Book author marked with nationality on cover

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Book author marked with nationality on cover

Postby yong321 » Tue Dec 01, 2020 6:09 pm

Many books published in mainland China but written by a non-Chinese author have the nationality of the author marked on the cover. For example, Samuel Huntington's "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order" ( has 美 (American) in front of his name. This convention doesn't seem to exist for the books published elsewhere. Do you agree? (I don't mean it's bad practice. In fact, I think it's good to us readers so we don't even need to pick up the book and flip to the back cover or inside to get this information.)
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Re: Book author marked with nationality on cover

Postby guyome » Wed Dec 02, 2020 10:58 am

I don't think I've ever seen this on the cover of French books.
The closest thing I can think of is that the title page (not the cover) usually mentions "Traduit de [language name] par [translator's name]" ("Translated from [language name] by [translator's name]").

If the language is spoken in multiple countries, like English for instance, the country is sometimes mentioned: "Traduit de l'anglais (Royaume-Uni), "Traduit de l'anglais (Etats-Unis)", etc. ("Translated from English (United Kingdom)", Translated from English (United States)", etc.). In the case of US books, the editor sometimes chooses the shorter "Traduit de l'américain" ("Translated from American"), which always makes me chuckle.
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Re: Book author marked with nationality on cover

Postby Cavesa » Wed Dec 02, 2020 12:41 pm

tldr version: the nationality on the cover is risky, the original language should be there automatically.

I would like it, even though it is a very controversial issue. So, it doesn't surprise me that it's the Chinese publishers, who don't care about anything else than the readers' (or perhaps also censors') convenience. Or perhaps the reader is also supposed to fall some prejudices and read the book with some filters? Sometimes, you read the same text differently based on who the author is (their nationality, gender, known public scandals, etc) I remember the older editions of books in my grandma's library, mostly bought during the totality. The censors let in quite a lot of western books in some genres, but there was usually a preface or review, which was very ideological and meant to make the reader see the book differently. Perhaps the Huntington (american) is meant to be perceived differently than if he was Huntington (russian) in today's China.

Back to why I don't think adding the nationality of all the authors would be right: For example, there are tons of authors, who don't like their nationality, or have changed it, or are critical towards the system in their country and nation, and so on. It is often a big and recurring theme in their books. I don't think Kundera would be happy, to be labeled as "Czech" everywhere, despite being actually French for a few decades and objecting towards his books being translated and published in Czech. And there are many more such examples. Also, which nationality would be shown in cases of changing borders and nations? Would Kundera be Czech or Czechoslovak on the new editions, as he has never lived in the Czech Republic and was just recently given a new citizenship? Would the authors from Crimea be Ukrainian or Russian? Would the editions in some countries show a different nationality than in others?

All that makes me admit, that my desire to pick books easier would clash with far too many complex questions. So, I settle for googling (it's so annoying to find a promising "Italian author" and then discover he's actually just an american of italian descent, therefore there is no original of the book in Italian. It happens often!), or for the "traduit de " as Guyome describes.

What I find a bit more weird is the fact many French, Spanish, or Italian sellers (especially online) don't even make a special category of the books from their own country. So, I cannot easily look at the most popular French fantasy authors on a French eshop. But in the Czech Republic, it is done all the time, just with the catch of many Slovaks being wrongly added there too (a contemporary Slovak author is neither Czech nor Czechoslovak). No eshop (not even Amazon or Bookdepository) offers searching by the original language, or even a filter original/translation. Btw, the Czech publishers often don't write clearly the original language. There is often just "translated by John Doe" but the language is omitted.

So, to wrap it up: I think adding the author's nationality on the cover would often be disrespectful or wrong. Even if it would be "just" a few % of the authors, it's still too much. But I'd definitely like and find it logical for the eshops to let me filter original/translated books, and to mark the language of the original book more clearly and systematically.
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Re: Book author marked with nationality on cover

Postby Iversen » Sat Dec 05, 2020 12:06 pm

The really essential information could be whether a book is the original version or a translation .. and maybe also whether the author was a native speaker of the language or not. And of course then it follows that the original book name should be clearly visible - maybe even the name and a few words about the translator, but maybe that's too much to ask for. Some authors may have had an invisible helper to correct the spelling etc., but it would be hard to make that information visible since the author probably would feel it detracted from his/her glorious status. Though sometimes a 'formal' author is famous enough not to worry. What was it Reagan said? .. "I see forward to reading my autobiography", haha.

As for the nationality - the citizenship would be the default information, but for authors that have lived almost their whole life away from their 'official' country or where the place they were born has changed its status this should be clear at least from the biography about the author - it is nice to know which background an author has got (also for non-fiction). But those informations are not necessarily written on the backsleeve of the book.
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Re: Book author marked with nationality on cover

Postby jeff_lindqvist » Sat Dec 05, 2020 1:38 pm

Speaking as a library buff - catalogue records usually have information about such things as language and original language, as well as author and translator. All in separate fields, of course. I got use for the skills many years ago when someone was asking specifically for fiction in Swedish that had been translated from Estonian.

In another thread (from Aug 2017):
jeff_lindqvist wrote:A comment on translations - I recently attended a lecture where it was said that it's not uncommon (for crime fiction, at least) to include the name of the translator on the cover, and also it was assumed that the translator adds (quality?) to the text. Some authors whose works are ripped to threads are bestsellers in other countries (too) and also happen to be really popular among their crime writing colleagues in Norway, the UK, Canada etc.

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