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Besides, hardly any Indian writer has an internationally working agent, and as far as scouts are concerned, a drawback is that they are normally responsible for more than one region and are not specialized in any Indian vernacular language. For Indian literature they usually either rely on Indian English literature as we can easily see from what is on offer in the bookshops or on literature in, mostly English, translation.

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Especially when translations are not done by professionals, as is often the case for Indian regional literatures, an editor may find it difficult to sense the literary quality of the original. Another problem may result from the fact that translations are frequently undertaken by Indian translators and the outcome in the typical Indian English diction is not necessarily something that appeals to a scout or a German editor for whom English is a foreign language anyhow.

There are also barriers to translation projects being accepted by publishers at the instigation of mediators. They know the Indian literary landscape and can decide what is in vogue and what is worth translating, but they are not familiar with the mechanisms of the German market and are often not interested in such aspects. Unfortunately, the touchstone for the suitability of a book for the German market is not literary quality alone. Politics of Translation As to the internal efforts of the editorial departments, various channels of information are used: next to visits to book fairs, especially Frankfurt, and foreign publishing houses, most editors rely on the scanning of the trade press.

This may include relevant review journals such as the Publishers Weekly, trade newsletters and foreign rights previews, as well as relevant online forums like the website words-without-borders However, in order to be recognized by such internationally working media and thus enter the German literary economy through these channels, literary works in Indian languages have to take the roundabout way through an internationally understood language which leads back to the initial problem.

A German organization that has made it its mission to break through this vicious circle and support publishing houses in their choice of possible candidates for translation is the earlier-mentioned Society for the Promotion of African, Asian and Latin American Literature. The Society is sponsored by several organizations which support international cooperation, like the Protestant church, the EU and UNESCO and has a yearly turnover of about , euro. As it is closely connected to the Frankfurt Book Fair it can use their network and organizational structures in order to advocate and broker literature.

This includes an online database of books recommended for translation and also, if a publisher so wishes, advice with regard to promoting the books. In addition, the Society awards about twenty translation grants per year, for which, so far, both big and small publishing houses have successfully applied.


Unfortunately most of the publishers interviewed for this paper make no use of the described services. One reason is that the books on recommendation are considered too specific and thus the costs and sales are not easily calculable. Another reason is that in the end, according to most editors, the books considered interesting for the house come through other channels. Hardly any publishing house suffers from a dearth of options when it comes to choosing new books for their programme; services like those offered by the Society are welcome but not explicitly needed.

No work is rejected from the start just because of its land of origin or the original language it is written in. It is thus important to take a look at the criteria, according to which publishers decide for or against the translation of a particular book or book project. Unsystematic publishing The criteria quoted above show a publishing policy that focuses on books rather than authors. Only three of the seven consulted editors stated that they concentrate on the writers and generally look for promising authors with a profile rather than for single interesting books.

It is thus a minority of publishing houses that undertake systematic and long-term efforts with regard to promoting Indian writers—the writers in question not even being those of vernacular literature but exclusively Indian English writers. If a book from a regional Indian language gets translated, it often remains a singular event.

Out of 12 21 This claim has been confirmed through the experience of a renowned Indian publishing house which—in preparation for the Book Fair in —sent out offers to a broad range of international publishers including those interviewed for this paper and received unanimously positive and welcoming answers. Politics of Translation German publishers who have brought out translations from Hindi since only 3 have published more than one book by the same writer.

Thus, Agyeya had 4 books translated and published by 3 different publishers, Premcand 4 books by 4 publishers. It demonstrates furthermore that even smaller and specialized publishing houses that may be expected to be more systematic in their approach have mostly failed to develop a clear-cut programme. As for the big enterprises, the choice of language, writer or genre does not usually follow any kind of discernable agenda.

This problem of random publishing has earlier been identified as one cause for the lack of interest in Indian literature after the Book Fair in It remains acute till today. A predicament that goes hand in hand with random publishing is the lack of high-profile promotion of translations from regional languages. Clearly, publishing houses that prefer writers who have already been introduced to the market intend to jump on the band-wagon rather than start their own campaign. He owes his extraordinarily strong presence to the publisher and editor Roland Beer, who runs the small publishing house Lotos Verlag in Berlin and is a fervent admirer and personal friend of the author.

Nevertheless, his endeavours have gone largely unnoticed by the German reading public.

For the leading publishing houses, the genre is one of the principal criteria for accepting or rejecting an offer: dramas, poetry and short stories are no go areas for most, anthologies for all of the big publishers. However meritorious this may be from a philological or indological point of view, it is probably this kind of publishing policy that is responsible for the short life-span of most of the small publishing houses and also for the lack of general interest in Indian vernacular literatures. Such books target an audience of specialists but they do not help promote Indian regional literature on a large scale.

Excellent and authentic Indian literature that is rightly considered worth translating by the experts i. If we go back to and take a look at what kind of literature dominated the almost non-existing market of vernacular Indian literatures in translation fig. A look at the available genres translated from Hindi in fig. I judge a book by 24 its cover; I judge a book by its shape. It is mostly a problem of publications sending the wrong message or not a strong enough message.

You may be legible, but what is 29 the emotion contained in the message? On the one hand, books, especially by the smaller publishers, are often designed carefully and imaginatively ex. Politics of Translation Ex. The translations A last aspect that needs to be mentioned is the problem of the translation itself. Several big publishers have pointed out the fact that, since the experts in the field of Indian vernacular literatures are normally academics, the translations on offer are typically academic translations, which often, if by no means always, run the risk of being too philological—not least due to the critical eyes of their colleagues, as some translators have admitted.

Furthermore, it may narrow the audience to a cultural elite, as Lawrence Venuti states, because footnotes are a typical academic convention. They correct errors and imprecisions in conformity with scholarly standards and interpretations, excluding other possible readings of the foreign text and other possible audiences: for example, belletristic translations that may slight accuracy for literary effect so as to reach a general readership with different values. But here, too, less is often more as the following rather inelegant example from a novel shows. On her way to the house she had found a Chavanni2 and with this treated herself to this pleasure.

An adequate solution is, thus, the use of glossaries at the end of the book which explain names, words or phrases which are left unmarked in the text. Therefore books may get rejected at a later point even though they are initially considered interesting; the possibility of thoroughly editing an inadequate translation, however, is always an option if the text or author is deemed important enough.

Small publishers, on the other hand, who have specialized in regional writings depend almost exclusively on translations by academics and often do not have the capacity for carefully editing the manuscripts. She had treated herself to this delicacy after she had found a four-anna-coin on her way to the house. Politics of Translation therefore reach the market in a form that is readable but not apt to convince a wide general audience of the literary qualities of the works. Summary Summing up, we have encountered three reasons for the under- representation of translations from Indian vernacular literatures on the German book market: unprofessional mediation, unsystematic publishing and unprofitable and disadvantageous marketing.

The German book industry lacks mediators who know both the requirements of the market and the Indian literary landscape: publishers and the mostly academic experts of Indian regional languages have to improve their communication about publishing policies and marketing strategies. A clear idea about what a publisher wants helps potential translators choosing works without wasting time with designing projects that are not viable on the market.

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