These texts are essential for “maintaining a vibrant book culture” and “increasing the exchange of ideas among cultures”, as the website goes on to explain. I wholeheartedly agree. Some of the best books ever written are foreign language: in the past 12 months the two most captivating books I've read have been Spanish text, The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, and L'Amica Geniale, originally written in Italian by Elena Ferrante.
And yet, just 3% of all books published in the US are works of translation, according to the Three Percent. A report by Literature Across Frontiers from 2015 found a similar figure for the average number of translations recorded in the British National Bibliography over the previous two decades. This is low, particularly when the figure for other European countries, such as Germany, France, Italy and Poland, consistently exceeds 4% - and I've been told it is much higher in Spain.
There are notable exceptions, such as Japanese author Haruki Murakami and Scandinavian writers Jo Nesbø and Stieg Larsson, who sell millions of copies internationally. But, as a translator who has worked on a couple of books so far, it feels to me like Britain's publishing world is not open enough to translations, particularly from Italian to English.
I have translated two books, A Murderer’s Enigma, by Claudio Ruggeri, and My Cat Hates Schrödinger, by Luca Montemagno, and I enjoyed the work immensely. There is a lot of appetite from authors to get their works translated into English - I receive at least a request a week from Italian authors. But the publishing market doesn't seem to be set up well for works of translations. Too many foreign texts don't receive the marketing boost of their English counterparts - and a great many others are not translated.
Websites like the Three Percent are a fantastic resource and I think there should be more of them. Without the appetite for foreign works of fiction, so much of the richness of other cultures is lost, untranslated.