaudot, which is awarded to the author of an outstanding original novel published during the current year. Based on the life of Olivier de Sanderval, a man who journeyed to Guinea to build an empire by conquering the hostile region of Fouta Djallon, the book explores how Sanderval braves all dangers to build a railway that will bring modern civilization to Africa. Born in 1947 in Guinea, Monénembo was exiled to Senegal and the Ivory Coast before moving to France to pursue a doctorate in biochemistry. He is the author of nine books and one stage play. '
Update - Wall St. Journal adds some interesting info on translation costs:
'Although translated works have often had a difficult time gaining wide readership in the U.S., there have been a number of exceptions, including the books of such authors as Umberto Eco, Irene Nemirovsky, and Haruki Murakami. Most recently, a trilogy of novels written by the late Stieg Larsson became international best sellers.

Still, translations can be expensive. Chad Post, director of the University of Rochester's Open Letter Books, which specializes in literature in translation, said translators typically command between $100 and $125 per thousand words. A 60,000-word novel, for example, could cost between $6,000 to $8,000 to translate. Well-known translators, he added, command as much as $175 to $200 per 1,000 words.

"There's a perception that books in translation don't sell as well, so you have to spend more on marketing than you might with a typical American author," he added. "You have to spend more to get their name into circulation." '

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