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Translated literary fiction is selling better on average in the UK than literary fiction originally written in English, according to new research by Nielsen, with authors including Elena Ferrante, Haruki Murakami and Karl Ove Knausgaard driving a boom in sales.
Though fiction in translation accounts for just 3.5% of literary fiction titles published, it accounted for 7% of sales in 2015, according to the survey commissioned by the Man Booker International prize.
At first glance this statistic might seem to be easily explained away by the fact that, as a rule, only the better of the best foreign language works get translated into English and there is a lower bar for books already written in English; but there does seem to be substance to the claim given that, according to Fiammetta Rocca, administrator of the Man Booker International Prize, "In 2001, every literary fiction title written in English sold an average 1,153 copies, while every translated literary fiction title sold only 482 copies. By 2015 this had completely changed – every literary fiction title written in English sold an average of only 263 copies, while every translated literary fiction title sold an average of 531 copies."
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