I had a bit of a lull in late November and got some reading done. I'd been looking forward to stepping back from the actual work of translation and reading about why it's so important (not that I need convincing, mind).
Even though I've been a translator for 12 years now, something about Why Translation Matters made me feel like I was on the outside looking in. Much of the discussion is on academic issues - Should students be allowed to read translated literature at university? Why do literary critics give translators the cold shoulder? - that don't really get my blood pumping.
On the other hand, I did enjoy Grossman's plucky attempt to define good literary translation and her discussion of all the ways linguistic insularity hurts us as a culture. One particular sentence stuck with me:
"In short, there seems to be overwhelming evidence to the effect that if you wish to earn your living as a writer, your works must be translated into English regardless of your native language."
That's a huge obstacle for most, if not all, young authors and authors from small countries. Since I am so often approached by authors looking to have their manuscripts translated into English, let me share the advice I give them:
1. If you're still looking for an agent, don't get your whole book translated right away. Most agents only want to see a summary plus a chapter or two. You can get the rest of the book translated after you have a lead.
2. Get your translator to help you write a good pitch letter to go along with the synopsis you send out to prospective agents.
3. Only proposition agents who say they handle international fiction.
4. Think about submitting translated short stories to magazines that publish fiction before trying to shop a big novel.
5. If you're unfamiliar with the U.S. publishing industry, invest in a book like Writer's Market to find out what publishers might want to see your work.