Tag Archives: Open Letter Books

Not Lost: Why Some Independent Publishers Can’t Get Enough of Literature in Translation

On April 19th, The Millions announced the finalists for their ninth annual Best Translated Book Awards. Six titles from five Consortium publishers were included, from both publishers who produce solely translations and publishers who produce a wide variety of genres.

Not long ago, most of the books that made it to translation were classics. They were primarily novels and poetry from already well-known members of the literary canon like Dostoevsky, Camus, and Neruda. Nowadays, translations are no longer reserved for the classical elite. Many publishers are adding brand-new translations of contemporary novels and poetry to their seasons each year with enthusiastic response.

Why translations? Why now? Here’s what the publishers of our award-nominated titles have to say.

Biblioasis, publisher of Arvida (by Samuel Archibald, translated fromArvida the French by Donald Winkler), believes that translation is the lifeblood of literature. Literature that does not engage with other languages and linguistic traditions quickly becomes stale and irrelevant. Translation means more voices can have their time in the spotlightespecially voices that we don’t usually get to hear.

war so muchOpen Letter Books, publisher of Wphysics of sorrowar, So Much War (by Mercè Rodoreda, translated from the Catalan by Maruxa Relaño and Martha Tennent), and The Physics of Sorrow (by Georgi Gospodinov, translated from the Bulgarian by Angela Rodel) believes that making world literature available in English is crucial to broadening our cultural awareness, to helping us engage with others from all different experiences. In addition, widening accessability of literatures new and old helps maintain a healthy and vibrant book culture. War, So Much War and The Physics of Sorrow both capture sides of humanity inextractable from their original culture and yet still recognizable in ourselves.

signsAnd Other Stories, publisher of Signs Preceding the End of the World  (by Yuri Herrerawhose second work, The Transmigration of Bodies, publishes this Julyboth titles translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman), was founded out of publisher Stefan Tobler’s frustration at the lack of availability of great works of literature published in English. Publishing translationsspecifically, good translationsis so important to And Other Stories that many of their editors and staff members are also working translators. If you’ve read Yuri Herrera’s work, you’ll understand where And Other Stories is coming froma world where non-Spanish-speakers can never read his incredible words is a sad world indeed.

Coffee House Press, publisher of the 2015 literary darling The Story of My Teeth (bStoryOfMyTeethy Valeria Luiselli, translated from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney), sought out this revolutionary novel from a desire for their bookshelves (and their readers’ bookshelves) to more accurately reflect the wide range of voices and stories in the Americas. Voices of the Americas must by definition include non-English speakers. For Coffee House Press, translation is about dismantling a hierarchy in literature, of granting just as much weight to original English texts as to the words of non-native speakers. Translation is about expanding horizons, not limiting them.

load poemsHoly Cow! Press, publisher of Load Poems Like Guns, doesn’t typically publish translations, or poetry for that matter, focusing primarily on fiction and nonfiction from the Midwest. But when Farzana Marie, the editor and translator of the collection, presented her manuscript to Jim Perlman, the publisher at Holy Cow!, he couldn’t say no. Translating the collection brings the voices, joys, struggles, and triumphs of women living in the city of Herat, Afghanistan, thousands of miles, reaching readers who might never have known how much they needed it.

Culture, connection, compassion: that’s why we need literature in translation, now more than ever.

Find out where you can purchase Arvida; War, So Much War; The Physics of Sorrow; Signs Preceding the End of the World; The Transmigration of Bodies; The Story of My Teeth; and Load Poems Like Guns here on the Consortium website.

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Danish Author Naja Marie Aidt is Getting Lots of U.S. Love

Photo courtesy of www.arnoldbusck.dk

Naja Marie Aidt, photo courtesy of ArnoldBusck

Naja Marie Aidt is one of Denmark’s most famous authors. Her poetry and short stories have won numerous prizes, including the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize and the Danish Critics Prize for Literature. With the forthcoming novel Rock, Paper, Scissors, to be released by Open Letter Books in August 2015, Aidt’s enticing and intricate work is bridging the gap to American English readers. Translated by K.E. Semmel, Rock, Paper, Scissors has already started wooing the media masses.

Book Riot included Rock, Paper, Scissors on their “6 Small Press Books to Read in August,” and Publishers Weekly featured the title on their list “PW Picks: Books of the Week, August 10, 2015,” each singing the praises of Aidt and her new work. Publishers Weekly eloquently summed up the novel’s themes and why it is notable: “Laced with sex, marital problems, family drama, and money woes, Aidt’s supremely cultivated novel is concerned with the struggle to connect with those we truly love and the consequences of remaining distant.”RockPaperScissors

Publishers Weekly also featured Naja Marie Aidt on their “10 Best Novels by Poets” series, where Aidt listed her favorite novels and her values in terms of good writing. In the interview, Aidt talked about what she looks for in a good book and also what she values in her own writing: “A good plot or great story is not enough for me. I need the language to be precise, sensual, intense, and distinctive.” In terms of her own work, she draws creative energy from shifting from poetry to prose and different forms of writing, as the challenge of shifting from separate genres allows her to grow and develop as a writer. The maturity and curiosity to explore different forms of language is clearly seen in Rock, Paper, Scissors. Once again, Publishers Weekly accurately summed it up: “Aidt writes with verve, passion, and a sharp edge,” creating work that is equally thought-provoking and entertaining.

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BOA Editions and Open Letter Books Publishers Chat about Small Presses on WXXI Public Radio

“Reading is sexy” isn’t often heard, especially in today’s modern age of celebrity gossip and mind-numbing television programming, but thanks to the efforts of small presses and the luminous work they produce, reading poetry and literature is getting sexy. In “Connections,” a podcast put out by WXXI Public Radio in Rochester, NY, in celebration of their summer book week, two CBSD publishers, Peter Connors of BOA Editions and Chad Post of Open Letter Books, sit down and discuss their publishing philosophy and how small presses fit into the larger industry and the future of publishing. Though Rochester is not widely considered to be a literary hub, these local editors and publishers show how small presses can make a big difference in the publishing world and perpetuate the idea that “people who read are sexy.”

Both publishers aim toOpenLetterBooks produce quality, honest, and enriching work, while providing authors with a home in which they can flourish and expand. Post focused on how the works of translation that Open Letter Books publishes fit into the larger scheme of publishing. Even though three percent of all published works are works in translation, Open Letter Books is a key player in this number and is working on increasing the statistic to provide more English readers with works of literature from around the world.

Peter Connors passionately stated “without small presses, these writers have nowherBOAEditionse to go… presses are where the art is.” While there are misconceptions surrounding the profitability of small and non-profit presses, Chad Post argued that if attention is paid to the balance between grants, donations, and sales, small presses with a focus towards the art of the written word can be just as profitable as larger organizations. Amidst the wails that publishing is dying, BOA Editions and Open Letter Books illustrate just how successful and important small presses are, as they give authors a home and consumers smart works of literature and poetry that not only entertain, but also, according to these publishers, increase sex appeal.

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