28 October 13 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Last week, Open Letter editor and resident expert in all things Latvian, translated aloud a bit of an article decrying the Latvian stand at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair. I’m paraphrasing here, but the gist of the article was that the stand was lame, boring, the laughing stock of the fair, and not nearly as cool as the Estonian and Lithuanian ones, thus severely damaging Latvia’s international reputation.

All of which is nonsense. The Latvian national stand was basically like every other national literature stand. Sure, it didn’t have the sleekness of the Catalan stand, or the extravagance of the Polish stand, but it was functional and totally fine. And did nothing good or bad to Latvia’s reputation. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I’m 100% sure that outside of the handful of self-hating Latvians, no one spent a single minute evaluating this stand. Sorry Latvia, but no one cares how fancy or bare-bones your Frankfurt Book Fair displays are.

But to show that Eastern Europeans aren’t the only ones capable of putting on a bad show, The Hindu has this article about the disaster that was the Indian Publishers Stand:

Of the 40 Indian publishers who hired their stands through the good offices of Capexil, (Chemicals and Allied Products Export Promotion Council) at the recently concluded Frankfurt Book Fair, most have returned home angry, disappointed and disgruntled. [. . .]

The Indian publishers’ stand looked like a shoddy bazaar. The publishers’ names and stand numbers were not in alphabetical order and a visitor had to browse through the entire lot in order to find the right exhibitor. In contrast, the stand opposite, that of the National Book Trust was a swish, elevated red and white affair, with persons willing and ready to help and guide the visitors. [. . .]

“For many of us, especially the first-time participants the Fair was a disaster, a waste of hard-earned cash. Nothing was set up. My stand had not even been erected on the opening day of the fair. I had to go running around, begging for help from Ramesh Mittal, Chairman of Capexil’s Book Publishing and Printing panel and the elusive contractor, a certain Mohit Singla. I paid over Rs. 3,30,000 and I have absolutely nothing to show for it. It’s been a total waste,” Vijay Ahuja of DBS Imprints told The Hindu during a visit to his stall at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

One of my favorite people in the world, Urvashi Batalia, even got into this with some sharp comments:

Urvashi Butalia of Zubaan Books, a veteran of many Frankfurts said, “Everyone was blaming Mr. Mittal of Capexil. He is a very decent man but the organisation under him turned out to be totally incompetent. The contractor turned up very late on the eve of the opening. That is the only day exhibitors get to set up their books and displays. Our badges and directories were not given on time. He never bothered to introduce himself and we did not know what was happening. We received only one badge whereas every exhibitor has to be given two. Each badge costs 45 Euros — not a small sum for a struggling Indian publisher to cough up. We decided to go through Capexil because it was working out cheaper.” [. . .]

Said Urvashi Butalia, “Whatever the rights and wrongs of the matter, the fact is that the collective Indian stand always looks the worst in the Fair. Even Pakistan last year had a wonderful stand, attractive and beautifully laid out. This is a good example of how India shines abroad!”

OH, BASH!

So for those who were lucky enough to attend the FBF, which was worse—the Latvian stand or the Indian one?

5 August 13 | Chad W. Post | Comments

You may have already read this, but last week, Publishing Perspectives ran a piece I wrote about Brazil being the Guest of Honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair this fall. Below is that article in full with extra links to all the books mentioned.

(And as a sidenote, in addition to the review of João Almino’s The Book of Emotions that we ran last week, I’ll be posting reviews of a few other Brazilian works over the next few weeks.)
*

Last month I was fortunate enough to be the sole American representative to take part in the Brazilian Publishing Experience 2013, a specially organized cultural exchange program designed to help promote Brazilian literature to the rest of the world. We spent ten days total in Brazil, both in Rio de Janeiro and in the unbelievable city of Paraty, where we were able to attend FLIP —the Greatest Book Festival in the World. (No, seriously. Not only was the line-up loaded with stars—Geoff Dyer, Karl Knausgaard, John Banville, Lydia Davis—but it took place in one of the most beautiful spots on earth.)

The vast majority of our discussions centered around the details of the Brazilian market. There are approximately $4 billion in sales every year, a quarter of which is government purchases for schools. Ebooks make up like 2% of the market, but this will grow thanks to the increased presence of Amazon and Kobo and Apple in Brazil. Most bookstores are in São Paulo and Rio, which is what one would expect, but there are publishers throughout Brazil, many of which will be at the Frankfurt Book Fair this fall.

In addition to simply learning about the Brazilian market, this trip also served as a opportunity for the Brazilian publishers to unveil some of the things they’re planning for Frankfurt—the attending authors, the cultural and literary programming, etc. As frequently happens to me after one of these trips, I’ve been on a Brazilian lit bender ever since I got back. (Well, a literature and caipirinha bender. Not to mention a newfound love for soccer superstar Neymar Jr.)

