Twenty Catalan books a year translated into English

English is fourth most common language for Catalan literary translations after Spanish, French and Italian

Uncertain Glory by Joan Sales on display at the London Book Fair, April 6, 2022 (by Violeta Gumà)
Uncertain Glory by Joan Sales on display at the London Book Fair, April 6, 2022 (by Violeta Gumà) / ACN

ACN | London

April 6, 2022 06:27 PM

Catalan literature has been in the spotlight at the 2022 London Book Fair this week.

One of the aims is to boost the number of books in Catalan translated into English, currently around 20 a year.

The Institut Ramon Llull (IRL), a public body that promotes Catalan culture and language around the world, hopes to grow that figure significantly over the next five years.

In 2021, it awarded more than 150 grants to translate works of Catalan literature into 25 different languages.

The number one language Catalan books are translated into is Spanish, followed closely by French and Italian, ahead of English, German, Portuguese and Chinese.

Fiction – both classical and contemporary – remains the top genre for translations, although children's books, young adult (YA) and non-fiction works are all increasingly popular.

Over recent years, the number of Catalan books translated into English per year has fluctuated between 11 and 28.

Specifically, 17 were translated in 2011, 11 in 2012, 16 in 2013, 28 in 2014, 12 in 2015, 18 in 2016, 13 in 2017, 20 in 2018, 23 in 2019, 11 in 2020 and 21 in 2021, figures that represent just under 8% of all IRL translation grants.

Upcoming releases

Catalan novels due to be released in English translation include Wild Horses (Fum d'Estampa Press) by Jordi Cussà, in July; Boulder (And Other Stories) by Eva Baltasar, in August; The Garden of the Seven Twilights (Deep Vellum) by Miquel de Palol, later this year; Wenling's Place (Héloïse Press) by Gemma Ruiz, in 2023; and Napalm to the Heart (Faber) by Pol Guasch, in 2024.

Non-fiction titles include Joan Fuster's Final Judgment (Fum d'Estampa Press), out this year; Marina Garcés' New Radical Enlightenment (Verso Books), due next year; and Carles Vinyes' Football in the Soviets' Country (Pluto Press), date still to be announced.

Classic and contemporary works

Modern classics are popular choices for translation, such as works by Mercè Rodoreda, Víctor Català, Josep Pla, Prudenci Bertrana, Montserrat Roig and Joan Sales.

Another category breaking into the international market are authors that have achieved commercial success in the Catalan-speaking world, like Jaume Cabré, Albert Sànchez Piñol, Quim Monzó, Toni Sala, Carme Riera, Raül Garrigasait, Sergi Pàmies, Blanca Busquets, Francesc Serés, Rafel Nadal, Francesc Miralles, Jordi Puntí and Najat El Hachmi.

There is also a growing trend for new literary fiction from emerging writers, especially women. The likes of Eva Baltasar, Irene Solà, Alicia Kopf, Llucia Ramis, Teresa Colom and Max Besora are seeing their works translated into many languages.

One example is Marta Orriols' celebrated novel, Learning to Talk to Plants (Aprendre a parlar amb les plantes), which features in the podcast below.

"Inner world"

The Institut Ramon Llull also point to a growing interest in Catalan-language poetry, including the works of Joan Margarit, and children's books. The Balearic Islands and Catalonia (especially Barcelona) are renowned around the world for the quantity and quality of illustrators working in children's literature.

One translator, Peter Bush, who has been translating works from Catalan to English for many years, says the secret of Catalan's literary success lies in the stories, "new perspectives, with irony, humor and a new style."

"The books are not about realism, about the streets of Barcelona or about historical moments, but about the inner world, especially of women," he told the Catalan News Agency at the London Book Fair.

On the other hand, Pere Almeda, the director of the Institut Ramon Llull, pointed out how translations of classic Catalan writers connect with "universal, European and contemporary values."