I used the polemical phrase "What has European literature done wrong?" in another thread, but the question needs to be made more precise: "What has contemporary European fiction done wrong?".
Is contemporary European fiction in the news in Britain, on a regular basis? Look at the Independent book page, which is renewed every Friday, and the Guardian Review, on Saturdays; look at the Times and Telegraph too and, if you've got the stamina, count, every week, how many translations of contemporary works of fiction from any European language are reviewed. There are also the four weekly mainstream mags, two political, two literary: the New Statesman and Spectator, TLS and LRB.
Why Europe? Because we're right next door; Britain is, however reluctantly, part of that continent. The rest of the world will have to use its own efforts to get their current books into British bookshops.
You will find, if you have a look every week at these mainstream publications, available in just about every well-stocked newspaper outlet in Britain, that there are very few reviews of contemporary European fiction, i.e. books written since about 1990 in the many countries of Europe. The TLS does a line in reviewing a few untranslated art & architecture books, and ones about history, in major European languages, but is otherwise just as bad as the rest. Nor are there adequate British mainstream publications that publish any short fiction in translation regularly.
Then, the so-called literary festivals. I have already explained elsewhere how the Hay has gone celebrity, hopped right over Europe, and looks further afield for authors to invite. Cheltenham, Oxford, Edinburgh, etc. - are they any better? Do they invite contemporary fiction authors from Europe, or ignore them? A few token poets reading their works is not the same as inviting novelists who have written 10-15 books each to give a talk about their whole ?uvre.
This website and the Booktrust one on translated fiction are doing their best to redress the imbalance of interest and reviewing, but I still feel that the States are beating us. For instance, American PEN Center regularly mentions and discusses translations.
Publishers in the States. The new Open Letter website looks promising good. The Dalkey Archive Press is especially good and has a mix of translations and English-language fiction. Northwestern (also in Illinois) does a series of East & Central European authors. There are others.
Britain does have publishing houses that do translations, such as Peter Owen, Harvill-Secker, Serpent's Tail, Norvik, Telegram, and especially Dedalus; plus several that do mainly poetry. But it is much more piecemeal. Two books by one author and, unless they become bestsellers, that's it. The authors hardly ever get invited to book festivals. And books from the smaller presses tend not to get reviewed in the mainstream press at all. Why not? Is mainstream reviewing becoming the extended arm of bestseller bookselling?
How many contemporary novels from Lithuania to Portugal, Greece to Iceland have been translated, published and visibly reviewed in the mainstream British press, unless they are crime novels or thrillers? (One Lithuanian non-crime novel will soon be published in translation by Open Letter - again in the States.)
If you want to review books from smaller countries and cultures, you have to use your initiative. Firstly, forget about getting paid. It's a labour of love. You can get reviews placed, in English, online on several websites. This is a very positive development. But if you want to review a recent novel or story collection from a smaller country for a British audience and in print, you often have to resort to specialist magazines that preach to the converted, so to speak. Because the British publications listed above don't want reviews of "obscure" books. Obscure by their own, unformed and prejudicial criteria.
So, I repeat: what has contemporary European fiction done wrong?