Obituary: Writings from an Unbound Europe
From Contemporary Russian writer Aleksandr Skorobogatov comes some sad news about Northwestern University Press’s “Writings from an Unbound Europe” Series:
The end of a publishing era
RIP – Writings from an Unbound Europe
The editors of Northwestern University Press have decided to end the run of Writings from an Unbound Europe, the only more or less comprehensive book series devoted to translated contemporary literature from the former communist countries of Eastern/Central Europe. The final title in the series, the novel Sailing Against the Wind (Vastutuulelaev) by the Estonian Jaan Kross (1920-2007) will appear in a translation by Eric Dickens some time in 2012. With that title Unbound Europe will have published 61 books since its inception in 1993. Among the highlights of what has been published over this twenty-year period are the first English-language editions of David Albahari, Ferenc Barnas, Petra Hůlová, Drago Jančar, Anzhelina Polonskaya, and Goce Smilevski. By far the best selling title in the series is Death and the Dervish (Drviš i smrt) by the Bosnian writer Meša Selimović (1910-1982), which has sold close to 6000 copies since it appeared in 1996. In recent years, however, changes in book-buying habits and diminished interest in Eastern/Central Europe in the English speaking world have led to significantly lower sales, even for masterpieces by such major writers as Borislav Pekić and Bohumil Hrabal. I would like to thank the series co-editors Clare Cavanagh, Michael Henry Heim, Roman Koropeckyj, and Ilya Kutik as well as several generations of Northwestern University Press editors and directors for their work on this project. Most of the books published in the series remain in print and will continue to be available on the Northwestern University Press backlist.
So many favorites were included in this series: Dubravka Ugresic, David Albahari, Georgi Gospodinov, Bohumil Hrabal, on and on and on. Sad day for Eastern/Central European literature in translation. Hopefully some press will pick up the slack . . . hopefully. But if a series like this can’t exist in a university setting, well . . . Ugh. And no offense to the great people working at NUP, but without this series, you drop (in my opinion, at least) from the first-tier of university presses (Columbia, Harvard, Yale, etc.) to something lower. I don’t want to name any titles, or make my point at the expense of any hard working authors, but your new catalog seems very vanilla when you remove the translations. Just another set of books to get lost in just another set of bookshelves . . .