Imre Kertesz: translation before Nobel

In a panel discussion on translated literature, Thierry Chervel postulates that Imre Kertesz (above) “wouldn’t have got the Nobel Prize without being discovered here in the German market, and being translated after that into English.”

Co-panelist Susan Harris, an editor at Words Without Borders, offers this shocking history:

That was my publishing house [that translated Kertesz into English]. But when Kertesz’ Nobel came out, I was not able to celebrate because I had been fired, and my translation programme discontinued the previous March, because translation did not sell and was not worthwhile according to my university. But translation of course should sell. It sells intellectually, artistically, aesthetically. Sometimes it does not sell financially to certain levels. And as a result, if you are going to publish literary translation in the States in English, you need to find a medium in which to do so that will reach the largest number of readers at the lowest possible cost. Not only for the publisher, but also for the readers themselves.

This is much of our mission at Words without Borders.

(Via The Literary Saloon; emphasis in the original transcription. Image taken from this site.)


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