Yesterday evening I was in the presentation from the Independent Overseas Fiction Prize, at the Nationwide Portrait Photo gallery, where a fresh Angolan copy writer, José Eduardo Agualusa, was announced the 2007 winner for his novel The Book of Chameleons, converted from the Costa da prata by Daniel Hahn. Set in contemporary Angola, the publication is particularly noteworthy for being narrated by a lizard. The all judges this year had been the poet person David Constantine, writer and editor Jennie Erdal, Disciplines Council Literature officer Kate Griffin, novelist Ali Johnson and the literary editor in the Independent, Boyd Tonkin. Admirably the reward is distributed between the translator and writer, thus honouring an art that often goes unsung.
The book was obviously a popular choice and Agualusa received his merit in person, accompanied by whoops and cheers. Tonkin extols the prize since “a exceptional bridge among writers abroad and readers at home”. As happy as I was that this skilled newcomer defeat such fictional heavyweights because Ismail Kadare and Javier Marías, however , I was even more delighted which the award accolades a small fictional publisher, Arcadia, who lately celebrated their very own 10th birthday.
The committed team at Arcadia are worthy recipients of this prestigious award, not just for taking this inventive young writer to an English readership, but overall for his or her championing of cultural diversity and for extending our literary choice – 50% with their 2007 email lists are catalogs in translation. Given the consequences of globalisation elsewhere, it seems surprising that we don’t translate more foreign literary works in this nation. Apparently, converted fiction makes up about only 3% of fictional sales in britain, compared with 30-40% in Portugal or The country. The English are voracious readers, why are all of us so insular? Don’t all of us welcome uncommon voices and different perspectives?
How do we apply pressure upon publishers to create more converted fiction? For all those interested in international literature, an excellent resource is usually Words With no Borders, an internet magazine specialized in promoting international exchange through translation and publishing works/extracts on the web. And if you’d love to see José Eduardo Agualusa and Daniel Hahn, they’ll be studying from The Publication of Chameleons this evening by Foyles bookshop, London, 6. 30pm – 8. 30pm.
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