Publishers in the independent sector are fundamental to ensure variety in the marketplace; they are surviving despite stiff competition and the discount war, (ref. Society of Authors, The Future of Independent Publishing). Tired preconceptions continue to hamper the progress of translations in the UK where a shockingly low percentage of the overall number of books published annually are translations. Arcadia, Bloomsbury, Bitter Lemon Press, Canongate, Faber, Gallic Books, Hesperus Press, Marion Boyars, Oneworld Classics (incorporating Calder Publications), Portobello Books, Pushkin Press, Serpent’s Tail, and Telegram lead the way in showcasing new voices from abroad. Foreign authors who break through often start out with an indy (as did Michel Houellebecq, originally translated by Paul Hammond).
Quality is paramount. The argument goes that íthe test of a real translation is that it should not read like translation at allë (Lawrence Venuti, The Translation Studies Reader). A bad translation, like bad writing, is soulless, lacks style and features clangers; worst of all, it can destroy an author’s chances of being enjoyed by a new readership. For author and translator to go through a translation together, if necessary sentence by sentence, and decide how to solve problems, is a process which generally guarantees quality.
Reading broadens horizons and expands the mind, so when you take a trip down the translation highway you have gone one better: new worlds are at your fingertips. Don’t forget to travel with a Babel Guide or two, or else Martin Seymour-Smith’s Guide to Modern World Literature.