Study Abroad in Germany

There are many reasons students choose to partake in study abroad programs, and here at PSU there are a ton of resources to help make that possible during normal times. Before the onset of COVID-19, students in the book publishing program were going to have the opportunity to study abroad in Germany beginning in 2020. Formerly, there was only the chance to expand our knowledge of book publishing on an international scale by participating in the summer term by traveling to Scotland, but the program has recently expanded its study abroad opportunities to allow students to spend a quarter taking classes at Hochschule der Medien in Stuttgart.

Speaking with Dr. Rachel Noorda, Director of Publishing in our program, offered further insight into how this opportunity came about. “I had been looking for more opportunities for our book publishing students to experience book publishing abroad when I received an email from someone at the office of the Baden-Wurttemberg exchange with Oregon.” Dr. Noorda then traveled to visit and present at Hochschule der Medien in November 2019 to check it out and was impressed by all they had to offer.

Classes offered (and taught in English) range from Rights & Licenses, Binding and Finishing, Entrepreneurship, and much more. Being only two hours away from Frankfurt, this program will also offer the exciting chance to attend future iterations of the Frankfurt Book Fair. According to their website, the book fair is “the world’s most important fair for the print and digital content business, as well as an outstanding social and cultural event.”

Whenever it becomes safe to travel again, this will be an amazing opportunity for students within our program, especially because of the benefits of studying abroad. The following are some statistics from the University of California, Merced. 97 percent of students who studied abroad find employment within twelve months of graduating. Compared to students who did not at 49 percent, the numbers mean the likelihood is almost double. Students who study abroad are likely to earn 25 percent higher starting salaries, and 59 percent of employers say studying abroad is seen as valuable to their organizations. But it’s not all about your future career. Students who studied abroad claim that they feel an increase in self-confidence and a greater tolerance for ambiguity.

Although COVID-19 has made international travel and study abroad impossible for now, we look forward to a future where book publishing students are able to participate in this incredible program. There is so much value in traveling and experiencing cultures other than our own. Not only can it help you in your future career, but it can help you grow as an individual. Check out the links above to learn more about studying abroad and this specific opportunity, and stay tuned for updates on when the program will be offered again.

Illustrators and Promoters of Children’s Books in China

And Yet, The Books is a five-episode documentary on books and the stories behind books in China co-produced by bilibili, a video website, and Beijing Xiaohe Culture Media Co. Ltd. Each episode is about twenty-five to thirty minutes long with a different theme. The themes include the work of editors and translators in China, the journey of secondhand books and bookstores in the mainland and Taiwan, the world within children’s books, the design of books and book covers, and the reading experience in a fast-changing society. The third episode features three people behind children’s books—Cai Gao, Xiong Liang, and Can Ran—and how they build a bridge between adults and children.

Cai Gao is an expert at capturing nature in her illustrations, and she said in the documentary that nature nurtures her. She is good at ruminating on ideas she gets from her observations and putting them on paper by drawing. She worked as a countryside teacher for six years in the 1960s, and she could draw the field and woods where she did a lot of labor with her eyes closed. Cai Gao won the Golden Apple Prize in the Biennial of Illustration Bratislava in the 1970s. Her work focuses on folk stories and children’s songs, and she believes dialects are the origin and the home of people and languages. The peaceful and joyful life is the main theme in her work since she intends to provide as much joy as possible.

Xiong Liang, one of the best-known illustrators in mainland China, has been exploring a way to combine modern children’s picture books with Indigenous tradition. His works are based on oriental traditions and philosophy with innovative narrative structures and expressions. He began to create children’s books after his daughter was born. In his words, he is “using images to create poems and prose,” and his secret is to show the emotions behind the images and to interact with the little readers. In one of his works, he tried to create a forest world full of adventures where children are encouraged to be curious about every creature along the journey.

Can Ran is a well-known promoter of children’s books. Reading is important in the school she founded for children. She believes a book acts as a boat, sailing to the inner world of a child, and that reading can help children become sensitive to this world and use their own language to describe their feelings. There is a library of more than ten thousand children’s books in her school. One of the activities there is to invite the children’s toys to spend a night in the library. The toys would climb onto the shelves to find books and read together before they go to bed. The next morning, the children would receive letters from their toys recommending a new book especially for each toy owner. Of course, each recommended book is chosen by Can Ran according to each child’s personality so that the book can sail to the inner world of the child.

