1/ George Koroneos // Shutterstock
Humankind may have its differences, but we all have a lot in common when you think about the big picture. For instance, name a culture on the planet that doesn’t love a good story. In fact, since the dawn of mankind, civilization has simply relished in the art of storytelling, first through oral tradition and then on the printed page. Even now—in the age of omnipresent screens—storytelling thrives.
Any astute reader will know, however, that not all stories are created equal (nor are all natural storytellers). Some authors may be absolute legends on the home front, but fall short when it comes to presenting on the world’s stage. Then you have your global phenomenons, authors whose stories have enraptured hearts and minds in multiple countries across the world...after rigorous translation, that is. You might ask: who are the most translated authors of all time?
As always, Stacker is on the task. Pulling data from UNESCO, we’ve compiled a list of the most translated authors from around the world. UNESCO sorted the data according to the exact number of times an author’s written works have been translated. Can you guess who grabbed the number one spot? Or do you need a clue? We’ve already said too much!
2/ Festival Internacional de Cine en Guadalajara // Wikimedia
Total Translations: 1396
In acclaimed works like One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera, Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez blended history and fantasy to downright stunning effect, breathing all kinds of new life into the magic realism genre. Márquez passed away in 2014, but left behind a substantial legacy with a worldwide following to show for it. Younger audiences might know the name thanks to the author’s fascination with pop star (and fellow Colombian) Shakira.
Total Translations: 1398
Undoubtedly the most scrumdiddlyumptious author of all time, Roald Dahl is highly regarded for world-famous stories like James and the Giant Peach, The BFG, The Witches and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In spite of his indisputable success as a children’s author, however, Dahl led quite the adventurous adult life. Not only was he reportedly a British spy at one point, but before that he was a WWII fighter pilot and almost died in a crash landing.
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Total Translations: 1399
Germany’s Johann Wolfgang von Goethe—better known to modern audiences simply as Goethe—lived from 1749 to 1832. During that time he was a poet, playwright, scientist, statesman and novelist among other occupations. Today, he’s best-known for Faust, a tragic two-part play in which a man sells his soul to the devil. Apparently, cultures from all around the world can relate.
Total Translations: 1401
Frequently credited as the godfather of modern-day fairy tales, 17th century French writer Charles Perrault penned classic stories like Little Red Riding Hood, Puss in Boots, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. He was also the first writer to identify Mother Goose as a storytelling character. Suffice it to say, animation studios would have a lot less material to work with if not for this individual.
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Total Translations: 1424
Prolific poet and writer Rudyard Kipling is best-known today as the author of The Jungle Book, which has seen no shortage of translations or big-screen adaptations. However, dig just slightly beneath the surface and you’ll discover a broad range of stories, poems, speeches, novels, articles and memoirs. Born in Mumbai, India in 1865, Kipling lived to the age of 70. Right before he passed away, he woke up to discover that his obituary had already been published in the local paper. Wasting no time, he contacted the publishers to inform them that he was not in fact deceased yet.
Total Translations: 1437
Master of horror Edgar Allan Poe passed away in 1849 at the young age of forty, but by that time he’d already produced a lifetime of work. His stories like The Raven and The Tell-Tale Heart are taught in classrooms around the world to this day. Most folks consider Poe to be a tragic figure who battled all sorts of demons and addictions, but that’s in some part due to the fact that his obituary was penned by arch nemesis, Rufus Wilmot Griswold, who reportedly went heavy on the libelous claims.
Total Translations: 1459
Even in the age of Harry Potter and Marvel Studios, The Lord of the Rings continues to capture hearts and minds all over the world. In order to create the authentic and immersive fantasy realm known as Middle Earth, author J.R.R. Tolkien went as far as crafting his own language: Elvish. Tolkien was in fact such a master of linguistics that he could arguably translate his own works into a number of different languages all on his own.
