Of the Translation of Books . . .

July 10, 2015 § 2 Comments

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Here’s a mystery I wonder if you can solve.

Who holds the top spot as the most translated author (at least in the last 30 or so years)? Take a guess. I’ll bet you a shiny new nickel that you won’t get it right.

How about I give you some hints? If you thought it was Shakespeare, sorry (hint). In fact, translations of her (hint, hint) works outnumber the Bard’s by nearly 70%. The answer really is a mystery (hint, hint, hint). Got it? Give up?

Here you go: The holder of the top spot is none other than Agatha Christie.

Who says so? Well, the ranking is part of UNESCO’s Index Translationum, which has been collecting translation data since 1932. Since the online database dates from only 1979, it’s not exhaustive, but it does give us a good snapshot of more-recent translations.

So if Christie is in the top spot, and Shakespeare is number three, who else rounds out the top ten? Glad you asked.

  1. Agatha Christie (British, English)
  2. Jules Verne (French)
  3. William Shakespeare (British, English)
  4. Enid Blyton (British, English)
  5. Barbara Cartland (British, English)
  6. Danielle Steele (American, English)
  7. Vladimir Lenin (Russian)
  8. Hans Christian Anderson (Danish)
  9. Stephen King (American, English)
  10. Jacob Grimm (German, followed closely by Wilhelm, the other Brother Grimm)

Some of you are probably thinking, “Why isn’t the Apostle Paul on this list?” That’s because while the Bible is the most translated book in history, Paul’s contributions aren’t published as stand-alones. That leaves Paul well behind Christie, whose books number over 80. Fair enough.

Following are some other top-tens from the Index Translationum.

Top source languages:

  1. English (at over 1.2 million books, English has more translations than the next 49 languages combined)
  2. French
  3. German
  4. Russian
  5. Italian
  6. Spanish
  7. Swedish
  8. Japanese
  9. Danish
  10. Latin

____________________

Top target languages:

  1. German
  2. French
  3. Spanish
  4. English
  5. Japanese
  6. Dutch
  7. Russian
  8. Portuguese
  9. Polish
  10. Swedish

____________________

Top authors translated in China (I picked China because it has the most people in the world):

  1. Dale Carnegie (American, English)
  2. Hans Christian Andersen (Danish)
  3. Jules Verne (French)
  4. Maxim Gorky (Russian)
  5. Alexandre Dumas (French)
  6. Leo Tolstoy (Russian)
  7. Arthur Conan Doyle (British, English)
  8. Thomas Brezina (Australian, English)
  9. Charles Dickens (British, English)
  10. Victor Hugo (French)

____________________

Top authors translated in the US (because that’s where I live):

  1. Rudolf Steiner (Austrian, German)
  2. Jacob Grimm (German)
  3. Wilhelm Grimm (German)
  4. Georges Simenon (Belgian, French)
  5. Hans Christian Anderson (Danish)
  6. Pope John Paul II (Italian)
  7. Plato (Greek)
  8. Dana Meachen Rau (American, English, translated into Spanish)
  9. Anton Chekov (Russian)
  10. Bobbie Kalman (Hungarian-born American, English, translated into Spanish; French translations make her number one for Canada)

[photo: “Libreria Gozzini,” by hjl, used under a Creative Commons license]

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§ 2 Responses to Of the Translation of Books . . .

  • bobbi says:

    I have some work to do… I recognize very few of the authors on the list of top authors translated in the US.

    On a similar note, I just finished “Bliss” (O.Z. Livaneli), a book you reviewed more than a year ago, and am so glad it finally worked its way through my queue!

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