On this day, International Translators Day, a group of prominent translators (and writers, and publishers) have added their names to an open letter written by Jennifer Croft (translator of Olga Tokarczuk’s International Booker Prize-winning Flights) and Mark Haddon (author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) asking that translators be named on the covers of the books they have translated (they’ve also started a hashtag, #TranslatorsOnTheCover).
This does not seem like an insane request to me! When you are reading a work in translation you are, in many ways, reading the language of the translator, who has often given months (or years!) to the fine art of linguistic problem-solving, a delicate and in-depth process that demands deep immersion into the words and thoughts of another. It is both art and labor.
Publishers have traditionally tried to downplay the fact that a book is in translation because they think it will deter potential readers (some publishers still don’t even mention the translator on their websites!).
But as the open letter says,
It is thanks to translators that we have access to world literatures past and present. It is thanks to translators that we are not merely isolated islands of readers and writers talking amongst ourselves, hearing only ourselves.
Translators are the life-blood of both the literary world and the book trade which sustains it. They should be properly recognised, celebrated and rewarded for this. The first step towards doing this seems an obvious one.
Head here to sign the letter, and join the likes of such august writers as Olga Tokarczuk, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Valeria Luiselli.