Overcoming Barriers: Poetry in Translation

On January 5, 2020, Parasite director Bong Joon Ho walked on the stage of the Golden Globes to accept the award for Best Foreign Language Film. During his acceptance speech, the Korean director sent a message to all Americans: “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” His earnest commentary echoed across platforms, encouraging the American audience to reflect on its relationship with foreign artistic works.

Bong Joon Ho’s point about Americans’ attitudes toward foreign films made me think of their equally great diffidence and disinterest in foreign literary work. As an international student from Italy who grew up reading mostly translated work, I was shocked to learn about the statistics for translated work published in America. In fact, less than 3 percent of all the books published in English are translated from another language. Growing up reading translated literature, particularly poetry, has allowed me to learn about cultures radically different from mine, broadening my understanding of others’ experiences and ideas.

Translated poetry has the ability to create tight connections between two languages more than any other kind of translated literary work. In this post, I want to explore the dynamics of poetry in translation, drawing from the testimonies of working translators, and to hopefully inspire the Ooligan audience to trust the beauty of translated poetry, read more of it, and acknowledge its importance in our historically non-diverse Western publishing world.

When researching the causes behind Americans’ lack of interest in translated poetry, I often came across the notion that poetry is fundamentally “untranslatable.” The translation of sophisticated word interplays, evocative images, and culturally relevant language is feared to be inaccurate and deemed to lose beauty when transformed from one language to another.

Poet and award-winning literary translator Aaron Coleman disagrees with this common fear in an interview with NPR. According to Coleman, the process of translating poetry invites “new opportunities to parse, and thus meditate on, any lingual and cultural disparities.” A translated poem is, therefore, the result of a close relationship between the translator and the piece. This relationship transcends distances and cultural challenges, creating an equally powerful transformed product. The artistry of a poem’s author engages with the cultural, emotional, and linguistic mediation of the translator, who is committed to preserving its original voice, lexicon, and structure.

Poetry translation is a work of metamorphoses, where there is no space for literal translation, according to translator Edith Grossman. The intrinsic meaning and sounds of a poem are painted anew by the translator, who engages in an artistic transaction between languages. Not every single element of the piece can be transposed, but it’s instead rearranged to create something as close as possible to the original, and as brilliant.

Poetry in translation becomes especially important when looking at the colonizing efforts of the English language. The enforced erasure of native languages during colonialism helped establish English as the most accessible and international language. In an article published by the Poetry Translation Center, writer Lola Olufemi affirms that during colonial domination English served as a method of “reaffirming the intellectual and artistic superiority of western power.” The devaluing and erasure of languages has meant the silencing of the stories and voices of the colonized. Olufemi also asserts that poetry is one of the main mediums used by members of former colonies to express themselves and regain ownership of their language today. The translated poetry of authors in the Global South and in non-Western countries allows for the preservation of these targeted languages, while simultaneously disseminating art, ideas, and voices of those who have been systematically silenced.

Are you interested in reading more translated poetry? Check out Modern Poetry in Translation, a literary magazine founded in 1965 by Ted Hughes and Daniel Weissbort in an effort to “get poetry out from behind the Iron Curtain into a wider circulation in English and to benefit writers and the reading public in Britain and America by confronting them with good work from abroad,” or The Poetry Translation Center, which focuses on poetry from Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Different Places, Different Faces: Book Covers in the US and the UK

This may not come as a surprise, but when a book is sold both in the United States and the United Kingdom, it typically has a very different cover in each country. This is because when the rights of a book are sold to a publishing house in another country, the book goes through the editing, marketing, and design departments of that house, where it is reshaped to suit that house’s specific audience.

As the cover of a book communicates to the potential reader what lies within, many conventions have emerged to highlight certain genres, such as an old photograph that promises a memoir, or an image of a shirtless, muscular man that promises a romance novel. To investigate further, we’ll look at four popular books sold in both the US and the UK and see what each cover has to say about the same story.

