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Helyünk az Index Translationumban és a világirodalomban

  • András Kappanyos Bölcsészettudományi Kutatóközpont Irodalomtudományi Intézet


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On Our Position in Index Translationum and in World Literature

This essay is a methodological experiment concerning the usefulness of statistical data in the assessment of world literature as a predominantly hierarchical structure. UNESCO’s half-abandoned translation database, Index Translationum, with its 2.3 million record items, is a unique, albeit often misleading source of quantitative data on cultural transfer. In the first round of our experiment we examine the ratio of cultural “emission” and reception in the circle of the twenty leading source and target languages. The second round is about the distribution of languages among the first hundred most-translated authors; to refine the approach we introduce a new and meaningful factor, the number of Wikipedia pages written about the “contestants”. In the third round, we scrutinize the lists of the top ten writers translated to and from Hungarian. The comparison is unnerving and exhilarating at the same time: while our cultural import focuses on cheap romance and the penny dreadful, our export would satisfy the most sophisticated tastes. In conclusion, the statistical predominance of English presence on the global cultural market cannot be denied, but the main conflict of interest is not between English and other languages, but between mass-produced, ephemeral, unchallenging sub-literature (produced mostly in English) and quality culture.