Each week, LanguageLine selects five stories about language and culture that we think readers will find intriguing. Here is this week’s “Liner Notes”:
In May 2018, Olga Tokarczuk and her translator Jennifer Croft won the Man Booker International Prize for Flights, a novel that was published in Poland in 2007. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, for which Tokarczuk is a Booker finalist again this year, was translated a bit faster; it only took a decade.
The process of literary translation takes time, obviously, but there’s something else at play when it takes a decade or more for incredibly renowned authors to reach our shores. This is part of a much larger problem, frequently referred to as the “3 percent problem” by publishers.
It was a big deal when a study back in 2005 — initiated by PEN World Voices — announced that less than 3 percent of all the books published in English were originally written in another language. It raised a lot of questions about how broad and deep American book culture really is.