Is this really a good way to spend our (well, Mr Mellon’s I guess) money?

Publishers Weekly brings us the overwhelmingly exciting news (via Literary Hub Daily) that the National Book Foundation will be conducting a study, funded by the Mellon Foundation, which will “examine translation trends in America, including how much work in translation is published and purchased, how the availability of translated works affects readership, and how the network of translators in the U.S. functions. Additionally, the study will look at how the availability of translated work affects the way people read.”

Who’d bet against the conclusions of the study turning out to be “We don’t do enough translations. Translations are a good thing. Translators could be paid more. We must try to publish more translations”? One’s knees weaken at the idea of spending money to discover how the availability of translations affect the way people read. I wonder if the conclusion might turn to to be something like — if there are lots of translations available people will read more translated works, and of course a minatory finger wagged at the opposite possibility. We wouldn’t want to be thought to be America Firsters in literature would we?

How much better used Mr Mellon’s money would be (as it often has been in subsidizing the publication of academic monographs for instance) if it were given to subsidize the translation or publication of important but less than best-selling works from other languages. Let’s hope that this study is just a preliminary to such an initiative.

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