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  • María Palomares Tarí

LITERARY TRANSLATION: SOME MIND-BLOWING FACTS






The translation of literature has been taking place for thousands of years -- by connecting with readers across the globe, many authors have become worldwide sensations over the course of history.


Literary translation, which consists of the translation of creative and dramatic prose and poetry into other languages, helps to shape our understanding of the world around us in many ways.


Here are some of the most mind-blowing about the art of literary translation. You’ll be surprised!


Incredible figures for the most translated book in history

As you may already know, the most translated book of all time is… yes, the Bible! The whole of the Bible (New and Old Testament jointly) has reached readers speaking 531 different languages.


But it does not end here… at least one book of the Bible has been translated into the incredible number of 2,883 languages over time and the New Testament has been made available in 1,329 linguistic versions. Wow!



A publishing phenomenon

Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, originally in Portuguese, is a publishing phenomenon which has succeeded to appeal to millions of readers, regardless of their nationalities and languages. It actually holds the Guinness World Record for the most translated book by a living author and has sold more than 65 million copies in 67 different languages (including Hindi, Farsi and isiXhosa).


Curiously, in order to achieve a purer translation, Coelho worked with a local publisher in each new country where the book was published.



Most translated author of all time

English literary icon, 66 detective novels,14 short story collection and an unparalleled influence on the global translation community. Any guesses?


Mystery writer Agatha Christie has the distinction of the world’s most-translated author with 7,233 translations — almost 3,000 more than the next most popular, Jules Verne. Her works are the third most widely published, behind Shakespeare and the Bible. Besides, she holds The Guinness World Record as the best-selling novelist of all time!



A way to celebrate great translated literature (and translators)

In 2018, for the first time, the National Book Foundation awarded a National Book Award for Translated Literature, which honors both author and translator. An historical step that aims to “broaden readership for global voices and spark dialogue around international stories”.


These are just some examples of the great importance translated literature has for our societies. Translation in general, and literary translation in particular, opens the door to a vast arsenal of literature that is traditionally unavailable to a far larger number of people.


Without it, people are deprived of other cultures’ accumulated wisdom and ancient knowledge. Don't you agree?





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