Anyway, for anyone interested in learning more about Brazilian literature, below is a bit of an overview of some classic Brazilian texts (available in English) and some highlights of what’s being planned for Frankfurt.

The Classics.

Brazil doesn’t get nearly the amount of literary respect it deserves. First and foremost, it’s the birthplace of Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, one of the greatest world writers of all time. His novels The Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas (a.k.a. Epitaph for a Small Winner) and Dom Casmurro are ingenious, playful books that bring to mind the meandering meta-fiction of Tristram Shandy. Also worth checking out is the new edition of The Alienist that Melville House recently published.

Thanks to the success of Benjamin Moser’s biography of Clarice Lispector, Why This World,& there’s been a resurgence of interest in her work. In the States, New Directions recently reissued five of her books in new translations— The Hour of the Star, Agua Viva, A Breath of Life, Near to the Wild Heart and The Passion of G.H. —all of which are worth reading.

On a slightly more contemporary note, the third author I’d like to mention is Rubem Fonseca, not just because Open Letter publishes his collection The Taker and Other Stories, but because he was one of the first authors to write about the dark, twisted, violent aspects of life in Brazil. His faux-detective novels, like High Art are really brilliant, as is the recently translated collection, Winning the Game (Tagus Press).

The Young.

The recent Granta special issue on the Best Young Brazilian Novelists is the best source of information about the younger generation of writers in Brazil, several of whom will be attending the Frankfurt Book Fair, including Michel Laub (who has a novel coming out in the UK), Daniel Galera, and Carola Saavedra.

The Anti-Utopian.

Two of the authors I’m most excited to meet in Frankfurt are Ignácio de Loyola Brandão (Zero, And Still the Earth, The Good-Bye Angel) and João Almino (The Book of Emotions, Five Seasons of Love). Both have written books in which the city serves as a primary character—São Paulo for Brandão and Brasilia for Almino—and the lives described are less than ideal. Brandão will participate on the “Polyphonic View” panel at 10.30 on Saturday, October 12th, and Almino will be appearing in a panel on “Allegories and Utopias” at 14:30 the same day.

The Graphic Novelists.

Another panel that I’m personally excited about is the “Meeting of Generations” graphic novel event taking place on Sunday, October 13th at 10:00. This panel brings together a couple traditional comic artists—Ziraldo and Maruicio de Sousa—along with the newer generation, including Fábio Moon & Gabriel Bá, the twin brothers behind Daytripper (Vertigo).

The Poets.

In addition to all the prose writers mentioned above (and a couple dozen more that will also be in attendance), Brazil is sending over a bunch of poets, including Adélia Prado and Hector Ferraz Mello, who will discuss their ironic and metaphysical approaches to poetry (“Perplexed Contemplations,” Thursday, October 10th, 16:30) and Affonso Romano de Sant’Anna and Nicolas Behr who will share their experimental, satiric poems (“Cannibal Satire,” Saturday, October 12th, 16:30).

This is just a sample of what Brazil is planning for their presence as the Guest of Honor. They’re bringing 70 authors in total, and putting on 32 literary events — a perfect opportunity to introduce Brazilian literature to the world, and show everyone that there’s more to this country than The Girl from Ipanema.

7 October 11 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The Frankfurt Book Fair kicks off next Wednesday, and since I won’t be able to attend this year (boo!), I’ve decided that instead, next week will be “Icelandic Week” here at Three Percent as a way of celebrating Iceland as this year’s Guest of Honor.

We’ve got an amazing amount of stuff planned for this, from excerpts of recent and forthcoming Icelandic works, to pieces about Icelandic book blogging, to music videos, to info about the Blue Lagoon, to videos of me doing shots of Brennevin (and hopefully not passing out).

Get ready.

20 October 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This post originally appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog. I highly recommend visiting the official blog for interesting posts from Richard Nash, Alex Hippisley-Cox, and Arun Wolf

I really do love book fair and publishing people and the business of publishing and the discovery of new artists. I love drinking too much, knowing that when I sip my first beer at a 5 o’clock Australian reception that I’ll be talking, mingling, and imbibing for the next eleven or so hours. I love that despite all this—which must seem a bit decadent to outsiders—that business gets done. That I can find a Flemish author with echos of Kafka, Beckett, and Pinter. (I’m keeping this book secret for the moment . . . If you want to find out who the next hot Flemish author will be, you’ll have to read my posts tomorrow . . .) That I can learn about Bragi Olafsson’s latest novel. That I can meet a Polish editor who’s really excited about some of our translations.

