Translators belong on the Book Cover!

Please click on the Link at the bottom to sign this very worthwhile petition demanding respect for translators – "Translators on the Cover".

Please join me in signing the Petition!

I won’t take much of your time. I promise to keep this one short. It contains a plea for action: Please click on the Link at the bottom to sign this very worthwhile petition demanding respect for translators – “Translators on the Cover”.

Perhaps like me, you listened to Radio 4 in the morning of 1st October? I certainly pricked up my ears when I heard the appeal by Jennifer Croft, urging publishers to add the translator’s name on the book cover, together with the author’s, and to treat translators with dignity and respect.

Jennifer Croft, who translates from Ukrainian, Polish and Latin American Spanish into US-EN, is one of the drivers of a new campaign launched on Translator’s Day (30 September) which demands that publishers should give credit to translators on their book covers. She in fact won the 2018 Man Booker International Price for her translation of Flights, which she shares with the author, Olga Tokarczuk.

But would you believe it, neither the American nor the British cover contains her name.

Croft says that a translator (often) adds – not just detracts – from the original. Sadly, the catchphrase “Lost in Translation” often overshadows translators’ work. And even if you agree with W.G. Sebald and numerous others that “something always gets lost”, one thing which is for sure true is that every translation opens up a book to readers in another language that would not otherwise get the chance to read it – thus widening its impact.

Croft expressed her view in the radio interview that translators are artists in their own right. She herself has experienced on many occasions that the treatment she gets from publishers when she talks to them in her role as a translator is markedly different – less respectful – than when she wears her writer’s hat.

With the exception of translated books in China and Korea it seems publishers in general never put the translator’s name on the cover. What is their reason you might ask. They maintain apparently that consumers will be deterred by a book that gives away the fact that it is a translation, since readers are keen to read stuff that originates in their own language and culture. Somewhat hard to believe, if you ask me, especially in our “global” world.

Jennifer Croft’s reaction to this is that this lack of transparency (you might call it treachery) is “misguided and unfair”. She also says that it proves that publishers are contemptuous of their readers by assuming that they will not buy a book if they realize what they hold in their hands is a translation. Where in fact a reader picking up an unfamiliar book with a foreign-sounding author’s name, is likely to experience a thrill at the prospect that they are about to embark on an interesting journey – guided by a trustworthy expert, the translator. A journey that otherwise would simply be closed to them.

“Covers simply can’t continue to conceal who we are. It’s bad business, it doesn’t hold us accountable for our choices, and in its wilful obfuscation it is a practice that is disrespectful not only to us, but to readers as well.”

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