Here’s a startling fact: in 2004 when 195,000 books were published in the United States only 891 on that number were translations of adult literature. In other words, translations aren’t a big part of the publishing business in America. In non-English speaking countries, translations from English into the local language is common. The books sell. The translated books appear on the bestseller lists and win prizes in Germany, France, Spain, and Italy.
The New Observer has it right: “Translators are like priests who mediate our relationship with the literary gods. We depend on them even as we wish for direct contact.”
My German translator Peter Friedlich turned Zero Hour in Phnom Penh into an award-winning book in Germany. Finding the right translator is plain hard and when such a person is discovered, it is a lifetime bond between author and translator. The translator provides not just access but recreates the language and images seamlessly into another language. That is art.