Juergen Boos is absolutely right: Frankfurt is a platform. A place where everyone can come together to meet, friend each other (like in the old-school, non-Facebook sense), exchange info, do business. I’m sure this happens in other industries as well, but there’s something about a gather of tens of thousands of literary folk that makes this Fair hum with some sort of cultural import. We will all shape the future of publishing and part of that future is being designed over the course of this week.

We talked a lot about eBooks. Maybe too much—like Erin Cox said in her Publishing Perspectives editorial we don’t want to lose focus on our real business: “creating content for the reader, not content for the technology.” We talked about rights deals that did and didn’t get done. We talked about the “monkey sex” book and the graphic novel Michael Jackson “wrote.” We talked about Zombies. (We did a lot of talking about Zombies.) But most of all, we talked.

I’ve heard lots of people mention how the Frankfurt Book Fair is like a family reunion. (Caveat: they’re talking about one of those pot-o-gold rare fun family reunions.) And it sort of is. It’s hard (for me) to not get a bit emotional about the end of the fair. These are my people; this is what I love. So forgive my over-the-top sentimentality, but I’m going to miss this, and will be waiting patiently for next year, when I can come back, reconnect, tell new stories, have more drinks, and find more books. See you next year—

20 October 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This post originally appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog. I highly recommend visiting the official blog for interesting posts from Richard Nash, Alex Hippisley-Cox, and Arun Wolf

Now that the Fair has transformed from a “professionals only” gathering into Cosplay Central, I found some time to swing by the official China stand. To be honest, it was pretty much the same stand that they have every year—just much much bigger. Taking up a wall of Hall 5.0, the stand is pretty impressive, but for me, it was rather difficult to figure anything out. And by “figure out” I mean find information about publishing houses I should be paying attention to to find out about modern and contemporary Chinese fiction. Yes, this is a pretty subjective approach, I admit, I admit, but really, I’m not that interested in books about Chinese texiles or the “Three Millennia of Printing in China.” And so I didn’t investigate those offerings all that closely . . .

If you are into that textile stuff, the China booth rocks! It’s flashy, it’s oversized, it is exactly what it’s supposed to be.

But. For the rest of you literary people, what you should check out instead is Paper Republic’s “The Best Chinese Fiction You’ve Never Read,” a manageable-sized brochure featuring information about specific works by six different authors: Jia Pingwa, Han Dong, Li Er, Sheng Keyi, Leung Man-Tao, and Liu Cixin.
Paper Republic was founded a couple of years ago by a group of native English speakers (most of whom live in mainland China) dedicated to the translation of Chinese literary fiction into English, and the website features sample translations, information about Chinese authors (including those who may not exactly be favored by the government) and a blog about Chinese literature and translation.

In October of last year, Paper Republic received a grant from the Arts Council of England to support the promotion of Chinese literature abroad. It is thanks to this grant that both Nicky Harman and Eric Abrahamsen are able to attend the Frankfurt Book Fair for the first time, and able to produce “The Best Chinese Fiction You’ve Never Read.”

“We know there are hundreds of fantastic authors out there, many of whom could never hope to get an official invite to an international bookfair-they are no friends of officialdom and work hard to maintain their independence as writers. This catalog is a chance to present them and their work to a wider audience,” said Harman.

In addition to the brochures, long (like 30-page long) samples from these books will be going up on the site over the next few weeks. A pdf version of “The Best Chinese Fiction” is also available online, and hard copies can be found in the Translators Center in Hall 5.0. For more information, please contact Nicky Harman at n.harmanic@googlemail.com.

20 October 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This post originally appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog. I highly recommend visiting the official blog for interesting posts from Richard Nash, Alex Hippisley-Cox, and Arun Wolf

In order to better promote works of Indian literature and independent Indian presses, a number of publishers are talking about joining forces to create their own collective stand at next year’s Book Fair. Granted, this is all still in development, but Zubaan Books, DC Books, Blaft, and Kalachuvadu Publications have all agreed in principle to working together to create a large, joint display at FBF 2010.

Let me put this into a bit of perspective and explain to anyone not actually here at the Fair why this is noteworthy. If you wander through halls 5 and 6 (again, for those not here, the FBF is made up of eight large halls filled with throusands of stands) you’ll see huge displays from the “book offices” in Romania, Hungary, Estonia, Denmark, Argentina, Iceland, Macedonia, etc., etc. These national book promotions are incredibly helpful to publishers looking for some information about what’s going on in the book scene in a particular part of the world. There are usually overview guides (e.g., “48 New Writers from Poland,” “New Korean Fiction,” “10 Books from Holland and Flanders”) booklets with data on that country’s book market, lists upon lists upon lists of publishers from that country, and all kinds of other promotional material.

