The Selection, Promotion, and Reception of Translated Fiction in Wellington
This is the first systematic study of the selection, promotion, and reception of translated fiction anywhere in New Zealand. The study has two phases. The first draws on the responses of 277 adult readers in Wellington to a questionnaire about their perceptions of translated fiction. The findings reveal that most Wellington readers say they enjoy reading books set in other cultures, but their actual reading is largely English-language oriented. While some respondents expressed a specific interest in reading translated fiction, most prioritised genre and content. Age and ethnicity correlate only weakly with perceptions of translated fiction, but knowledge of one or more second languages is a strong predictor of positive perceptions of translated fiction. The second phase of the study draws on seven semi-structured interviews with representatives from three major book-related entities in Wellington: New Zealand Festival’s Writers Week, Wellington City Libraries (WCL), and Unity Books. The interviews provided first-hand insights into each entity’s policies and practices for selecting and promoting translated fiction. Although its past and current coordinators speak highly of translated literature, Wellington’s Writers Week has seen a significant decline in the number of non-English-speaking writers in the last two decades. Similarly, Unity Books claims to treat all categories of books, including translated fiction, equally, but its commercial practice in fact prioritises certain other categories. Wellington City Libraries, on the other hand, has taken a proactive approach to the promotion of translated fiction, for example through blogs and physical displays. Combined with the survey data, the interview findings demonstrate both the complex nature of reading choices and the challenges of advocating for the enhanced visibility of translated fiction in a largely monolingual context. However, many signs also point to a growing recognition of translated fiction as an important element of eclectic reading. This recognition can lead to positive changes in the future.