This month, the world celebrates ‘Women in Translation’ – an initiative started in 2014 by blogger Meytal Radzinski that celebrates female authors, their translators and publishers with the aim of increasing awareness and inspiring dialogue about these books. The campaign quickly gained popularity amongst other international literary enthusiasts and has now evolved to include the prestigious inaugural Warwick Prize, which honours the work of a female writer whose work has been translated into English. According to an article by the Guardian, 61% of native English speakers in the United Kingdom do not speak a second language, which meant, before campaigns and programmes designed to promote translated literature became more prominent, it was hard to immerse oneself in other cultures through local literature.
As a publishing house that prides itself in collecting short stories from all corners of the globe, we strive for equality in our publishing schedule and commissioning. We know the importance of translation, not only within the publishing industry, but its importance in bridging gaps and breaking invisible literary barriers that often silence the voices of those often forgotten by the western world. From the horrors of living in a war zone in Iraq, to life in the flavelas of Rio, the stories that we collect, although fictional, allow these authors to express every emotion from pain and suffering to the joys and hidden gems that tourists or journalists who visit these nations tend to bypass or miss altogether. From these stories, we, as readers, are magically transported to different cultures and see the world through someone else’s eyes. Without translation, without these writers telling their stories and raising awareness, we could never hope to understand the beautiful quirky traditions, the unique ways of living shaped by culture. With political corruption and dictatorships stamping out freedom of expression and extreme poverty overpowering the importance of education, these tales are becoming increasingly more important. If we can understand the plight of these people, if we can learn how to adapt our way of thinking to be more accepting and inclusive, our world becomes a better place.
In the last blog post, we mentioned some of the authors that Comma Press has published, including the talented Rania Mamoun, a Sudanese writer featuring in Comma Press’ collection of short stories Banthology,which is due to be released in October, and we plan to publish her debut collection of short stories, Thirteen Months of Sunrise, in 2018. According to the Three Percent Database created by the University of Rochester, between 2008 and 2018, only 28.7%, of all books translated into English were written by women, and so it is important that we promote and encourage more female writers, particularly in translation. However, in this month is also important to give credit and thanks to those that make reading these books possible. Translation is an ever growing industry, estimated to be worth $33.5 billion globally, and while the world is becoming more accessible thanks to the Internet and online translation services, the human element provided through translators, especially in a literary context is increasingly important. Comma Press often relies on the services of both male and female translators, and using emerging translators, and so it is vital that, alongside our talented female writers, we should celebrate them.
Elisabeth Jaquette, Charis Bredin, Emily Danby, Katharine Halls, Alexa Firat and Alice Guthrie are just a handful of female translators who have helped us to achieve our goal of investigating the morphology of the short story as a distinct form across different cultures. Without their hard work, readers would not be able to enjoy these powerful stories from other countries. In these times of conflict and mistrust, translators use their skills to amplify the quiet voices of those that the world may not otherwise be able to hear, promoting peace and breaking down walls built by prejudice and fear. Comma Press is proud to work with huge number of female authors in translation, such as Sema Kaygusuz, Empar Moliner, and Anoud who featured in Iraq + 100, or any of the female authors who have featured in our Reading the City series, which includes short story anthologies from cities such as Khartoum, Gaza, Dhaka, and Tokyo, which we will soon expand. As the literary landscape continues to grow, we have plans to publish many more women in translation, with the help of female translators and editors, in the very near future.
Written by Megan Edgar
Marketing and Production Assistant