Alexandra Alter The Wall Street Journal
Even the most dedicated fiction readers might have trouble naming contemporary authors from Macedonia, Liechtenstein or Slovenia. Dalkey Archive Press intends to change that with its new anthology of “Best European Fiction.”
The international project, the first in a planned annual series, compiles fiction from 32 countries. Apart from pieces from English-speaking countries, all were translated into English for the first time. “There’s a catastrophic shortage of translation in the United States,” says Bosnian-American novelist Aleksandar Hemon, who edited the anthology.
Assembling the collection, which involved finding and translating the stories, took about two years. Mr. Hemon chose pieces from more than 100 translated works. Arts Council England and other European cultural groups helped to fund the project, said Dalkey’s associate director Martin Riker. Dalkey, a nonprofit based at the University of Illinois, is printing 25,000 copies, and plans to expand the project to other continents, starting with Asia.
Mr. Riker hopes the anthologies will spur interest in foreign fiction. Newly translated works accounted for about 3% of all books for sale in the U.S. in 2004, according to Bowker, a company that tracks the publishing industry. Last year, the secretary of the Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel Prize in literature, caused a stir when he chastised the American literary community for being “too insular.” (Read More)