Spain is warming up for its next event at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2022. A few months before participating in the great literary event as Guest of Honour, it has stopped in London to present its project with a speech at the Literary Translation Center highlighting support for translations of Spanish titles in the international market. The Director-General of Books and Reading Promotion, María José Gálvez, and the curator of the project, Elvira Marco, discussed the evolution of our publishing sector after the pandemic, its literary trends, the presence of Spanish literature translated into English, and the results of the actions to support internationalisation implemented since 2019.
As Galvéz explained, “one of the characteristics of Spanish publishing is its propensity for exporting, due to certain characteristics of its domestic market and a common and official language in more than 22 countries”. During her speech, moderated by the prestigious Spanish translator Daniel Hahn, the Director-General of Books recalled that, as a result of this reality, “218 subsidiaries belong to 46 publishing houses” located primarily in Latin American countries, followed by “Europe, with subsidiaries in Portugal, France, Italy, Hungary, Greece, the Czech Republic, Romania, and the United Kingdom” as well as “in the United States, China, and Turkey”.
To put it another way, in figures, “Spain’s exports are around 400-500 million euros, and the total value of books exported in Spain in 2020 reached 340.57 million euros” while in the same year, imports “amounted to 159 million euros in 2020 and corresponded mainly to newspapers, magazines and print orders“.
The Director-General of Books highlighted the bibliodiversity of the Spanish publishing sector, where large groups coexist with medium-sized independent publishers and small imprints, which will be on display at Frankfurt 2022.
For his part, Marco pointed out that the #RoadtoFrankfurt started in 2019. Since then, the Frankfurt Book Fair has presented more than 100 authors, invested in translations, and held professional meetings. “This effort has paid off. The Frankfurt Book Fair 2022 will present our country with a 2,000 square metre pavilion where various translated authors and new voices from our literary scene will be present to meet their readers”.
The Spanish literary scene
The current literary scene is characterised by “the birth of a new generation of writers” as well as by “the exponential increase in the work of Spanish women in publishers’ catalogues” from the more established Almudena Grandes and Soledad Puértolas to new voices such as Cristina Morales and Andrea Abreu, and also by “the visibility of linguistic diversity”, such as the works of Carme Riera in Catalan, Katixa Aguirre in Basque and Manuel Rivas in Galician, for example.
English as a strategic language
But what about other languages? “In terms of genres, narrative predominates,” said Marco, “but there has been an increase in the presence of non-fiction, which shows the growing interest of readers in essays. There is also a presence of comics, children’s and young people’s literature, and poetry. This trend is similar to that in Germany“.
Specifically, in narrative prose, “there is interest in contemporary literature, young or recently disappeared authors such as Chirbes or Ruiz Zafón and titles in all languages“. Meanwhile, in essays, “successful books such as, El infinito en un junco by Irene Vallejo, Tierra de mujeres by María Sánchez, and Jorge Carrión’s essay Contra Amazon, a continuation of his work Librerías translated to English, have crossed international borders” he explained.
With 3%-6% of books translated from all languages into English, Marco, for her part, pointed out that English is the key to opening up the North American, Australian, and Canadian publishing markets. “It is also a prescriber for translation into other languages,” which is why it is included as a strategic language in the aid programme designed for Frankfurt 2022.
In this sense, he defended, “funds for translation have grown by 30% in these four years, with an investment of approximately 2 million euros that supports translation from all co-official languages and all literary genres“, reflected in the results. Thanks to this programme, “80 titles translated into English have received support from this aid for the translation of Spanish literary works“.
The Commissioner pointed out that concerning translated books, “the UK market is very competitive and requires translated titles to be original and to offer a new voice, something that does not exist in the market, or something sufficiently different, entertaining or intriguing to attract the attention of the reader and, therefore, of the UK publisher. In the UK, translators do a very important job proposing titles to publishers for translation purposes“, said Marco.
Daniel Hahn responded that the fragment grants launched in 2019 are very important, giving the example of the fragment of the work La Vida Contada por un Sapiens by Millás Arsuaga. The Spanish publisher commissioned him to translate a fragment of the book for the sale of rights. From the first commission, the translation of the book, recently published in the UK, materialised.