Total Translations: 1477
A true master of proto-modernity, Russian writer Anton Chekhov reaped substantial drama, comedy and tragedy from everyday life. His sound approach to plotting and detail would influence a legion of subsequent artists, including filmmakers like Woody Allen and Alfred Hitchcock. Still cited among storytelling professionals is “Chekhov’s Gun,” a dramatic principle based on a letter Chekhov wrote. It states that you shouldn’t put a gun on stage unless you plan to use it in the story.
Total Translations: 1481
No college education is complete without Plato, the revolutionary Greek thinker who studied under Socrates and instructed Aristotle. Widely considered the founder of Western political philosophy, Plato’s best-known work is The Republic, which argues for a radical shift in society and hierarchies. The work also calls for a ban on flutes, though Plato must have had a change of heart regarding that particular suggestion, given that a flute performance was apparently his dying request.
Total Translations: 1485
An arguable successor to Agatha Christie’s throne, mystery writer Mary Higgins Clark started out writing short stories for various ladies’ magazines before transitioning into the thriller genre. It was a wise move to say the least, as Clark has sold more than 80 million books in the US alone. Not only is the author still alive and kicking at 90, she’s still churning out titles, the most recent of which was published in 2017.
Total Translations: 1491
If you’ve watched the recent (and downright insane) Netflix documentary Wild Wild Country, then you’re all too familiar with Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, later known as Osho. To put it mildly, the guru’s ideas regarding sexuality and spiritual awakening (via cathartic aggression followed by peaceful meditation) are as provocative now as they were more than thirty years ago. It’s therefore no wonder that his books continue to be translated and embraced all over the world.
13/ Theo's Little Bot//Wikipedia
Total Translations: 1491
Sitting right next to horror legend Stephen King in terms of both output and alphabetical order is author Dean R. Koontz. The best-selling writer has published more than 80 novels, including the wildly popular Odd Thomas series. His works like Watchers, Hideaway and Phantoms have all been made into Hollywood films.
14/ Photography by Friedrich Hartmann//Wikimedia
Total Translations: 1492
While the work of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche is now taught on nearly every college campus around the world (hence the 1492 translations), his radical takes on religion, leadership, society and psychology struggled to find an audience when he initially produced them in late 1800s. Nevertheless, the philosopher’s ideas would lay the groundwork for entire schools of modernist thought, occasionally to downright disastrous ends.
Total Translations: 1494
Over the course of his relatively short life, Franz Kafka more or less invented surrealism in literature. His most famous work remains The Metamorphosis, a novella about a man who wakes up one morning to discover that he’s been turned into a giant insect. To this day, translators still argue over what type of insect Kafka intended, since the wording is somewhat vague.
Total Translations: 1523
By exploring the threshold between personal identity and archetypal spirituality, German writer Hermann Hesse earned a healthy following across the globe. His most popular novels, Siddhartha and Steppenwolf, draw from a well of philosophical influences while delivering tight, lyrical prose. That exquisite pairing of simple execution with profound implication is very much part of the author’s enduring appeal.
17/ Theo's Little Bot//Wikipedia
Total Translations: 1530
What, you thought those Hollywood writers were crafty enough to come up with Jason Bourne on their own? Author Robert Ludlum’s best-selling Bourne trilogy is just a small sample of the author’s legendary output. Put simply, Ludlum is a master of the political thriller, which helps explain why there are more than 210 million of his books in print, available in 32 languages.
Total Translations: 1570
Considered one of the greatest American novelists of all time, Ernest Hemingway remains as famous for his daring lifestyle as he does for classic books like For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea. According to legend, the iconic author was not only injured while driving an ambulance during WWI, but he would go on to survive anthrax exposure, malaria, cancer, diabetes and two plane crashes before taking his own life in 1961.
Total Translations: 1590
French writer Honoré de Balzac was a larger-than-life figure in his day, recklessly spending money while engaging in numerous affairs. Yet somehow in the midst of all that action, he would write for up to 16 hours at a time, once producing over 20 works in a mere three-year span. The bulk of his output would come to be known collectively as The Human Comedy, which helped pave the way for the modern novel.
