You’ve probably read many translated classics—think Tolstoy or Flaubert—but when was the last time you picked up a contemporary work of literature in translation, or even really gave a thought about the translating process? Deep Vellum Publishing is striving to change this imbalance by publishing innovative literary works from writers around the world. Though just over a year old, the press has provided English translations of titles from a wide range of different writers and countries, including French and Icelandic authors, with upcoming titles from Chilean, Argentinean, Dutch, and Congolese writers. Deep Vellum Publishing is located in Dallas, Texas, and the press and its founding publisher Will Evans have been getting lots of attention. In fact, Deep Vellum was just named “Best New Thing in Town” by the Dallas Observer!
Jennifer Smart of Arts & Culture magazine wrote an essay on September 23, 2015, looking into the act of translating and what it means for the specific text as well as the publishing industry at large. She cited Will Evans and Deep Vellum as the instigators in philosophical quandaries regarding translation. She posed the question of whether you can say you’ve actually read a translated text (like Anna Karenina) if you haven’t read it in the original language, and “whether or not some works are simply untranslatable.” Deep Vellum’s titles support and counter these questions, with their titles introducing readers to diverse worlds while also highlighting common themes felt around the world. Deep Vellum not only introduces readers to literary works they wouldn’t normally have access to, their titles also spark conversations about the role of translation in the larger publishing world.
Deep Vellum Publishing is a non-profit press, a deliberate decision on Evans’ part to provide space for education for training young translators. Their mission is to “connect the world’s greatest writers with English-language readers through original translations… promoting a more vibrant literary community in north Texas and beyond.” Their most recent title, Tram 83, illustrates the diversity and freshness of titles the press publishes. Written by Fiston Mwanza Mujila from the Democratic Republic of Congo and translated from the original French by Roland Glasser, Tram 83 takes readers into the modern African gold rush and raises questions about the meaning of relationships and the increasing globalization of the world.
Smart summed up the importance of translation in her article: “translation, it seems, diversifies our experience of the world at the same time as it demonstrates our commonalities; its unique ability lies in expanding our concepts of literature by slightly complicating our stories with those of others.” Thanks to presses like Deep Vellum, it’s exciting to think about the previously unexplored stories and questions that will be presented to English-language readers in their upcoming season—straight out of Dallas.