Well, although India was a huge success as Guest of Honor just a few short years ago, the National Book Trust stand is completely empty and covered with a white sheet. Not to salt a wound or anything like that, but the Pakistan stand right around the corner is hoppin’ . . .

So for anyone interested in finding out what’s going on in Indian lit, you have the more difficult task of having to troll the aisles and talk (or try to talk) to all the individual publishers. This possible alternative—a vibrant stand with X number of innovative, indie presses—would be a frickin’ godsend. India is booming in all ways. And it’s a market that a lot of people are interested in. To provide a bigger, more attractive, more active platform for these presses to share their knowledge and info would be spectacular.

20 October 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments [1]

This post originally appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog. I highly recommend visiting the official blog for interesting posts from Richard Nash, Alex Hippisley-Cox, and Arun Wolf

Seems like every year the Foundation for the Production and Translation of Dutch Literature (NLPVF) comes to the Frankfurt Book Fair with some very cool new idea or project. Last year it was ”* Great Translation by the Way” publication that set forth a series of directives for how to improve the situation for translations in the European Union. This year it’s Schwob.nl.

Schwob.nl was unveiled at a special reception at Fleming’s Hotel last night, and hinges on the idea that translations should be a two-way cultural exchange. Oftentimes, when the NLPVF people go to say, Turkey, and implore Turkish publishers to do more Dutch books, the Turkish publishers start asking questions back about how many Turkish writers are actually available in Dutch. And to no one’s surprise, “Well, um, you know, Orhan Pamuk?” doesn’t go over so well.

But beyond the role economics and corporate publishing houses play in this imbalance, there’s also the problem of information. How much information about Turkish authors is available to Dutch readers and publishers? Just guessing here, but probably not a lot. (And probably a hell of a lot more than what’s available to American readers and publishers. Anyway . . .)

So to offer a digital corrective to this problem (I don’t mean that to sound so horrifyingly medicinal), the NLPVF created schwob.nl as a site to bring info about quality literature to the attention of Dutch readers, editors, and publishers through newsletters, features on the site, etc. (And to all you Americans and Brits—I’ll let you in on a little secret: the site is entirely in English, so you can actually take advantage of this as well.)

Right now there’s only one article available on the site (click here to download the pdf: http://www.schwob.nl/about/), but it’s a very interesting piece about Chinese author Shi Tiesheng that’s written by Chinese-to-Dutch translator Mark Leenhouts and touches on some bigger issues about contemporary Chinese literature.

This site is meant to be an open forum for exchanging recommendations, so if there are any “forgotten classics, cult books, or must-reads” from your country that you want to share with Dutch readers the rest of the world, e-mail the info to write@schwob.nl. And be sure to sign up for the Schwob.nl newsletter . . .

20 October 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This post originally appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog. I highly recommend visiting the official blog for interesting posts from Richard Nash, Alex Hippisley-Cox, and Arun Wolf

Over the past few years, the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair has grown substantially, taking on a more professional focus and serving as the platform for visitors and publishing folks within the region to meet and start doing business. One of the driving forces behind the expansion of ADIBF is the belief among foreign publishers that the Middle East represents a relatively untapped market (pun unintended) with enormous potential.

Today’s “teatime” event offered a chance for English-language publishers to get a better understanding of the opportunities in the region, and to demonstrate how valuable it is to attend the ADIBF (and as a publisher myself, I can confirm this).

This may well have been the most well-organized, comprehensive, and useful panel that I’ve attended so far at the Fair. (Not that the others were bad, but damn, this was like consultant-level knowledge.) Each of the presenters were very clear, very engaging, and very practical in their advice.

The difficulties for English-language publishers wanting to enter into the Arabic market are fairly evident, but worth repeating: reading isn’t a fundamental activity in the Arab world, most print runs are very small, and books are considered to be a luxury purchase. Not to mention, the “Arab Book Market” is by no means homogenous, with each country functioning in a slightly different way and applying different censorship criteria. And the Western idea of “distributors/wholesalers” is totally different in the Arab World.

That said, opportunities exist both for trade publishers and educational publishers. On the trade front, the fact that bookstores are becoming more professional—through the opening of Borders, Virgin Megastores, etc., in the UAE—offers sudden opportunities for publishers to get their books in front of readers. Plus, there are a lot of programs in place to promote literacy and encourage children to become readers.

On the educational side of things, there’s even more going on. Every year more and more International Schools are opening in the UAE (and elsewhere). At the present time, more than 450,000 students are being taught in English. Parallel to overall education initiatives, a lot of money is going into expanding and improving library collections. Ministries of Education are spending a lot of money on educational resources and teacher training, and are looking for appropriate materials to use and companies to partner with.

