Ok, so this is sort of a weird post, but bear with me.
One of the things I do to relieve stress is I watch Japanese dramas. Most of these dramas are pretty similar to what you'd get in the US: high school kid stories, romances, police shows, even one about Japanese politics that I am absolutely loving right now (CHANGE is the title of that one, btw). Pretty run of the mill, right?
Now what you have to understand is that unlike the US, a lot of the TV shows in Japan are based on historical material, manga, or novels. There are excellent ones that are written uniquely for television, but previously based material tends to make up the bulk of the shows.
And so there's this one show I'm watching right now which is called "Shika Otoko Aoniyoshi", which roughly translates to "The Fantastic Deer-Man". You can find the Japanese drama wiki for it here, but I'll give you the brief rundown.
It stars this nervous nebbish of a teacher, think a very young, Japanese Woody Allen, with the most horrible luck in the world. He gets kicked out of his university research lab, and since he has a valid teacher's license, is asked to go down to Nara (more on that in a bit) and fill in at a girls' high school for a teacher on maternity leave. So he goes down to Nara, which is a city in semi-Southern Japan, for lack of a better description.
Now Nara is famous for its deer. Its TAME DEER. They roam among the city streets, happy as can be, and I've been told by past Japanese teachers that the deer will attack you for treats, as soon as you get there. They are very, very tame deer, all in service to some sort of tradition that honors one of the many Japanese gods. I'm not doing the myth its proper justice, but if you're really interested, you can Google it. Anyway, so there's a lot of deer, and the main character goes to teach in essentially the city of the deer.
At the same time, a mysterious priestess is looking for a successor for some sort of power that she needs to pass on. And Mt. Fuji is experiencing very strange occurrences of earthquakes, and they think it will have a volcanic eruption. ALL IN THE SAME SHOW STILL.
Because it turns out that somehow, the priestess, strange seismic activity, and the poor nebbish teacher in Nara are all linked together. Which you discover when the deer start talking to the poor teacher and he thinks that's he having a genuine nervous breakdown, except he isn't. And at some point, he's supposed to have a deer's head replace his own, except I think that's in the second episode and I've only watched the first episode.
My whole point in trying to explain this is that the entire drama series, which has to be the most bizarre show I've seen in awhile (the talking deer is CREEPY), is rooted solidly in Japanese tradition and culture. It's based on a novel of the same title by Manabu Makime, which I'm pretty sure has never been translated into English. (I may be wrong.) And this novel is so intertwined with Japanese history, mythology, culture, and just general strange talking deer that I don't see a United States publishing house picking it up for foreign translation. Purely, I might add, because there would be so much explanation required in the translated edition that the vast majority of American readers still wouldn't get it. Remember that publishers cater to the bottom line and the lowest common denominator.
So my question to you, dear blog readers, is what sorts of American novels would you consider completely unsuitable for foreign translation? What books has this country published that would present the same problems to a translator as SHIKA OTOKO AONIYOSHI would? Give me titles, people. I'm genuinely curious. =)