So there we are – all the way from Asterix to Zou. A couple of things I noticed as I was compiling my lists for this blog series set me wondering:
Why do so many translated children’s books tackle “difficult” themes (see Brothers, Traitor or The Bear and the Wildcat for example)? And why do a large number of the rest of them seem to be in the fantasy genre?
From my own experience of pitching a translation to publishers it helps if there’s some kind of hook, something that makes it stand out from what is already being published in English, so perhaps a different perspective on events, personal experience of war, an unusual topic provides a selling point. But then why aren’t books on war, death, illness and so on already on the market? Do UK and US authors just not want to write about them? Or are publishers afraid of them unless they already have a proven track record in another country?
What about fantasy? Where does that come in? There’s a particularly strong tradition of fantasy writing in Germany, represented here by Cornelia Funke, and given the Harry Potter phenomenon, perhaps it was just a way of tapping into what was already available to feed the boom. There’s also Silverhorse, The Neverending Story and The Book of Time. On the other hand, perhaps I just noticed the fantasy books because it’s the sort of thing I liked to read myself as a kid, and still do from time to time.
I don’t know – I don’t have answers to all these questions. I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has any insight into it though…
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