All of this sounds great, and looks good on paper, but to really take advantage of these opportunities and the rapidly expanding Arabic book market, the best thing to do is to learn more about the Arab world and how business is done there, and to start making connections with people in the area. For that reason, attending the ADIBF next March makes a lot of sense.

20 October 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This post originally appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog. I highly recommend visiting the official blog for interesting posts from Richard Nash, Alex Hippisley-Cox, and Arun Wolf

After a while, all of the various “book market” presentations from the various countries start to sound the same . . . I know that’s a jaded, semi-ignorant thing to say, but there are only so many times one can here about the average number of books printed per inhabitant, or the total number of copies sold in a given year before all the numbers blur together into some meaningless mess of abstract geometry. (Was it Estonia that produced 27million books in 1991? Or was that 27 thousand? Or . . . )

I’m not trying to imply this info isn’t useful, and it is great when people hand out brochures afterward with all these stats in black-and-white, but what really sticks out to me are the activities various countries are undertaking to get the info about their books out to other editors and publishers. Like the Lithuanian/Latvian/Estonian 300 Baltic Authors presentation, or all the materials from Fundacion TyPA, or, in the case of the Czech Republic, the Czech Literature Portal, which is loaded with all the information a prospective foreign publisher might want.

The site hosts tons of profiles and excerpts from Czech authors, longer essays on Czech literature (such as this one about Czech lit since 1945), author interviews, info on literary periodicals, and, well, information about the Czech book market.

I truly believe that face-to-face meetings are still the best way for publishers to find out about books they should translate, but in the other 300-and-some-odd days in which an international book fair isn’t taking place, sites like these can be extremely useful in promoting a country’s literature and presenting their book scene to the rest of the world.

Now if only all the eBook proponents and new digital media people would hook up with these various foreign agencies . . . Although most of these sites are filled with great content, they tend to be pretty static and traditional. And there are a lot of techies out there who aren’t just interested in the production of e-content, but are looking at ways of using new technologies to engage with readers in exciting ways. I may be typing out of turn here, but it seems like these two groups (foreign literary agencies and new tech people) could benefit from each other . . .

20 October 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This post originally appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog. I highly recommend visiting the official blog for interesting posts from Richard Nash, Alex Hippisley-Cox, and Arun Wolf

While I’m crushing on India, I thought I’d take a post to introduce Blaft, a very young, very hip, very successful Indian press that’s worth checking out. I mean, putting aside their books (whicha are pretty wild), their logo is a purple alien. How awesome is that? And how awesome is it that they have stuffed, squeaky versions of this purple alien at their booth? And semi-racy bookmarks that say “Reading is Sexy”? . . . This really is a press after my heart.

Anyway, about that whole book thing: the first title that Blaft did was an anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction. Originally conceived of a one-off, the book was a wild sucess, attracting other books, and eventually convincing the husband-wife couple behind this—Rakesh Khanna and Rashmi Ruth Devadasan—and their friend—Kaveri Lalchand—to become publishers. Up till that point none of them had any experience in publishing, so the whole experience has been quite an adventure.

In addition to more pulp fiction-y titles, Blaft is also doing some literary fiction—Charu Nivedita’s Zero Degree is a very experimental, daring book—graphic novels, and even a “pictoral survey of typography and design found on signboards, taxis, buildings, tiffin dabbas, and in other public spaces of Bombay.”

I don’t think I’ve met anyone else here at the fair with as much energy and enthusiasm for publishing. Blaft is here as part of the “Invitation Program,” which helps small, independent presses from Africa, Asia, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe to attend the fair, make connections, and display their works. This section of Hall 5.0 is one of the most fun to visit, and great for finding about about books and presses that generally don’t get a lot of attention.

And in terms of Blaft, they will be giving a public presentation about their program on Sunday morning at 10:30am in Hall 6.0 E905.

19 October 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

As you can probably deduce, I’m a bit jetlagged and exhausted from last week’s Frankfurt Book Fair, which is why I’m rerunning all of posts I wrote last week for the official Frankfurt Book Fair blog. (Besides, the FBF blog isn’t the easiest page in the world to find, so you may well have missed these.)

In addition to the FBF blog, I also contributed a few pieces to the special print edition of Publishing Perspectives that was produced for the Book Fair. This print edition—which came out on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday—is really worth looking at to get a better sense of the scope and tenor of the Frankfurt Book Fair. I think the Publishing Perspectives people will be running a few of the highlights from these three issues over the next week, but you can also download pdf versions of all three issues: Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

19 October 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This post originally appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog. I highly recommend visiting the official blog for interesting posts from Richard Nash, Alex Hippisley-Cox, and Arun Wolf

Back in February, a publishers’ roundtable took place in New Delhi to talk about opportunities of new markets, new models, new collaborations, that could develop amid the global financial crisis. Entitled “GlobalLocal: New Directions in Publishing,” this conference included the likes of Juergen Boos, Frankfurt Book Fair director; Ajay Shukla, managing director of McGraw-Hill India; Stella Chou, managing director of China business development, HarperCollins China; and Richard Charkin, executive director, Bloomsbury Publishing.

