Slovak books in the US market struggle

But there are activities to help them break through.

Illustrative stock photoIllustrative stock photo (Source: SME)

English translations of Slovak books sometimes appear in the US market but interest in them is lacking. Though most of the publishing activities are carried out by Slovak associations in the USA, there are also some Slovak fiction books translated into English which gradually make their way to US bookshops.

The US publishers are not very interested in publishing translations of Slovak literature in English, says Daniela Humajová, head of the foreign projects department at the Literary Information Centre (LIC) in Bratislava. There are, however, some translators and experts who try to persuade the publishers to issue the books, including Julia Sherwood, Magdalena Mullek, and Virginia M. Parobek.

The publishers often decide to publish the books only based on personal recommendation, as they often cannot judge the original and its quality, she added.

“Slovak literature really needs promoters who will make efforts to persuade US publishers to issue the recommended book,” Humajová told The Slovak Spectator.

Translations are challenging

Translating Slovak pieces into English is really not easy, admits Humajová. The translations are issued mostly in the United Kingdom, where only about 1-3 percent of translated books are published, she added. 

When translating the Slovak books into English, the translators need to overcome language barriers and different cultural contexts. Some translators, like Peter Petro, however, have Slovak roots which help them understand the text and find good alternatives when translating, Humajová said.

Others, like John Minahane, Heather Trebatická, James Sutherland-Smith, and Jonathan Gresty, live in Slovakia so they know the country, its culture and literature thanks to which they “can truly, accurately and eloquently translate Slovak pieces into English and bring them closer to English-speaking readers”, Humajová added.

“Regarding the US market, the whole promotion and distribution of books, which were issued in the US, depends on the publisher – it is hard to influence it from Bratislava,” she explained.

Another challenge is how many Americans are aware of Slovakia, opines Gerald Sabo, Jesuit priest and associate professor of Slavic languages and literature at John Carroll University in Ohio.

“It is hard to be curious about the literature of a country that is minimally in the news and other communication media,” Sabo told The Slovak Spectator. 

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