What is the world reading?
June 21, 2006 8:09 AM   Subscribe

What is the world reading? The UNESCO Index Translationum database has over 1.6 million bibliographical entries of translated works. Interesting stats such as: The worlds Top 50 translated authors. The Top 10 translated Norwegian authors (or other languages). Number of translations for any given book. Some surprising results, lots to explore, and an interesting lesson on what sells.
posted by stbalbach (13 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Note: bibliographical records sadly only go back to 1979 so this is not meant to be definitive, but highly representative, and significant for the modern reader. Robinson Crusoe for example lists 796 records between 1979 and 2006 - yet there were known to be 700 by the end of the 19th century - but then how useful is it to know there are tons of out of print rare-book translations.
posted by stbalbach at 8:16 AM on June 21, 2006

The first link goes back to MeFi.
posted by wheelieman at 8:20 AM on June 21, 2006

I do this so you don't have to.
posted by Kwantsar at 8:21 AM on June 21, 2006

Cool. I love that the top translated authors include Lenin, Verne and Enid Blyton. But what's up with Jakob Grimm having 3 more books in translation than Wilhelm Grimm? Matt Damon must be so pissed.
posted by blahblahblah at 8:27 AM on June 21, 2006

What's up with Rudolf Steiner being in the top 50? I can't believe he's that popular.
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:32 AM on June 21, 2006

From a linguistic geek standpoint, I absolutely love how they decided to list everyone using their names as properly written/pronounced in their native languages, then romanized. Papa Joannes Paulus II, Фёдор Достое́вский, Πλάτων... it's enough to make it feel like a global culture or something.
posted by blacklite at 8:42 AM on June 21, 2006

Blacklite - how do you get the mouseover effect? Very well done.
posted by blahblahblah at 9:01 AM on June 21, 2006

Well, I'm reading "How Soccer Explains the World."

posted by papercake at 9:12 AM on June 21, 2006

blah: highlight it, right click and choose 'view selection source'

He used acronym tags.
posted by empath at 9:53 AM on June 21, 2006

The top 50 looks like the what you would find in a small used book store in the countryside: Christie, Asimov, Maclean, Hemingway, with a slew of chestnuts like Conan Doyle, Jules Verne and, heh, "N. T. Biblia".

And the most translated comic is Asterix...? (René Goscinny) I would never have guessed.
posted by Termite at 11:00 AM on June 21, 2006

Barbara Cartland is all but out of print in the UK last I checked. Is she still being widely read in translation somewhere else?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 12:07 PM on June 21, 2006

the first three most translated 'authors' in the USA are Bibles, the first three in the UK are quite different.
posted by stbalbach at 2:12 PM on June 21, 2006

Super cool! The only writer in Irish that I've read, Flann O'Brien, tops that language's list, but every other top 10 list that I've looked at so far has been full of surprises. For example, Borges more widely translated than Cervantes? That's funny.

I'm still reading the last link, but this is a great post, stbalbach.
posted by cobra libre at 5:16 PM on June 21, 2006

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