Sales of Catalan-language fiction in English translation on Amazon

Ferran Mascarell said a couple of months back that

Frankfurt perseguia tres objectius: millorar la presència de la literatura catalana en el món, entendre el paper fonamental de l’edició catalana amb els seus cinc segles d’història al darrere i ensenyar al món l’existència d’una cultura forta, plena i integral. El primer objectiu suposo que ha funcionat, però el segon i el tercer, no.

Re the first objective: in one sense he is certainly right, given the storm that accompanied the decision to marginalise writers in Barcelona’s lingua franca, but in another perhaps not. Man cannot live on polemic alone, so it would be interesting to see see comparative historical data for English translations of fiction written in Catalan. I haven’t got this and as far as I know it would take me too long to extract it, so here, to keep me going, is a snapshot of some sales rankings on Amazon.com, almost five months post-Frankfurt:

author

title

rank

Rodoreda, Mercè

The time of the doves

237,422

Falcones, Ildefonso

Cathedral of the sea

243,210

Monzó, Quim

The enormity of the tragedy

1,260,111

Monzó, Quim

O’Clock

1,481,534

To get some very vague idea of what this means in sales, here’s a 2006 chart by Morris Rosenthal:

sales.gif

So:

  • The top-selling translation from Catalan is by an author has been dead 25 years.
  • The second best-seller is by a guy who condemned the whole Frankfurt business.
  • Quim Monzó, darling of the nationalist intelligentsia and of industry lovies entertained by the authorities at Frankfurt, is probably lucky if he sells one book a month.

It seems to me that unless something startling happens over the next few months, the budget of €12M and counting should be written off as wasted–unless the government really does believe that Barcelona’s publishers can live on polemic alone.

[
Carme Riera, Emili Teixidor and other well-known writers in Catalan are nowhere on Amazon.com, but some do figure on Amazon.de. For example, the August 2007 German hardback of Riera’s Der englische Sommer is currrently at #159,876. There doesn’t seem to be anyone like Morris Rosenthal or Aaron Shepherd doing metrics in Germany, so unfortunately I can’t translate these rankings into ballpark sales without doing messy things with global German publishing stats, which experience suggests may be closer to fiction than non- anyway.
]

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Comments

  1. As far as I know, even Baltasar Porcel’s best-sellers sell absolutely nothing on Amazon.com – if anyone can find something of his with any kind of sales rank, please inform

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