Translations Tie Countries Together
Literature in translation serves purposes other than helping affluent vacationers kill time in airport departure lounges.
"Ireland and Its Diaspora" was a special focus of this year's Frankfurt Book Fair, and exhibiting publishers from Ireland had an opportunity to see for themselves the level of interest Irish writers inspire on the part of Germans and other continental Europeans.
Steve MacDonogh of Brandon Book Publishers in Dingle, County Kerry, says readers in France, Germany, and the Netherlands are "very ready to take new writers ... to get past the clichd images of Ireland." He cited the work of Brian Leyden, one of his writers, as "depicting a society in transition from primitive to post-modern."
The liveliness of the Irish literary scene must be a source of envy to editorial directors of German publishing houses. Their fiction lists are heavily dependent on translations because of a chronic mismatch between what German writers want to write and what German readers want to read.
The leading market for translations from German is into Polish. "Poland is such an important partner for Germany," said Aleksandra Markiewicz in an interview near a stand displaying Polish editions of Thomas Mann's "Doctor Faustus" and "Buddenbrooks." She is project manager at the German Book Information Center in Warsaw, affiliated with the Frankfurt Book Fair and supported by the German Foreign Office.
Germany and Poland have shared a troubled history over the years, but in recent years both countries have sought to overcome that past. Support for literary translations serves that goal.
And it is a two-way street. Suhrkamp, the German publisher, has brought out a series called "Polnische Bibliothek," or "Polish Library." The work of the great translator Karl Dedecius, it has made Polish literature from the classics to the present day accessible to German readers.
Germany and Poland "have shared some painful moments," Ms. Markiewicz says, with some understatement, "but there's always been interest in each other, a desire on the part of each to know the other better."