Personally, I wish I could’ve attended this (or at least have a chance to visit New Delhi—there must be some book related festival or organization that would like to fly a poor publisher/journalist over to write up some events . . . right? hello?), but thanksfully the German Book Office New Delhi has now produced a volume collecting the transcripts of the roundtable, afterthoughts on the conference, and essays from a variety of important thinkers and publishers.

Obviously I haven’t had time to read this volume, but anyone interested in the future of publishing will definitely want to hunt down GBO New Delhi director Akshay Pathak and get a copy. It’s totally nerdy, but just reading the titles of the panels and essays has me all excited: “Independent Publishing: Challenges and Advantages,” “The Way Ahead: The Global Financial Crisis and its Impact,” “An Independent Future: Indian Publishing, Global and Local,” and several other subtitled and nonsubtitled pieces.

19 October 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This post originally appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog. I highly recommend visiting the official blog for interesting posts from Richard Nash, Alex Hippisley-Cox, and Arun Wolf

Just for the tango alone, Argentina would rank as one of my favorite countries in the world. And when you throw in their literary history—Jorge Luis Borges, Macedonio Fernandez, Adolfo Bioy Casares, Julio Cortazar, Juan Jose Saer—there’s a lot of reasons why I’m excited about next year’s Fair, when Argentina will be the official Guest of Honor.

This morning’s “Business Breakfast” provided a great introduction to the Argentine Book Market. Most of the presentations were stat-focused with information about the number of titles produced (20,000/year), overall number of copies (70,000,000/year), value of imports and exports (Argentina imports a lot more books than they export), and the overall size of the Argentine book market (the country accounts for 27% of all Spanish-language books published in Latin America).

But these numbers just scratch the surface. . . . For a variety of political and economic reasons, Argentina’s publishing scene is as incredibly fascinating and complex as the country’s recent history.

The prevalence of “micropresses” is one intriguing aspect of the Argentine book scene. As Octavio Kulesz of Teseo touched on this in his presentation, these micropresses came into existence in the wake of the financial collapse of 2002. And there sure are a lot of them: according to Trini Vergara of V&R Editoras, more than 80% of the publishing houses operating in Argentina fall into this category, whereas only 3% are “big” publishers, 2% are “mid-sized,” and 12% are “small.” Granted, when you look at overall production, this breakdown shifts considerably (micropresses account for 5% of all titles published, whereas big houses do 42%), but this diversity of voices and editorial vision make up what Constanza Brunet of Marea Editorial termed “bibliodiversity.”

One of the things I’ve always been fascinated/concerned with is the relationship between Argentina and the Spanish-language market as a whole. Although Argentina produces some of the most fascinating authors, most Spanish-language books are published in Spain and then exported to Argentina, and sold at a somewhat prohibitive price. The idea of splitting Spanish-language territories will hopefully be discussed at length next year, along with the opportunities eBooks offer for overcoming some of these distribution issues.

All that’s pretty fascinating, but getting back to the actual literature—Argentina is totally loaded with amazing writers. There are the classic authors like those mentioned above, but also including Manuel Puig, Ernesto Sabato, Silvia Ocampo. And there are any number of contemporary writers worth reading, such as Andres Neuman, Alberto Manguel, Ricardo Piglia, and Elsa Osorio. And the world is really catching on. Over the past decade, there’s been a significant rise in the number of Argentine titles translated into other languages. According to Fundacion TyPA, in 2001, 20 different titles were translated and published outside of Argentina. In 2007 that number had shot up to 120. (And to clarify, this is just number of titles—many of these books were translated into multiple languages.)

And speaking of TyPA, for this year’s Fair, they put together a beautiful booklet of 25 Great Essays which is available for free online in both Spanish and English.

Copies—and more information about Argentina in general—can be found at Hall 5.1 D975.

19 October 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This post originally appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog. I highly recommend visiting the official blog for interesting posts from Richard Nash, Alex Hippisley-Cox, and Arun Wolf

Prior to the start of the Book Fair there was a lot of speculation about what might happen: would attendance fall down thanks to economically collapsed budgets and exorbitant hotel prices? would the Fair be overrun with protests from Chinese dissidents angered by the selection of China as Guest of Honor?

