Jennifer Crewe on University Presses' Commitment to Translation

The following is a letter from Columbia University Press’s editorial director and associate director Jennifer Crewe in response to a recent article in The Chronicle Review on books in translation.

I would otherwise wholeheartedly applaud Carlin Romano’s article “American Readers’ Translation Privation” (The Chronicle Review, November 18, 2011), if it were not for the fact that he makes no mention of university presses, many of which are seriously committed to making available seminal works of fiction and nonfiction in translation.

In the past 12 months, Columbia University Press alone has published 15 new books in translation, including works by the European philosophers and cultural critics Gianni Vattimo, Julia Kristeva, and Jacques Rancière. Our fiction offerings include a Bengali novel by Tarashankar Bandopadhyay, a book of Chinese stories by Huang Fan, and A Room Where the Star-Spangled Banner Cannot Be Heard—a translation from the Japanese of a novel by an American writer, Levy Hideo, who is the first Western novelist to write in Japanese. In addition, we published 11 paperback reprints of translations, ranging from Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks to a work by the French chemist and father of molecular gastronomy, Hervé This.

These books constitute 19 percent of our total output in the same period, significantly more than the 3 percent that is usually invoked for American publishers.

This level of commitment to translation can be found at many university presses. We understand the importance of making global thought and world literature available to American readers unable to read them in the original language, and that is why we go to the extra trouble of finding peer reviewers who are fluent in other languages, applying for funding, and supervising translators. Anne Solange-Noble knows that we know who she is!

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