On Selected Aspects of the Literary Translation Profession in Slovakia


  • Natália Rondziková




In Slovakia, it has been said that the working conditions of literary translators have long been critical. Surprisingly enough, the profession has long not been surveyed to a large enough extent so that such claims could be properly evaluated. The aim of this study is to outline the core sociological issues pertinent to the profession and bring data that would not only enrich the theoretical underpinnings of Slovak translation sociology but perhaps even help the profession to more effective fight for greater status.

The first part of the study presents the result of a sociological survey of the literary translation profession in Slovakia which was conducted in 2019. In this study, the profile of the Slovak literary translator and their working conditions are discussed. In the second part of the study, the data from the survey are viewed in light of relevant factors affecting the profession in Slovakia, including the roles of training institutions, activities of professional associations, and the state of popularizing translation criticism, and discussed in relation to Tseng's (1992) model of professionalization with the aim of gauging the level of professionalization of Slovak literary translators and predicting its future development.

In small countries with smaller populations, translated literature often plays a more central role in the literary system and occupies a majority proportion of titles[1] on the book market (see Even-Zohar 2000 [1978/1990]). This has also been the case of Slovakia.[2] In this country translated literature has had a major influence on the cultivation of language standards, and, through its developmental function, it has also impacted the literature written in Slovak (Bednárová 1994)[3]. Therefore, it could be argued that in Slovakia, like in other smaller cultural environments, literary translators are among the most prominent agents of culture. Logically enough, the quality of translated literature is dependent on their working conditions. The aim of this study is to discuss the said conditions on the basis of a sociological survey of selected aspects of the literary translation profession in Slovakia and evaluate the state of professionalization in light of Tseng's (1992) model of professionalization.



[1] By "titles" I mean books aimed at the general public, distributed through the usual book distribution channels. In 2017/2018, Ikar, one of the largest publishing houses in Slovakia, reported that 63.9% of all their published titles were translations. If we were to take into account various ad hoc and occasional publications (produced by municipalities or institutions), scientific works published at universities, and all other publications aimed at specialized audiences (and primarily not made available to the public at large), books in Slovak would dominate the charts. See Knižný trh 2018. If we were to take into account only fiction, the ratio would be even more in favor of translated literature.

[2] The correlation between how much the given language is spoken and the proportion of translated literature was proved as statistically significant also in the CEATL (2007/2008) survey. In Slovakia and the Czech Republic, the proportion of translated literature was the highest among all of the surveyed 28 countries and regions. It stood at 80%. This was unlike in the United Kingdom, Austria, Germany, and Switzerland, where the proportion was less than 10%.

[3] Deep and intricate interconnections between translated and Slovak literature and the crucial impact of translation on the intellectual formation of Slovak culture in the 20th century have been documented in the 2-volume Dictionary of Slovak Literary Translators of the 20th century (2015, 2017).