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Total Translations: 1645
When a writer is so popular that movements are still being named in his honor more than a century after his death, you know he’s going to appear on a list of the most translated authors from around the world. That writer is Karl Marx, who explored the negative consequences of capitalism in his legendary tome, Das Kapital. Consider his work a testament to the pen being mightier than the sword, though to be fair, his ideas certainly provoked a fair amount of literal violence. To this day, the mere concept of “Marxism” remains a well-spring for controversy and political thought.
Total Translations: 1660
Her real name was Eleanor Hibbert, but readers know her by various pen names: Jean Plaidy, Philippa Carr and Victoria Holt. Once touted as the “Queen of Romantic Suspense,” Hibbert wrote no fewer than 200 historical novels under her many pseudonyms, collectively selling more than 100 million copies. Among that handful of alternate names, the Victoria Holt moniker dominates on the world stage.
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Total Translations: 1733
Sidney Sheldon was an award-winning screenwriter and the creator of hit TV shows like I Dream of Jeannie before pivoting to focus on best-selling novels. Not only are Sheldon’s books enjoyed all around the world, but he’s one of the few authors whose work is permitted in North Korea.
Total Translations: 1788
Brash, witty and supremely talented, Irish writer Oscar Wilde was once quoted as saying that “the only way to get rid of temptation is to yield with it.” Duly living by his own mantra, the author of famous works like The Picture of Dorian Gray landed in hot water by having an affair with the son of a British nobleman. Wilde was subsequently charged with “gross indecency,” and sentenced to two years of hard labor.
Total Translations: 1869
Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner was a literary critic before he started his own movement, anthroposophy, in the early 1900s. Drawing from both German idealism and mysticism, Steiner’s philosophy contests that humans are able access a spiritual realm through sensory experience, thereby discovering new ideas in the process. Upon returning to reality, the sensory explorers should then put their ideas to the test by way of rational, scientific means. Mystic spiritual journeys paired with the scientific method? Who wouldn’t want to read up on that!?
Total Translations: 2041
Stories like Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde and Treasure Island are so firmly ingrained in the public consciousness that you might not even realize they came from the same Scottish author. His name was Robert Louis Stevenson and he lived from 1850 from 1894. Given his short lifespan, it’s a good thing Stevenson started early, writing his first story at the age of six. As for that untimely death, it’s rumored to have been brought on by his struggle to open either a jar of mayonnaise or a bottle of wine. Not exactly a storybook ending.
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Total Translations: 2112
As the author of classic novels and novellas like Great Expectations, Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol, British writer Charles Dickens is part-man, part-institution. Indeed, his work his so iconic that it’s not uncommon for something to be referred to as “Dickensian” even today (i.e. almost 150 years after his passing). Fun fact: Dickens is credited with coining the word “whoosh”.
Total Translations: 2159
As everyday reality becomes more like the stuff of science fiction, expect nothing but increased interest in Isaac Asimov. The American author and biochemistry professor was exploring concepts like robots and space travel well before man even landed on the moon or Star Wars hit the theaters. However, in spite of writing extensively about space flight, Asimov reportedly flew just two times in his life.
Total Translations: 2178
Shout out the words “literary masterpiece” and someone will inevitably shout back, “War and Peace.” The voluminous work was brought to us by Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy, who also produced the equally formidable Anna Karenina in addition to a number of other stories. As legend would have it, War and Peace might never have come to be if not for Tolstoy’s wife, who was tasked with incorporating her husband’s endless revisions, thereby rewriting the entire manuscript eight times by hand.
Total Translations: 2182
As the author of novels like White Fang and Call of the Wild, Jack London earned a substantial following through his harrowing tales of survival, most of which incorporate animals. Consequently, London became one of the first authors to amass a substantial fortune at a time when writers weren’t exactly raking in the dough. Yet in spite of all that success, London remained a committed socialist who would end up tackling themes of Marxism in his influential novel, The Iron Heel.