Based on the first day and a half, things are clicking along as they should be. Juergen Boos, the Fair’s director, started off his special roundtable meeting by addressing the attendance question. Contrary to some people’s opinion that it “seems” less busy this year, the number of visitors to the fair dropped by a mere 0.8%, or 353 people, to 45,753. And in terms of the Rights Center, traffic is actually up by 5.8% to 3,850 visits yesterday. Obviously there’s no way to track the number of deals being done, but based on this level of traffic, it seems like business as usual. (I haven’t spent much time tracking down big book deals, but I did hear about an absolutely mental Michael Jackson graphic novel that’s coming out in the near future . . .)

A lot of questions at the “Meet the Director” lunch were directed at China being the Guest of Honor, and although he admitted that China could’ve done more in terms of freedom of speech and human rights, Boos was supportive of what China has done with this opportunity, pointing out that this was “a first step,” and the first time that China was presenting itself on foreign territory. Boos emphasized that this is the mission of the Frankfurt Book Fair: not to force the Chinese government to listen to dissidents, but to provide a platform where different people can interact with one another. A place where there are over 300 readings and presentations by dissident Chinese writers right alongside the thousands of official Chinese literary events.

The impact being Guest of Honor has on getting a country’s literature and culture out the rest of the world can not be understated. Last year only 8 works of Chinese literature (fiction and poetry) were translated into German. This year the total exceeded 160, including 60 titles that were subsidized by the Guest of Honor translation fund. And these figures are just for translations from Chinese to German—it’s virtually guaranteed that there will also be increases in the number of Chinese books published in English, Spanish, etc.

Another topic Boos touched on at the meeting was the future of the industry, shying away from making any definitive proclamations (no one can really predict the future), but drawing attention to the rise in mobile content, and his belief that this will dramatically increase over the next 3-5 years, especially in terms of STM and educational publishing.

The expansion of eBooks, mobile content, and the like, leads to the creation of a lot of new companies, and continues to provide a reason for people to attend the Frankfurt Book Fair even though more and more business is being done over e-mail and the Internet in general. As Boos said, you need to trust people to do business with them, and the best way to develop that trust is by meeting them in person. That’s what the Frankfurt Book Fair provides, and why the Book Fair continues to go strong despite the overall downturn in the economy.

19 October 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This post originally appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog. I highly recommend visiting the official blog for interesting posts from Richard Nash, Alex Hippisley-Cox, and Arun Wolf

One of the most interesting figures Kaidi Urmet of the Estonian Publishers’ Association dropped in her speech about the Estonian Book Market was about the nearly inverted correlation between titles published in Estonia and overall sales. In 1991—just two years after the fall of the BerlinWall—only 1554 titles were published in Estonia. But because of the demand of readers, over 23,295,000 units were sold. The snapshot of 2007 paints a much different picture: 3410 titles were published (more than double the number from 1991), resulting in 8,853,000 copies (approx. 40% of the total in 1991).

Urmet pointed to the steady increase in book prices as the reason for this decline in sales. “In 1991 we were just starting to implement the capitalist model,” she said. “Books were much cheaper then—people could afford them.”

Although the past year has been rough on the Estonian book market (where hasn’t it been rough?), one of the bright spots has been the increased interest in memoirs and biographies. Rene Tendermann of Pegasus—which specializes in literary fiction and young adult titles—echoed this trend, pointing out that on the whole, nonfiction has done much better than fiction since the economic collapse. His big worry for the future is library funding though. About 20% of Pegasus’s sales are to libraries, but it looks like library funding will decrease by 40-50% in the next year.

Not all the news is bleak though. Ilvi Liive of the Estonian Literature Information Centre (ELIC) has had great success in recent years getting Estonian literature translated and published around the world. So far this year, 30 Estonian books have been translated into 15 different languages—including Albanian, German, Russian, and even English. This is a much different situation than what things were like in 2001 when the ELIC first came into existence and started developing a network of publishing contacts around the world.

One of the books she’s most excited about that’s launching at the fair is the French translation of the third volume of A.H.Tammsaare’s Truth and Justice, a five-volume Estonian family saga set in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The latest issue of the Estonian Literary Magazine (produced by ELIC) is also releasing at the Fair and contains a range of articles on Estonian literature and reviews of a number of new titles. And for publishers interested in award-winning titles, there’s even a special feature on the Estonian Literary Awards of 2008.

19 October 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This post originally appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog. I highly recommend visiting the official blog for interesting posts from Richard Nash, Alex Hippisley-Cox, and Arun Wolf

One of the coolest books I’ve come across so far is 12 Argentine Writers volume, which is available at the Buenos Aires Ministry of Culture stand (5.1 D976) where you can also learn about Buenos Aires as UN 2011 World Book Capital. This collection contains excerpts from twelve novels published in 2008, from a range of writers. From Josefina Delgado’s prologue:

“Although the writers selected are at different points in their careers—Luis Mey, Hector Balcarce, Raquel Robles, Marta Kapustin and Pablo Melicchio were all published for the first time in spite of their differences in age; Alicia Steimberg and Carlos Gorostiza have already published more than ten books; Oliverio Coelho, Paula Perez Alonso, Pedro Mairal and Jorge Accame have an established body of work; and Accame and Gorostiza have also written and published well-known theatrical works—they are united by a similar sensibility and approach towards writing: fiction is not just a story, although these writers do tell stories; it is also the language in which a story is told.”

