UK sales of translated fiction grew by 5.5% last year, largely thanks to sales by top authors like Jo Nesbo, research commissioned by the Man Booker International Prize shows.
According to the figures, compiled by Nielsen, translated fiction had sales worth £20.7m in 2018, with the “general/literary fiction” category growing by 20%. Translations made up 5.63% of fiction published in the UK.
The statistics showed UK translated fiction is overwhelmingly European, with French making up the highest proportion, at 17% of sales. But, for books published in the past five years, Norwegian and Swedish authors were most popular.
The rise was mainly down to a good year for the top five authors on the list, who made up just over 25% of the total sales.
The Thirst by Norwegian author Jo Nesbo (Vintage) sold the most copies, shifting 123,066 units with his Macbeth title (Vintage) close behind on 111,206.
Swede David Lagercrantz’s The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye (Maclehose Press) managed sales of 105,897, with French writer Leila Slimani selling 98,058 copies of Lullaby (Faber).
After that, there was a drop in sales to Jonas Jonasson’s The Accidental Further Adventures of the Hundred-Year-Old Man (Fourth Estate) at 69,372 units.
Languages in growing demand included Chinese and Arabic, alongside Icelandic and Polish, the study showed. The latter follows Olga Tokarczuk’s win of the 2018 Man Booker International Prize with Flights, translated by Jennifer Croft, and Poland being the subject of the London Book Fair’s Market Focus in 2017.
Despite the three top-selling titles being from the crime and thriller genre, that category actually declined by 19% over the year. Meanwhile, translated short stories and anthologies saw sales surge by 90%.
Fiammetta Rocco, administrator of the Man Booker International Prize, said: “Reading fiction is one of the best ways we have of putting ourselves in other people’s shoes. The rise in sales of translated fiction shows how hungry British readers are for terrific writing from other countries.”
The Man Booker International judges will select a longlist of 12 or 13 books on 13th March, followed by a shortlist of six in on 9th April. The winner will be announced on 21st May.