The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and Man Booker International Prize Merger

Can the Man Booker association help with the three per cent problem?

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There is a dramatic imbalance of cultural output in the global publishing industry. English-language publishers are disinclined to translate and publish foreign language books as a result of the popularity of English-language books and the high costs of translation. Three per cent is the oft-quoted number that indicates that foreign fiction in translation makes up only a minimal part of the UK book trade. This lack of bibliodiversity may have serious cultural consequences. There are thus several national and international initiatives to promote the publication and cultural capital of works in translation in order to reach a wider audience.

Book prizes are generally understood to have a positive impact on the discoverability of a title and consequent sales; winning authors, as well as those on the longlist and shortlist of prestigious prizes, can expect a significant boost in sales of the books in question. But in a culture where translated foreign fiction titles represent only a small percentage of books published, does this phenomenon extend to prizes for translated foreign fiction? This paper explores the—audience-building and sales-generating—impact of the UK’s most prestigious award for literature in translation, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (IFFP), in particular in light of the prize’s recent merger with the Man Booker International Prize (MBIP), and speculates whether this may help with the ‘three per cent problem’.

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