Help Open Letter By Buying the Books for My Spring Class

As you probably know already, Open Letter Books is a non-profit publishing house. Which means that a) I go out of my way to help the field of translation/publishing as a whole (see: Best Translated Book Award, this blog, the translation database, and a dozen other things that don’t benefit us financially, but which I think are “good for culture”) and b) we need donations to survive.1

Which is why it’s really cool that B&N in Webster (suburb of Rochester, and yeah, I’ve never been there either) is hosting an event this weekend to benefit Open Letter.

Specifically, if you shop at this store any time on Saturday, November 7th, and tell the cashier you’re buying things for the “Open Letter Bookfair,” we’ll get a cut. You get what you want, we get part of B&N’s money. WINWIN.

If you’re not in Rochester—which, duh and or obviously—you can still help us out. Go to Barnes & Noble online between Saturday, November 7th and Thursday, November 12th, buy whatever you want to buy, and at the checkout scroll to the bottom and enter 11726759 as the “Bookfair ID.” So easy!

(Also, if you happen to be in town, you should attend Jen Grotz’s reading from Rochester Knockings at 5pm at the B&N in Webster.)


OK, to meld two things into one, and to give you an extra incentive to help us out, I thought I’d list all the books I’m teaching this spring as “suggestions” for what you should buy from BN.com. (Each link below goes to the appropriate B&N.com page.) If you buy all of these, let me know, and I’ll send you a recording of one of the conversations we have with one of the translators of these books.2

Is There a Fish in Your Ear? by David Bellos

The Delighted States by Adam Thirlwell (well, this is out of print because commercial publishers don’t give shits about culture, so try and find a used copy?)

Beauty Is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan, translated from the Indonesian by Annie Tucker

Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila, translated from the French by Roland Glasser

Oblivion by Sergei Lebedev, translated from the Russian by Antonina W. Bouris

The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli, translated from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney

The Large Glass by Mario Bellatin, translated from the Spanish by David Shook

The Boys by Toni Sala, translated from the Catalan by Mara Faye Lethem

I by Wolfgang Hilbig, translated from the German by Isabel Fargo Cole

Something Will Happen, You’ll See by Christos Ikonomou, translated from the Greek by Karen Emmerich

Lies, First Person by Gail Hareven, translated from the Hebrew by Dalya Bilu

So, help Open Letter out and get some great books in the process! Remember, at checkout, add the Bookfair ID 11726759. Thanks so much!

1 Here’s some simple math: If we want to publish an average length novel in translation, it will cost us around $20,000 for the rights, translation, and printing. This doesn’t include salaries, space, marketing, distribution, etc. BUT, just sticking with the $20,000, that means that we’d have to sell about 2,500 copies JUST TO BREAK EVEN. Guess how many books of literature in translation do that? Like 3%. So if we want more literature from around the world to be available, there are a few options: 1) forget anything literary and only publish Scandinavian crime, 2) stop paying translators, or 3) raise money from governments (here and abroad), foundations, and individuals. Open Letter is at a distinct disadvantage in all of this since the University of Rochester is in charge of our fundraising and they would prefer to get untagged money for the university, instead of money for us. We’re dying here. Help! My heart can’t take many more years of this.

2 Yes, my students not only get to hear me ramble on about literature and translation and whatever, but they get to talk to each of the translators featured above. I don’t think anyone appreciates what amazing things Open Letter does for students. I would’ve killed a man for a class like this as an undergrad.

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