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American readers and foreign fiction

Less than 3 percent  of all the books published in the U.S. every year are works translated into English from other languages. Many are reprints of classics like Kafka or Tolstoy and others are often academic works.

Why don’t American readers have more of an appetite for foreign fiction? An article from The Beast tried to find an answer but discovered that while various theories have been put forward, it’s impossible to find a definitive answer. Is it the result of a lack of foreign language teaching in schools, the low percentage of citizens who hold a passport or the multi-cultured nature of the country?

It’s a question that could well be asked of readers in Britain. I don’t know the statistics but from my experience of book shopping both sides of the Atlantic, it’s easier to get books in translation here than in an American bookshop. That doesn’t mean the shelves are groaning with translated works (hence why I’ve struggled to get some of the titles on my Reading the Equator list) but there is more choice.

For those of you who hail from across The Pond, I’d love to know what your experience is if you have an interest in writers from other parts of the world. Do you feel constrained in your selections at all? What do you think of the  theories in The Beast?

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