SF Signal's Mind Meld has begun a discussion: "What is going on right now in the international sf/f scene that anglophone readers might be missing out on?"
This week features answers from Israel, Greece, Cuba, Peru, Poland, Turkey, Spain and France, including a comment by me.http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2009/06/mind-meld-guide-to-international-sff-part-i/
Some of the commentators ask why works aren't being translated into English, or even demand that publishers get busy. But, as a translator, I already know why it's not happening.
Money. Translators don't work for free. Professional rates for speculative fiction short stories are 5 cents a word. Professional rates for translators are 10 cents per word or more, though they can be persuaded to cut their rates out of love for literature, but it takes a lot of work and time to translate a novel.
Genre publishers don't have a lot of money to toss around. In fact, a number of them are going under in the current economic crisis. Unless foreign authors or translators are willing to donate their work or at least accept cut-rate pay, the money's not there for the extra costs of translation.
There's another problem. As the Mind Meld responses indicate, English-language works dominate the market. That means foreign-language publishers only have to watch what's going on in the English-language market to spot books they would like to publish, and it's easy to find information about that with publications like Locus
English-language publishers would have to watch the whole world: dozens of languages, and who provides a convenient, authoritative analysis of, say, the latest Greek or Russian works? There's not a language barrier, there's a language labyrinth.
Yes, Anglophones are missing a lot of good literature. But it's not because they're evil, don't care, or are culturally closed. Their problem is that they don't have a money tree in their backyards.