As those of you know who have been visiting this blog for a long time, I have a degree in translation studies and work as a translator.
Part of my final thesis was the translation, into Icelandic, of the book Mouse or Rat: Translation as Negotiation, by Umberto Eco. Just after I finished it and received my degree my supervisor applied for and got a grant to get the book published. The book would be an interesting addition to the small number of books on translation available in Icelandic and thus useful for translators wanting to study the theory behind their art.
I recently met with my supervisor and he told me that he had been trying to discover who owned the publication rights to the original book, since permission must be sought from this party in order to legally publish the translation. This is where it gets complicated: no-one seems to know.
The book was written in English and published in Britain and thus the logical place to start was the British publisher. The British publisher pointed at the Italian publisher of a subsequent Italian edition, but when applied to they pointed right back at the British publisher. It's like some hellish Catch-22, but I for one am not laughing, since the publication of the translation is likely to be good advertising for my translation skills.
I am considering writing to Professor Eco to ask for his permission to publish, but where does one begin to search for contact details for someone who has very good reason to not want his contact information made public, lest he drown in fan mail?