Times are getting more and more difficult for translating literature into other languages, particularly English. Basically, it’s a business issue. English language publishers see a limited market for translated works and so just focus on a narrow set of the biggest name writers. Almost anyone can name the list: Garcia Marquez, Borges, Cortazar, Fuentes, Allende, and Vargas Llosa are at the top of the list followed by just a small handful of others. The problem isn’t limited to Spanish works. Indeed, Spanish is likely very well represented when compared to most other languages. However, a significant amount of the global culture is being marginalized through the inaccessibility of literature in translation.

Jeremy Munday, now Deputy Director of the Centre for Translation Studies at the University of Surrey, wrote an article in the mid-90s that examines these issues. Things haven’t improved and the same article could just as well have been written now rather than ten years ago. Munday closes with an observation about Venezuela, but his statement could apply to the literature of most of the world:

“The possibility exists, therefore, that these particular voices and the culture of a whole country will remain silenced, marginalized, unable to communicate outside their own language. The vicious distorting circle persists of insular English-language readers, of publishers unable or unwilling to take a risk, the concentration on a few ‘safe’ writers.”