Katie Whittemore is a translator who lives in Valencia, Spain. She began translating books from Spanish to English three years ago and has since published translations of Four by Four by Sara Mesa, The Communist’s Daughter by Aroa Moreno Durán, Last Words on Earth by Javier Serena, and World’s Best Mother by Nuria Labari, with four new translations coming next year. She spoke with PW about the growing English-language market for books from Spain and where she finds the as-yet-undiscovered gems.
You’ve been quite prolific in such a short time. Clearly there is some demand for more translations from Spanish to English.
As a Spanish translator living in Valencia and working with authors from Spain, I really only feel qualified to speak about authors from Spain, but there is obviously solid demand for works in translation from Spanish from other countries. Actually, my sense as a translator is that, in the U.S. market at least, there have been more translations coming out of Latin American countries than Spain.
That may be about to change. Since Spain is the guest of honor country at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2022, the Spanish government and cultural organizations like Acción Cultural Española [AC/E] have been putting money and resources toward programs to support international awareness and translations of Spanish literature.
This support comes in addition to longer-running programs like the online publication New Spanish Books. One of the most important things for U.S. and U.K. publishers to be aware of is AC/E’s funding support for full-length translations from writers who reside in Spain. The call for applications is currently open until December 31.
What has been the challenge in translating books from Spain, as opposed to those from the Americas?
My sense, as a translator, is that some of the biggest challenges to getting books from Spain translated and published in English has a lot to do with the pipeline from Spanish publisher to literary agents to U.S. and U.K. editors.
The biggest opportunity I see for an increase in Spanish titles making it to the English-language market is to continue the relationship building between agents representing Spanish authors—such as Casanaovas & Lynch, Ella Sher, the Carmen Balcells Literary Agency, and International Editors’ Co., to name just a few—and translators to combine efforts to produce quality samples and other materials and advocate for certain authors or books within their respective spheres of influence.
What is the 10 of 30: New Spanish Narrative program, and how has it helped in your work?
The 10 of 30 initiative of the AECID, Spain’s Agency for International Cooperation Development, is an excellent program that showcases books for potential translation: the organization has produced three volumes of 10 English translations, resulting in samples of 30 Spanish writers in their 30s. It’s an opportunity to look beyond some of the best-known authors and help publishers take a chance on undiscovered talent, writers who are at the start of their careers with a whole literary trajectory ahead of them.
Some of these writers already have had or will have English translations coming out, including Cristina Morales, Juan Gómez Bárcena, Aroa Moreno Durán, Almudena Sánchez, Irene Sola, Elena Medel, Katixa Agirre, and Jordi Nopca to name some, but there are others who are just waiting to be discovered and scooped up.
In what other ways can publishers better engage with Spanish publishing?
In terms of other areas of untapped potential just itching to be mined by acquiring editors, we have to highlight three main areas, in my opinion:
First, October 18 was the Día de las Escritoras—Day of Female Writers—here in Spain, and I really want to highlight writing by women and encourage publishers to actively seek out and consider work by authors who identify as female. Some personal favorites who, to my knowledge, haven’t had full-length publications of their work in English include Aixa de la Cruz, Pilar Adón, Florencia del Campo, Raquel Taranilla, Esther García Llovet, and Margarita Leoz.
Second, you can also look at works from the country’s official languages other than Castilian. There’s a wealth of writing in Catalán, Galician, and Basque, for example, and this includes some very interesting classic writers as well as new voices.
Third, look at works published by Spanish indie presses, such as Blackie Books, Impedimenta, Galaxia Gutenberg, Sexto Piso, Páginas de Espuma, Pepitas de Calabaza Ediciones, La Uña Rota, La Bella Varsovia, and Candaya, to name some. All have lists that feature some of the most creative and intelligent fiction, poetry, and nonfiction published in Spain today.