Fiction in translation

Fiction in translation

By Bibiana Mas

On International Translation Day I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on the challenges of publishing books in translation, a piece I wrote for Hopscotch magazine.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the wonderful work that translators do. Without them, our imaginary world would be too small and too grey a place.

As publishers of fiction in translation, one of the biggest fears we all probably have is committing to a book before we can really know if it is as we imagined it to be. Or even if it will fit into our own publishing imprint. Unfortunately we don’t have the ability to read all the languages of this world (by the way, this is the superpower I would most like to have!). So we must place our trust and some of our judgement in the hands of readers who can read all these languages. We jump into the deep end by reading only part of the book, because to translate it all in full costs a lot of money: the truth is that most of the independent publishers can only afford to translate certain chapters before paying for the whole of it. Unfortunately, after deciding to translate and publish the book, long sleepless nights begin. Endless sleepless nights packed with nightmares haunt us until the day we have the complete translated manuscript in our hands and, finally! we can see for ourselves that indeed, our instinct has not betrayed us.

There is no magic solution to this challenge: we can only surround ourselves with people we trust enough to be able to believe in their judgement almost blindly. And, above all, we must never stop trusting our own instinct which is, after all, the driving force behind our work. Well, to be honest, there’s one solution: having endless money so we can pay for the full translation even though we might not end up publishing it.

In my particular case, I tend to publish books when I know I can read the originals by myself, but this is not always possible. As we say in Catalan, my mother tongue, ‘qui no s’arrisca no pisca´. That is, those who don’t take risks will never achieve much of anything.


Find DEADLANDS by Núria Bendicho and MOTHERS DON´T by Katixa Agirre at your local bookshop or on our e-shop.



Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published