Norwegian literature under expansion in the world market

NORLA, Norwegian literature abroad, provides funding for the translation of Norwegian titles to be published abroad. The total amount of translation subsidies awarded in 2016 has once again beaten all previous records and among other developments, we can see a clear expansion within the English language market.
NORLA received last year all of 518 applications for translation subsidies, the largest number of applications in our history. Out of these applications, NORLA’s committees of experts awarded subsidies for 499 publications of Norwegian books in translation into 46 different languages.

NORLA’s Director Margit Walsø comments on the figures as follows:
«Norwegian authors are more attractive in the world market than ever before and are reaching readers in every part of the world. We now have a unique opportunity to capitalize on the Frankfurt Book Fair’s global scope of impact, in that Norway has been named Guest of Honour for 2019. NORLA is looking forward to the collaboration with translators, the culture sector and the book trade at home and abroad.»

1. kandidat 2016 brasil karl ove knausgård photo flip casa azul ©waltercraveiro
Karl Ove Knausgård on stage at the Flip book festival in Brazil 2016. (Photographer: Flip / Casa Azul © Walter Craveiro).

English was the largest language for Norwegian literature in 2016, assessed in relation to the number of publications subsidized by NORLA. The English publishing market is intensely competitive. In recent years, the portion of literature in translation that is published in English has been at around three to five percent. The level for Norwegian books translated into English has never been higher and 52 English publications were awarded funding. Translation into English has experienced a positive development in recent years, not least thanks to the impact of Norwegian authors who have received international prizes, and their visibility in the English-American public sphere, as well as the efforts of agencies and literature festivals. NORLA has made the investment in the English language market a priority in the past five years.

Norwegian literature is popular in our neighbouring countries and Danish comes in as language number two, with 36 translations.
Out of the total, Nordic publishers received funding for 84 translations, 76 of these through funds NORLA administrates for the Nordic Council of Ministers.

Translation into German is in third place and with 32 subsidized translations has maintained the same level as in recent years. Germany is one of the largest book markets in the world, which implies a potential for a considerable increase in the number of translations into German in conjunction with Norway as Guest of Honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2019.
NORLA and the Norwegian book trade’s long-term investment in network building with Chinese publishers has laid a good foundation for the translation of Norwegian literature:
18 translations into Chinese in 2016 is the largest number up to now, and 14 of these are children’s books. Important venues have been established in Beijing and Shanghai, in that the Norwegian book trade has been invited to take part in the Nordic stand at book fairs there.

For the first time Norwegian literature will be published in Galician: a translation of Jostein Gaarder’s novel for young people Anna. A fable about the earth’s climate and environment (Anna. En fabel om klodens klima og miljø).

There is a particularly large market interest for Scandinavian non-fiction in the English language world at the moment, and the same is true for the interest in Norwegian children’s books in Asia.
382 fiction books received subsidies in 2016, 43 more than the year before. Of these, 129 children’s books have received translation subsidies, compared with 114 the year before. 117 applications for non-fiction book translations were awarded subsidies, compared to 92 the year before. This shows a strong development in the export of Norwegian literature, and percentage-wise, a particularly good development in books for children and young people, and non-fiction.

Breadth and authors
The total 499 subsidies awarded went to all of 375 different titles, and 238 authors are represented. This highlights the breadth of the Norwegian literature travelling out into the world.
Subsidies were awarded for the translation of 16 poetry publications, eight dramatic works, five essay collections and two short story anthologies.

The most frequently translated authors in each genre – based on translation subsidies awarded by NORLA – are:
Fiction – Karl Ove Knausgård 31 translations (11 titles)
Children and young people’s literature – Bobby Peers 14 translations (2 titles)
Non-fiction – Morten Strøksnes 8 translations (1 title)
Classics – Asbjørnsen & Moe: 3 translations + Sigrid Undset: 3 translations

To sum up
In 2016, NORLA’s committees of experts for fiction and non-fiction awarded subsidies for the publication of 499 Norwegian books for translation into 46 different languages. This is 68 more than in 2015, which was also a record year. We are also seeing a clear expansion in the English language market.
Simultaneously, the total number of publications sold to other languages via agents and agencies is far higher, in that many books are translated without assistance from NORLA’s funding schemes. NORLA has contributed to the publications of 4250 titles in 65 languages since 2004 alone.
In 2016, the total amount of translation subsidies from NORLA was at NOK 7,041,500 (including funds for Nordic translations from the Nordic Council of Ministers).

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See details of NORLA’s allocated translation subsidy in previous years here.