The best European fiction coming your way

Between 2001 and 2015, sales of translated fiction grew by 96%. One reason, argues Daniel Hahn, who last year established a prize for first translations, is that publishers seem to be taking more account of what people actually want to read. For a long time, he says, the emphasis was on “quite challenging, highbrow literary fiction,” which led to an unhelpful conflation of “difficult” with “translated”. Then Christoper MacLehose published Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which promptly sold 12,000 copies, in hardback.

“It seems to me,” says Lisa Appignanesi, chair of this year’s Man Booker international prize, which is announced on 22 May, “we have become much more interested in literature which is not conventional; there are different traditions on the continent, which are not quite so emphatically led by character and the movement of plot.”

The important thing, then, is to be led by readers. Colm Tóibín, when not writing his own fiction, commissions books for a tiny imprint called Tuskar Rock. Two of their translated books are shortlisted for this year’s Booker international prize – Like a Fading Shadow by Spanish author Antonio Muñoz Molina and The World Goes On, by Hungarian novelist Laszlo Krasznahorkai. Some years ago, Tóibín was asked to introduce Krasznahorkai at a reading in Edinburgh, and “noticed that the venue was full”. At which point he realised that readers in English were no longer getting their information about books from traditional sources, and that it was important to work out how they were doing it and “try to tap into it”.

Read more...