Translations as Bestsellers: Vicky Baum, Franz Werfel and Stefan Zweig in American Literature
Todd C. Hanlin (University of Arkansas, USA)
The influence of an individual author or work on another culture may be determined by purely literary factors such as the significance or timeliness of a particular topic or style. Extra-literary, i.e., commercial factors may also affect a work's overall success: for example, a publisher's decision as to which foreign writers (and ultimately which of their many works) will be published; and, more importantly, the magnitude or extent of a publicity campaign on behalf of the work and/or its author. A work's ultimate impact may be further shaped through the process of translation, thus how readable and suitable the translated work is for the target audience.
This paper attempts to examine these issues, considering three Austrian authors from the 1930s--the exiles Vicki Baum, Franz Werfel, and Stefan Zweig--while noting the impact of their works on American literature and society; the three authors had at least one national bestseller apiece during this time and were thus familiar names on the American cultural scene, influencing American writers as well as a broad reading public.
We might also ask whether these newly translated works presented a positive or negative image to their American audience, perhaps molding attitudes toward the original author and his or her native land--in other words, to what extent these translated works, as popular and wide-spread as they were, intentionally or unintentionally influenced America's attitude toward Austria at a pivotal juncture in that country's history.