I enjoyed reading an article in last week's (21 May) Bookseller (apparently not online) about the Independent Foreign Fiction prize by A. S. Byatt, well-known novelist and director of literature of the English Arts Council. Although there is a big picture of this year's winner, Philippe Claudel (winning title; Brodeck's Report), the article was written before the announcement, print deadlines being what they are. Ironically, the Bookseller's announcement of the prize, and their picture caption in the printed article by A. S. Byatt, do not mention the translator, John Cullen!
Obviously, A.S. Byatt's piece is not about crime fiction. But unlike many literary pieces, which are above such a lowbrow genre, she embraces this little corner of activity. She writes: "The prize has seen a range
of genres develop in translation. Crime fiction entries have always been numerous and the presence of a dedicated award for crime fiction in translation – the Crime Writers' Association International Dagger – first awarded in 2006, is welcome."
On the role of the translator: …"the prize has given the translator's art more profile. Often a translator's contribution is hidden – almost as if publishers don't want to advertise that the book is a translation. We ask that translators are credited in any publication we fund, and we also support organisations like the British Centre for Literary Translation which helps writers to work closely with translators developing their skills".
Translated novels that A. S. Byatt highlights as being worthy examples of contemporary literature include Carlos Ruiz Zafon's Shadow of the Wind, Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, Per Petterson's Out Stealing Horses. Finally, a word for the publishers. A.S. Byatt writes that the majority of fiction in translation is published in the independent sector, and singles out for special praise our favourites Bitter Lemon Press, Arcadia and Serpent's Tail among others. (All but one of this year's shortlist were published by independents; the winner was published by MacLehose Press, an imprint of Quercus – the same imprint that publishes the Millennium trilogy of Stieg Larsson).