Books in English translation, and their e-book counterparts, are the focus of a new imprint by Amazon.com, announced the company on May 18. AmazonCrossing will focus on English translations of foreign-language books, beginning with a first title due out in November.
Translated fiction has long been recognized as a void in English-language publishing, with many independent and university presses trying to use their limited resources to pick up the slack. As a rough figure, Three Percent, a resource for international literature at the University of Rochester founded in 2007, took its name from the 3 percent of books published in the US that were works in translation.
Michael Orthofer of literature resource The Complete Review, who was a judge for Three Percent's 2010 Best Translated Book Award, comments on his blog The Literary Saloon: "If Amazon.com can prove that a bit (okay, a lot) of marketing muscle can lead to decent sales of such a book in translation ...... Well, it would be a nice lesson for the big publishers to be taught."
AmazonCrossing's first title will be Tierno Monénembo's
The King of Kahel, which was originally published in France in 2008 and won the French Prix Renaudot. Based on the life of Olivier de Sanderval, who traveled to Guinea to build an empire by conquering the hostile Fouta Djallon region, the book recounts Sanderval's efforts to build a railway to bring modern civilization to Africa.
The King of Kahel, in English translation by Nicholas Elliott, will be available November 2 in print and Kindle e-book editions.