Jul 28, 2004

Dragons live there...and write books

I am quite picky when it comes to chosing what films I want to watch in cinema. It has to be something *good*. Thus I go to cinema less then once every two months or so.

So what is the next film I want definetly to see? Why, 'Night Watch' of course.
Right. You have no idea what I am talking about right?
Hint1: sf blockbuster
Hint2: film from Russia

Now, it is all clear. Since it is not a Hollywood film (all right, I'll be fair - since it is not a film made in English), it fall in the 'who cares about it' cathegory. It doesn't matter that the film is a blockbuster in Russia, and that it's reviews are good (see English reviews: Blockbuster, International Herald Tribune, Rusnet). I will bet you anything that this film will not make it to 90% of US or Western Europe cinemas.

Why am I so pesimistic?

You see, for a long time I have wondered why English (as in 'written in English', not 'from UK only') books are often translated into Polish (or French, or Russian, or Spanish, or Polish...) while it is very hard to find a book released in English-speaking country that was translated from another language.

I am a fan of fantasy and sf. Thus I have read and love many world famous writers - Tolkien, Cook, Turtledove, Asimov, Baxter, Weber (David, not Max) and dozens of others you likely know if you are a fan of such literature. I am a book worm - I often read more then 2 books per week (and I read many in English, so I don't have any problems with translations when determining quality of a book). So please agree with me when I say that I read *lot* of sf. All right?

So I am now prepared to say that I have read quite a lot of Polish sf and some Russian (what was translated into Polish, not everything but definetly many times more then what was translated into English). And I can name quite a few authors whose works I'd call equal to the most famous writers of English-speaking world. Jacek Dukaj creates an outstanding works of sf - each of his novels is packed with more ideas than many other writers can think of in their lifetime. If I were to point out an English writer that he is most similar to I'd say Greg Egan. Sapkowski is a fantasy writer, his works remind me a lot of mentioned Glen Cook and his 'Black Company' series. Andrzej Pilipiuk creates books that can safely be put agains famous Pratchett in the cathegory of 'makes you ROTFLOL with spice of fantasy or sf'.

I can give you several more examples from Polish literature (I will not even mention Stanisław Lem here - see I am going easy on you NOT :). I have not read much of Russian, but I'd personally put the work of Strugaccy brothers above even Asimov. They are...breathtaking, and from what I read of new Russian writers - many of them are following their suite. Feel free to put me on a stake and burn - but after you read some of their works, please.

All of this leads me back to the question: why there are so few attempts to translate those works into English? I understand that it is not a good idea to translate a *bad* and *unknown* author. Nobody does it. But if an author is famous in one small country - which has compared him with well known English names and still holds him in high regard - it is a likely bet that after translation he will become a new bestseller on a much larger, English speaking market.

So why doesn't that happen? Why nobody tries to translate them and make a profit on that?

Is it becouse majority of English speakers doesn't even *allow the thought* that there is a high quality work being done in other languages?

In any case, *I* am on a winning side here. I have a choice of both famous English authors and of the less known, but often as good Polish and Russian ones. It is the people who can't read in other languages I pity - you miss so much...

Go write to your publisher why they don't translate books, if you want to wipe that smirk off my face. Till then - you may find some small translated samples following the external links on the Wiki pages I linked above. So you will know what is it that you are missing. :>

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