Along with the myriad ancient virtues of storytelling-giving pleasure, passing time, stimulating thought, connecting strangers — literature is a passport to places both real and imagined. In an increasingly interdependent world, rife with ignorance and incomprehension of other cultures, literature in translation has an especially important role.
Few literatures have truly prospered in isolation from the world. English-speaking culture in general and American culture in particular has long benefited from cross-pollination with other worlds and languages. Thus it is an especially dangerous imbalance when, today, 50% of all the books in translation now published worldwide are translated from English, but only 6% are translated into English.
Words Without Borders opens doors to international exchange through translation of the world’s best writing — selected and translated by a distinguished group of writers, translators, and publishing professionals — and publishing and promoting these works (or excerpts) on the web. We also serve as an advocacy organization for literature in translation, producing events that feature the work of foreign writers and connecting these writers to universities and the media.
Our ultimate aim is to introduce exciting international writing to the general public — travelers, teachers, students, publishers, and a new generation of eclectic readers — by presenting international literature not as a static, elite phenomenon, but a portal through which to explore the world. In the richness of cultural information we present, we hope to help foster a “globalization” of cultural engagement and exchange, one that allows many voices in many languages to prosper.
Words Without Borders is a partner of PEN American Center and the Center for Literary Translation at Columbia University, and is hosted by Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.