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He's wrong on the one hand and right about translation.

But, let me add one thing here: I go into book stores in Europe. I walk into Feltrinelli. Bertelsmann owns some. What kind of translations do I find? One thousand books by Banana Yoshimoto do nothing for me.

In the USA, we have a very small number of translations. 400 a year in fiction. The vast majority of these are published by small presses such as Dalkey Archive or Open Letter, etc. This enables an American like me to read a writer such as, for instance, Giorgio Manganelli, in translation, and then when I'm in Italy and I want to find his book in the original to enjoy it in Italian, it's not only nowhere to be found in bookstores, but many Italians haven't heard of him.

The US is no doubt suffering from too few translations, but that doesn't mean writers in the USA are insular. Many have read their European contemporaries and have great respect for them. There is a very precise relationship between Euro literature and American literature, and the conversation has been going on over a century. Writers reveal their influences and note the exchange from across the pond. It's easy to track.

This week I'm hosting Bragi Olafsson here in Buffalo who is reading from his novel, The Pets, a new American translation. Culturual exchanges such as this happen frequently. Is it a problem that Engdahl is unaware of thiss imply because Olafsson's book is being published by a small press, Open letter?

What great contemporary European writers have we missed in the USA?

by Upstate NY on Fri Oct 3rd, 2008 at 01:57:38 PM EST
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