30/ Larry D. Moore//Wikipedia
Total Translations: 2222
Like a Stephen King for tweens, author R.L. Stine has churned out no fewer than 300 books, including numerous installments in the Goosebumps and Fear Street series. Suffice it to say, the writer can weave a terrifying story out of pretty much anything, even a sandwich.
Total Translations: 2234
After starting out as a children’s author and magazine contributor, René Goscinny launched Asterix, a hugely popular comic book that featured illustrations from collaborator Albert Uderzo. The comics—which follow a village of Gauls who use magic potions to gain superhuman strength and ward of Romans circa 50 B.C.—would end up selling over 325 million copies all over the world. The comic book series also spawned film adaptations, video games and even a theme park.
Total Translations: 2258
With more than 1.2 billion Catholics in the world, it’s no surprise that Pope John Paul II has been translated more than 2000 times. Not only did the famous religious leader write a number of best-selling books, he also fancied himself a playwright and poet. Additionally, he was the most widely traveled pope in history, which helps further explain his universal appeal.
Total Translations: 2271
Swedish author Astrid Lindgren is best-known as the creator of Pippi Longstocking, though she also wrote numerous other books and screenplays over the course of her career. Lindgren’s work has been translated into more than 100 languages, which is more than any other Swedish author.
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Total Translations: 2315
A prolific writer who published approximately 500 novels during his lifetime, Georges Simenon rose to fame by churning out best-selling detective stories at breakneck speed. It’s reported that early in his life he would sit down every morning and write no fewer than eighty pages at a time, followed by a stress-induced vomiting ritual. Later in life, Simenon eschewed hard-boiled detective books for “straight” novels with loftier themes, though he struggled to be taken seriously as a highbrow literary talent. As substantial as his published output may be, the author’s insatiable libido is likewise the stuff of legend.
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Total Translations: 2342
In 1849, Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky was sentenced to death and put before the firing squad, then given a last second reprieve. The author would spend the next four years in a Siberian labor camp, before eventually going on to write classics like Crime & Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov. His books commonly infused gripping narratives with poignant philosophical overtones, which helps explain their lasting worldwide appeal more than a hundred years later. And to think it almost never came to be...
Total Translations: 2431
More than just an author, Mark Twain (born Samuel Langhorne Clemens) was American literary history in the flesh. Among his many famous works, the most iconic remains The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, about a boy who floats down the Mississippi River with a runaway slave. It’s the closest thing America has to its own version of The Odyssey. But did you know that the character of Huck Finn was based on a real life person named Tom Blankenship, whom Twain knew while growing up in Hannibal, Missouri?
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Total Translations: 2496
Arthur Conan Doyle was pursuing a career in medicine when he published A Study in Scarlet in 1887. Featured in the novel was a crafty detective named Sherlock Holmes and his assistant, Watson. At the time, Doyle felt Holmes was a distraction from more important things like ophthalmology, and the author actually went as far as setting up a practice. He would later claim in his autobiography that not a single patient ever came through the door. As for what became of Sherlock Holmes...well, we all know the answer to that one.
Total Translations: 2540
French authors don’t get much more iconic than Alexandre Dumas, who wrote classic adventure tales like The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. In addition to his timeless novels, Dumas also penned a number of plays, magazine articles and non-fiction books. Born under a different last name, the author would end up adopting the last name Dumas from his grandmother, a former slave.
Total Translations: 2597
When author Nora Roberts isn’t writing best-selling romance novels under her own name, she’s writing best-selling mysteries under the pen name J.D. Robb. Put it all together and you end up with more than 225 novels that have spent a combined total of 861 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, which isn’t even to mention all those translations.
