Let's hope that novels and poetry in translation are reviewed more in the mainstream press of the English-speaking countries during 2012.
If you look at the online book pages of the Guardian and Independent in Britain, you are not overwhelmed by the number of translated books. It still appears as if translations are a slightly embarrassing corner of literature, like pornography, that cannot be entirely ignored but shouldn't be highlighted in polite company.
When, for instance, the Independent writes about Norwegian literature, it's only about some legal spat. The Guardian at least has an interview with Norwegian author Dag Solstad, the uncombed Norwegian who appears to be living in Berlin. What's going on in the snowy wastes of Norway itself doesn't appear to interest the press, unless it's another spin-off novel referring to the Breivik massacre.
The print copy of New York books monthly Bookforum for December 2011 has 40-odd pages, many half-filled with adverts. The only serious translated literature articles there are one about Péter Nádas, the Hungarian author and the Belgian-Russian author Victor Serge's "Memoir of a Revolutionary". Hardly any of the adverts sport books written by people in languages other than English.
The NYRB for this month is no better. If there are articles in mainstream American literary publications about European authors and their works, these are very often written by fellow Americans, or the occasional Brit, who can give the safely harmless view. Why don't the Yanks dare to let a few Europeans write things themselves, then translate their views into English? Even the contents for the January 2012 issue promise nothing more pan-European. Europe still appears to be a curiosity shop from which to drag out a few funny books and let Americans review them. Why can't a Pole review an Italian novel, or a Finn one from Catalonia? Why must the nannying opinions of Yanks & Brits be the only ones we hear?
The London Review of Books is more concerned with writing political waffle about Obama. And Brits or Yanks write about Egypt and Leonardo, Senegal and Dickens. Why not let a few Europeans in on the game? I wonder what proportion of the 8,000 book reviews they appear to have online are either by Europeans or discuss translated literature.
Yes, I have to mention the TLS and yes, they have reviewed my translation of those Estonian stories, and they are maybe a bit more aware of the existence of European literature (in the belles lettres sense). But when reviews still mostly cover older writers and one long dead (the Darrieussecq review is another happy exception) you cannot really say that even the TLS is opening our eyes to the very many works of literature being published in Europe - and ignored in the UK.
So I am not very sanguine about any vast improvements during 2012, though it would nice to see a couple of new online or print newspapers that devote more space to European literature. Being Eurocentric is hardly an exercise in introversion, as the Brits and Yanks have, for the most not got that far yet, although the many nations of Europe, let alone those further afield, have great variation and a whole store of literature, impossible to access if all you know is English.