More Beautiful Books: The Cahiers Series

Daniel Medin—an assistant professor at the American University of Paris—turned me onto The Cahiers Series, which is published jointly by Slyph Editions and the AUP.

These booklets (or, well, cahiers) are around 36-48 pages, are absolutely gorgeous (see second-rate photo below) and revolve around issues of translation. The first one was published back in 2006, and the 14th is on its way. The complete list is available on the website, but some highlights include: “Ballade Nocturne” by Gao Xingian, “Translating Music” by Richard Pevear, “Jozef Czapski: A Life in Translation” by Keith Botsford, “Proust, Blanchot and a Woman in Red” by Lydia Davis, “Notes from the Hall of Uselessness” by Simon Leys, and “Walking on Air” by Muriel Spark. There’s also a forthcoming one by Laszlo Krasznahorkai.

As you can see, translation is at the center of a lot of these books—here’s a bit from Sylph Editions publisher Ornan Rotem on the purpose of the series:

The series is an exploration of writing and translation, the latter understood in very broad terms; that is to say, not only as the transition from one natural language to another, but also the shift between media and forms of expression. We refer to this expanded view of translation as “cultural translation” [sidenote—the AUP has an interesting, unique M.A. program in Cultural Translation] and that is why the series happily endorses and includes, besides obvious subjects such as literature, poetry, and drama, others like architecture, textile, music, and in the future, film. The visual component of the cahiers also forms an essential part of the exploration. I would go so far as to say that each cahier is suspended between the verbal and visual, and is the outcome of the interplay between these two components.

Daniel Medin also had this to say:

There are two main justifications for the Cahiers Series. The first is that we publish material that cannot easily be published anywhere else; we can play with form in a way that commercial publishers cannot. The second justification is to make something where the parts, through their relation to each other, add up to more than just that. (Something especially evident in the Spark, Leys, Gold, and Krasznahorkai.)

One thing I can’t emphasize enough is just how beautiful these books are. Not only are the designs simple and eye-catching, the quality of the paper is amazing, the full-color images inside are striking, the French flaps, the way they feel . . . Daniel called Ornan Rotem—publisher and designer—a “genius,” and I have to agree. This is one of those series that I would buy just to display these in my office . . .

Speaking of purchasing: via the Cahiers Series subscription page you can buy a boxed set of volumes 1-6 (or a boxed set of volumes 7-12) for £51. Which is approximately $4,000, but like I said, these are really, really beautiful. (Kidding—£51 is only $75 and these are worth every dime.)

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