  1. Educated by Tara Westover: At first glance, the US cover of this memoir looks like an artful rendition of a pencil; but on further inspection, it shows a woman standing on a hill among mountains with birds flying above. This highlights the journey at the heart of the book—a story of a person surmounting seemingly impossible challenges—rather than the memoir genre. The UK cover sticks closer to the conventions of a memoir: it showcases an image of Tara as a young girl playing on a swing, promising this is Tara’s life story.

  2. The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert: The US version of this young adult fantasy novel presents gold-and-silver illustrations of roads, branches, and other objects that somehow tie into the story weaving around the white font of the title and author name. This cover promises a reimagining of dark fairy tales that intertwine with a central entity. On the contrary, the UK version shows dense, blue-tinged foliage partially swallowing the white font of the title. The UK publisher also added the warning “stay away from . . .” above the title, suggesting something sinister lying beyond the leaves and tempting readers to find out for themselves what it is.

  3. Still Me by Jojo Moyes: Both versions of this contemporary romance novel provide more simplistic designs that showcase the title and author. The US cover offers a more typically romantic look with large, curly font on a blue background. The M wraps around a small rendition of the Empire State Building, showcasing the New York setting of the book. By contrast, the UK cover offers standard black-and-white font centered on a yellow background with a small bee in the upper right corner, accentuating the boldness of the main character as she searches for meaning in her life.

  4. Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell: The US version shows a more feminine take on the mystery/thriller novel with large pink font on a white background, which is covered in branches that are bare apart from a few pink petals scattered here and there. Alternatively, the UK version features an image of a person (only shown up to the knees) crossing the street barefoot at night. The UK publisher also added the subtitle “A missing girl, a buried secret,” highlighting the elements of crime and mystery in the book.

Publishing Translated Works

The life of a book is fairly simple: author writes book, book is acquired by the publisher, book is edited (and edited and edited), book is marketed, book is published, readers purchase book, readers read book. Simple. But what if the book you want to read is not written in your native language? What if the whole world is talking about a book—a book that you can’t read? That’s where translation comes in.

According to a post on Publishing Trendsetter, there are several different ways a foreign publisher can acquire the rights to a book in order to publish a translation. The original rights holder can initiate negotiations through their publisher’s internal rights department, or an external foreign rights agent can initiate the process. Before a foreign publisher formally obtains the rights, they may have a reader who is fluent in the original language read the book and report on its quality. They may also hire scouts to look for foreign works to acquire. Once the negotiations between the original rights holder and the foreign publisher are complete and the rights are sold, the foreign publisher works with a translator to publish the work in the target language.

Currently, the largest publisher of translated works in the United States is AmazonCrossing, which is Amazon Publishing’s translated works imprint. Before the 2015 Frankfurt Book Fair, they unveiled a plan to dedicate ten million dollars over five years to translated books. This money will be used to pay translator fees. According to the press release, the plan included a goal to publish seventy-seven titles from fifteen countries and twelve languages in 2015. This would be up from its 2014 statistics of forty-six books published in English from other languages, according to Three Percent’s translation database, a blog dedicated to literary translation at the University of Rochester. This number surpassed Dalkey Archive, which has held the top spot for publishing the most translated books for the past several years. Translated works are a relatively small niche in the publishing market in the United States—one that many traditional publishers do not excel in. AmazonCrossing is hoping to fill that niche, and so far, it appears to be succeeding.

So who’s the most translated author of all time? According to UNESCO, the most translated author of all time is British mystery writer Agatha Christie. With over seven-thousand translated titles, she takes the top spot over Jules Verne and William Shakespeare, who are numbers two and three, respectively. According to Three Percent, for the last two years the top four languages most translated into English in the United States are French, German, Spanish, and Italian, respectively. The fifth has changed from Russian in 2014 to Chinese in 2015.

Overall, books in translation can be a risky market. Even if it sold well in its original language, cultural differences could be a factor that works against a translated work’s salability in the new language. But it is worth the risk to bring good stories to a wider global audience.