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The World’s Ten Most Translated Authors

21st February, 2014 I by Elisabeth Willner


Have you read the world’s most translated authors? If you think that means catching up on Tolstoy or Proust, think again.

Rather than classics, the world favor’s popular fiction, according to data complied by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which compiles translation records in its Index Translationum.

Mystery writer Agatha Christie has the distinction of the world’s most-translated author with 7,233 translations — almost 3,000 more than the next most popular, Jules Verne.

Other top writers in UNESCO’s ranking include masters of sci-fi, suspense and romance as well as three writers of children’s books. Six of the top authors write in English, but French, German and Danish writers also make the list.

Here are the top ten. You can see the complete list at the Index Translationum website.

1. Agatha Christie — 7,233 translations from English

Genre: Mystery

Notable translated works: Murder on the Orient Express, And Then There Were None

2. Jules Verne — 4,781 translations from French

Genre: Science fiction

Notable translated works: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in Eighty Days

3. William Shakespeare — 4,281 translations from English

Genre: Theatre

Notable translated works: Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest

4. Enid Blyton — 3,921 translations from English

Genre: Children’s books

Notable translated works: The Famous Five, Noddy

5. Barbara Cartland — 3,628 translations from English

Genre: Romance

Notable translated works: A Sword to the Heart, Fascination in France

6. Danielle Steel — 3,592 translations from English

Genre: Romance

Notable translated works: Safe Harbor, A Perfect Stranger

7. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin — 3,520 translations from Russian

Genre: Political theory

Notable translated works: What is to be done?, The Right of Nations to Self-Determination

8. Hans Christian Anderson —3,354 translations from Danish

Genre: Children’s books

Notable translated works: Anderson’s Fairy Tales (including stories such as “The Little Mermaid” and “The Emperors’ New Clothes”)

9. Stephen King — 3,354 translations from English

Genre: Suspense

Notable translated works: The Shawshank Redemption, The Shining

10. Jacob Grimm — 2,976 translations from German

Genre: Children’s books

Notable translated works: Children’s and Household Tales (including stories such as “Snow White,” “Hansel and Gretel”)

While there are some authors I wasn’t surprised to see on the list, I didn’t expect Agatha Christie to be number one!

Are you surprised by the list? Have you read the original works or the translations from any of these authors? Let us know in the comments below!

10 responses to “The World’s Ten Most Translated Authors”

  1. Ryan Hennig says:

    Interesting list. Was surprised to see Stephen King on the list, but enjoyed seeing that. Strictly concerning volume, the list makes sense with highly distributed authors over time, but two other authors came to my mind for two different reasons:
    1. Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine” due to massive initial distribution being translated in over thirty languages.
    2. Roberto Bolaño also came to mind right away just because he’s my favorite fictional author and I read his material translated from Spanish to English.

    There are three other authors that come to mind that I would be interested in seeing where they rank beyond your list of the most translated authors – George Orwell, Mark Twain, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I might have to do a little investigating over the weekend!

    Great article!

    • Elisabeth Willner says:

      I remember seeing Gabriel Garcia Marquez when I skimmed over the rest of the authors, and I just checked: he’s 49th. Not sure about the others. You can search by author to see a list of translations, but I couldn’t find how they rank.

      One thing I’m realizing as I look at the list is that a lot of these writers are very prolific: King, Cartland and Christie are all known for producing multiple novels within short periods of time. Maybe they’re more translated… because there’s more to translate? For instance, if Orwell had the same number of translations per book as King, King would still have more translations overall because he has more books. That may partly explain why the list is missing some great writers.

  2. antonella says:

    It’s unbelievable!!! They don’t even mention Dante Alighieri (I’m Italian… you know) and all the ipertalented Russians!!! Disgusting!! That means that market laws win!! It’s quite disheartening!!!

    • Elisabeth Willner says:

      I had the same thought as I was compiling this! These aren’t necessarily the authors that global readers are most interested in… or even the authors that most global readers actually read. I’d guess that it’s more a list of the most promoted writers. Which is not to say that these writers don’t deserve to be translated — I quite enjoy Verne and Shakespeare, myself. But it’d be nice to see more diversity, linguistically and culturally, represented here.

  3. TRakei says:

    Obviously it helps to have written a whole lot of books. A writer could have written one or two of the world’s most translated books and still not be on the list of the world’s most translated authors.

  4. Mercedes Guhl says:

    Interesting, but I would do a couple of corrections, may be three. Although Jules Verne wrote some pre-sci-fi books, he is not considered a sci-fi author, as there are many of them that do not have to do with science. His novels are about adventure, exploration. He’d be classified today under young adult fiction. The name of the Danish writer of children’s books is Andersen (with the E) not Anderson. And the book by Jacob Grimm was written also by his brother Wilhelm: Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.
    There is another thing to bear in mind: the Index Translationum was started in 1992, so it doesn’t take into account translations of earlier times, unless they have been re-printed recently, or they are kept in the libraries that were taken as basis for this survey. With this, I don’t mean to underestimate Unesco’s work, but only say that there is a margin of error in this Index, and we really cannot know how big it is.

  5. Richard Ruhling, MD, MPH says:

    Ellen G. White had a formal education that ended at age 9. Yet when she died, she left behind 25 million written words —a total literary output of 100,000 printed pages. In 2015 her most translated book, Steps to Christ, was available in more than 165 languages.
    On the basis of research in the Library of Congress, 10 of literature’s most translated authors … have been identified. Mrs. White is now the third most translated author in the entire history of literature. She is the most translated woman writer ever, and the most translated American author of either gender.
    Here’s a link to 10 of her best-known books. I haven’t read the 1st one, but the following nine are truly excellent. As a physician who taught Health Science at Loma Linda University, I believe “The Ministry of Healing” is the best single book ever written–it addresses heath (obedience to natural laws of the body), happiness is a by-product of obedience to moral laws of Scripture, and destiny comes as a by-product of spiritual laws. Her books are not mysteries like Agatha Christie or fiction like Shakespeare.

  6. Richard Ruhling, MD, MPH says:

    PS: After reading my note, please consider feature the above information in your post at the top!

  7. Richard Ruhling, MD, MPH says:

    PPS: The 10 books in the link I posted are non-denominational and do not promote the name of denomination.

  8. Paul N Lewis says:

    By far the most translated author in history was the Apostle John. He wrote one of the four
    Gospels in the Bible, plus two letters to churches, and the book The Revelation. His
    writings cover the past, the present and the future. Here’s why he is the most translated author in
    1. In every Bible printed are his books
    2. In every New Testament printed are his books
    3. In more languages than any other book printed are his writings.
    4. Millions of booklets of just his Gospel have been printed, and are being printed in
    more languages than any other booklet.

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