Total Translations: 2951
As the younger half of folklore masters The Brothers Grimm, Wilhelm Grimm helped bring famous stories like Snow White, Rapunzel and Rumpelstiltskin to a worldwide audience. As opposed to his hyperactive brother, Wilhelm reportedly preferred to focus intensely on specific topics while shutting out peripheral distractions. Such a studious approach perhaps provided a much-needed balance to his older brother’s whimsical inclinations, allowing the duo to produce works that were simultaneously structured and imaginative.
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Total Translations: 2977
Should The Brothers Grimm make for one entry instead of two? Probably. Nevertheless, Jacob Grimm retains a slight edge over his brother in terms of translated works. Perhaps that has to do with a book he wrote called German Mythologies, which was published in 1835. He also established Grimm’s Law, which played a vital role in linguistics and phonology.
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Total Translations: 3357
As anyone who’s ever been in a bookstore might have guessed, Stephen King is among the top 10 most translated authors in the world. Where to even begin? With Carrie, his debut novel? With The Stand, his sweeping post-apocalyptic masterpiece? With The Shining? It? Misery? Needless to say, whether you’re seeking the original book or the movie adaptation, odds are you can find it in virtually every corner of the planet.
Total Translations: 3520
Over the course of his lifetime, Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen produced a number of plays, novels and poems, but it’s thanks to his popular fairy tales that the storyteller remains a household name. One of his most famous works is The Little Mermaid, which features a starkly different ending than the 1989 Disney adaptation. He also penned classic tales like The Ugly Duckling and The Emperor’s New Clothes.
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Total Translations: 3593
As leader of the Bolshevik revolution and founder of the Communist Party, Vladimir Lenin endures as a divisive, albeit legendary figure. Under the influence of writers like Karl Marx, Lenin wrote influential books such as 1899’s The Development of Capitalism in Russia, and 1917’s The State and Revolution. To this day, Leninism is studied around the world by way of his books and speeches.
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Total Translations: 3628
Modern-day romance writers don’t get any bigger than Danielle Steel, who’s published 165 books and sold more than 800 million copies. That makes her the fourth-biggest selling author of all time, despite the fact that critics don’t exactly think too highly of her work. Nevertheless, Steel’s novels have been translated into numerous languages, proving that mankind’s thirst for trashy romance knows no boundaries.
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Total Translations: 3652
Before Danielle Steel, there was England’s Barbara Cartland. Not only was Cartland a wildly successful romance novelist who wrote more than 700 books, she was the step-grandmother of Princess Diana. Specializing in Victorian-era romance, Cartland once wrote 23 novels in a single year, a Guinness World Record.
47/ Theo's Little Bot//Wikipedia
Total Translations: 3924
Children’s author Enid Blyton was so prolific that she was frequently accused of employing ghostwriters, a charge she vehemently denied. Blyton’s work was also regularly chided for propagating xenophobic, overly conservative worldviews. Of course, all that and more did nothing to stop her from achieving astounding success, and selling more than 600 million copies of her books throughout her career.
Total Translations: 4296
As history’s most famous playwright (who was also no slouch in the poetry department), William Shakespeare was an absolute master of language, so much so that translating his work must be a fairly intensive process, if not an outright burden. After all, what good are plays like Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet without all those unforgettable lines? Of course, Shakespeare himself might retort that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. On the other hand, you can’t smell dialogue.
Total Translations: 4751
Jules Verne took us 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Around the World in Eighty Days, so it’s no wonder that his books are read all over the planet. Much of Verne’s work was inspired by his optimistic outlook surrounding industry and technology, though that same outlook grew reportedly grimmer over time. One can only imagine what he’d think of today’s buzzing, tech-driven society.
Total Translations: 7236
Everyone loves a good mystery. Everyone. For proof, look no further than the number-one spot on our list of the world’s most translated authors: Agatha Christie. Not only has Christie been translated all over the world, but according to Guinness World Records, she’s the best-selling novelist of all time, with more than two billion copies in print. Indeed, titles like And Then There Were None and Murder on the Orient Express remain some of the genre’s finest and most influential examples. Your whodunit education begins here.