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Cover Story – Translating The Image

Browsing around your local book shop may well be an art in decline. Scrolling around your e-book site and pressing ‘click to buy’ is a relatively new trend and if recent details of the decline in sales in on-street book shops are taken into the account then the turn to digital format books will only increase. (See recent article by Bob Johnston, owner of the Gutter Bookshop in Dublin, published on the Bookseller blog here )

When deciding how best to part with your cash for a decent new read, what is it that attracts you to a particular book and how does it grab your attention? You may pay attention to recent reviews in the papers or recommendations from friends, colleagues, and favourite bloggers or from your book club. Others hit the streets and dedicate some time to pacing up and down the aisles and rows of their local book seller, waiting for inspiration or for that book to catch their eye, like a old friend in a crowded street.

The snobbier readers among us will flatly deny that a book cover is what first grabs your eye and will refute that a cover can influence a sale, judging a book by its cover and all that. But let’s face it; a creative, interesting and artistic cover is a hugely important factor. Getting that book into your hand to read the blurb, even if you don’t buy, is success for a book jacket designer. Looking at the design of the cover reveals a lot about how the book is marketed as well as what it tries to express about the book it happily encloses.

Look at what dominates the cover? Is it the authors name or the title of the book? Is it accolades previously won by the book or snippets of blurb from reviews? Is it a particular image that represents a central character or theme from the book? Whatever it is, there is always a major draw to the book jacket that must catch the readers eye. This is an aspect of sales that e-books can never have. They are essentially invisible until you type in your search for that particular book or author. Browsing virtual book stores is not nearly as satisfying!

Translating a book is a sure sign of success for an author. Sending that work to an international audience is a test of the writing and the ability for a non-native audience to react and engage with a particular issue or story.  When it comes to translating a particular book, the language is obviously a strikingly difficult prospect and challenge for a translator. An understanding and relationship with the author is important is establishing control on the tone and translation of a particular book. Translating the text is one aspect but how does translating the book cover and cover image reflect this international translation? What works as a cover image in reflecting the book in one country perhaps will not engage readers in other cultures. It is interesting to look at international examples of translated Irish novels and see how the covers are treated in the international perspective.

The slideshow below features some international translations of works by Irish authors based in Ireland and also in America and also includes examples of works written by international authors which are also translated into various languages. If you can think of works translated and have interesting translations of covers as well as the text, do leave a comment!

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Posted by on March 18, 2011 in Books

 

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