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On the Importance of International Literature

Here’s a thought-provoking interview from PMc Magazine, in which editor Tyler Malone interviews Chad Post on Open Letter Books, the world of American publishing, and the importance of international literature. Chad debriefs us on Open Letter’s history and concept, and unfolds his philosophy on the mission of a small press in the U.S.: “I’m truly dedicated to the idea that a nonprofit should do all it to better the part of the world that it’s related to,” he says. “And for us that means helping spread a love and appreciation of international writing and the art of translation.” Even though it may seem like a “losing battle” to many, Open Letter is committed to publishing high-impact books from other cultures, and refuses to cater to the lowest common denominator or to sacrifice art for profit.

It’s scary, and financially daunting, to take on such an enterprise; why does Open Letter do it? – So that the American book market doesn’t degenerate into a boring swamp of cultural incest, and so that American readers have access to inventive, meaningful new books that open our minds. “The more artistic voices available to readers and writers, the better,” Chad says. “A healthy translation culture helps to ensure that the literary world in the U.S. keeps renewing itself and evolving and expanding.” If we fail to expose ourselves to voices of other cultures, the American readership winds up with “books that are “entertainments” that appeal to the largest possible audience.” To keep our culture vibrant, energized, and informed, we need to carve out a place for international writers. On the joy of publishing these new voices, Chad shares lively personal enthusiasm: “. . . there’s probably no better feeling in publishing than when a book you’ve been obsessed with for a few years comes back from the printer and you can hold it, reread it, and finally share it with all your friends.” That’s what Open Letter is here for – to scout out great works from around the globe and share them with American readers, who deserve variety, inspiration, and a truly good read.



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