walkitout (walkitout) wrote,
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AmazonCrossing Is Publishing Genre Fiction and That Matters

Marie Force is a romance novelist. She has a series about the McCarthys of Gansett Island which is available (at least in part) on the German Amazon site (_Liebe auf Gansett Island_, _Sehnsucht auf Gansett Island_) and the French Amazon site (_Cadeau d'amour_, _Folie d'amour_ -- which is only available for pre-order at the time I write this). I was actually unfamiliar with Marie Force prior to noticing her pop up on several of these sites while I was perusing the titles that AmazonCrossing had on offer.

I _did_ recognize some of the other authors: Barry Eisler (who I recognized from his contributions over at J.A. Konrath's blog: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/ - for that matter, some of J.A. Konrath's books show up in German as well), Sarah Morgan (_Orageuse passion_ over on .fr, _Bought: Destitute Yet Defiant_, a millionaires category romance). The selection on .de in German is much more extensive than the selection on .fr in French (and the selection in Italian on .it is extremely limited). Not only are romances and thriller/horror well-represented in AmazonCrossing, specific subgenres (like Scottish historicals and Regency romances) pop up at a startling rate.

Romance, thriller/horror and mystery novels (which are also very common from AmazonCrossing, and the Scandinavians, including at least one Icelandic novelist, are well represented, altho often in English translation that is then available in the .de etc. kindle stores) all enjoy some happy characteristics for a translator: they are heavy on descriptive detail which is _descriptive detail_. This isn't some ambiguous literary thing where you have to wonder about whether that green light means something; if there's a splatter of blood, it's there to advance the plot, not as a Rorschach test. Nouns and adjectives which mean what they mean translate well. Blood spatter happens in every language, in more or less the same way. And for all that we analyze romance or crime to draw cultural morals, there's a whole lot about novels of love and death that also translates really quite well (people are attracted to these stories, can make sense of them, etc.).

Finally, genre novels are often written and consumed rapidly, so they present few of the stylistiques issues that the French translation group drew attention to in their open letter. Honestly, and I say this as someone who consumes a lot of genre fiction, if you spend a lot of time thinking about how to translate an entry in a romance series, you are overthinking it.

It's easy in the US market to think of reading translated works as something that is scholarly and high-falutin' and downright snobby. But it isn't that way everywhere, and the world would be a much better place if it wasn't that way here. We _should_ be sharing the stories that we enjoy, and which we read for pleasure and relaxation because they tickle the imagination and satisfy our desire for coherence, resolution and closure, which are often missing in our daily messy lives. We _should_ be sharing those stories across language and other cultural boundaries. I'm glad that the disruptive, disintermediating forces that are destroying so much that many book-lovers have such affection for are also destroying those boundaries between readers who have way more in common than they even realize (and differ in ways that will prove jolting and informative).

I, personally, am sort of excited that chicklit/mystery novels by Jutta Profijt are now available in English. I can absolutely imagine my reading group picking _Portrait of a Girl_ by Dorthe Binkert, altho I'd probably lobby hard for the more humorous _Life After Forty_ by Dora Heldt or the non-fiction and looks to be absolutely riveting _Between Love and Honor_ by Alexandra Lapierre.

At the same time, I must admit to being a little nonplussed by the idea that the board game Settlers of Catan has spawned a tome of a book now available in English. It has a lot of reviews of the form, I really expected this to be terrible but it was/wasn't.

So the next time you are reading something bemoaning AmazonCrossing and their translation standards, take a giant step back and remind yourself: we are not debating the translational quality of a difficult work like Joyce's _Ulysses_. We are discussing historical romance novels that involve Scottish highlanders and Regencies that revolve around the implausible details of a will and a "scientific experiment". They weren't particularly plausible or well-written in the source language; perhaps a translation will improve the reader's experience.
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