In addition to this very substantial, very cool anthology, you should also check out the “Literary Buenos Aires” pamphlet which, in addition to information about all the important literary cafes, hotels, bookshops, etc., has “Literary Circuits” for Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortazar, and Roberto Arlt, providing maps of where these literary giants hung out, drank coffee, and wrote awesome books.

With Argentina being the Guest of Honor next year, this is probably the first of a few posts about one of my favorite literary cultures (and countries).

19 October 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This post originally appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog. I highly recommend visiting the official blog for interesting posts from Richard Nash, Alex Hippisley-Cox, and Arun Wolf

As part of the Education Forum taking place in Hall 4.2, there was a CEO roundtable this afternoon to discuss “Four Big Ideas that Will Change Your Business.” With representatives from Lightning Source, the British Educational Suppliers Association, Smart Technologies, and Bowker/ProQuest, this promised to be a very interesting and useful discussion.

Larry Brewster of Lightning Source opened up the meeting with a visionary talk about print on demand and how this is altering the overall business publishing model—not just for educational publishers, but for traditional ones as well.

In looking at the benefits of single-copy POD, Brewster emphasized a few key advantages, some more obvious ones (low inventory costs, smaller capital investment), and others that are a bit more subtle (one that he really beat home was the fact that having books available on single-copy POD ensures that a publisher wouldn’t miss a single sale due to a book being out-of-stock).

What was most captivating about his speech wasn’t necessarily the advantages to the publisher of having their books in a POD system, but the implications of this. For instance, the idea of “Distributed Printing” opens up a whole new world of cost-savings and instant access. His vision was that POD machines would be located throughout the country/world, in both warehouses and bookstores. This would allow publishers to transmit digital files to a plethora of locations where the physical books could actually be printed, thus destroying the traditional method of printing a bunch of copies and paying astronomical amounts to ship books across the country. (Not to mention the additional cost of having these shipped back from all points of the globe in form of returns.)

Taking this one step further, he touched briefly on end-user creation, which could really appeal to educators. Under this model, a particular educator/reader could pick-and-choose things that they want in a book and then have the POD machine print up the exact number of copies they need. Customization that’s currently impossible . . . The opportunities are very broad, especially once color POD machines are available and the cost of POD printing falls to that of traditional offset presses. And like Brewster said, “this is a model that works. It’s a just-in-time system that will continue to grow.”

The next two presentations focused a bit more on the idea of “disaggregation” in educational publishing. Ray Barker from the British Educational Suppliers Association touched on the way the British government has invested billions in Interactive Classroom Technologies, such as interactive whiteboards and now, “learning platforms.” According to Barker, all UK schools are supposed to be using a “learning platform” by 2012. Which, he admitted, might be a bit ambitious and will probably be bumped back a few years. Regardless, this is a huge opportunity for educational publishers, especially those able to figure out how to produce disaggregated content—content that is segmented and that educators can pick and choose from.

Nancy Knowlton, the CEO from Smart Technologies talked about the desire on the part of educators to get things for free. This is an issue that’s starting to impact the entire publishing industry (and will for years to come, especially with the rise of e-books), and although it sounds completely damaging at first, Knowlton suggested that there are opportunities here as well, especially for businesses that are willing to reach out to potential customers and listen to what they have to say and be willing to educate educators on the relationship between quality and a fee.

Finally, Andy Weissberg from Bowker/ProQuest talked about gaming in education and the need for there to be a stronger connection between games and the curriculum. (As an example, he talked about his two daughters coming home from school and either playing Farmville online or some “educational” games on the Leapfrog, but that neither of these activities really related to what they were covering in school.) In terms of pure opportunity, from my perspective, this seems very attractive, especially with the proliferation of iPhones and other such devices and the relative ease with which people can create apps.

I’m not terribly sure there were four big ideas presented at this roundtable, but a few of the pieces were pretty thought-provoking. To be honest though, I was really looking forward to hearing from Mike McGuinness of Scribd about “viral marketing and piracy protection.” He was advertised in the events brochure, but bailed for whatever reason. And seriously, viral marketing and piracy are two ideas that most definitely WILL change your business.

19 October 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments [1]

This post originally appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog. I highly recommend visiting the official blog for interesting posts from Richard Nash, Alex Hippisley-Cox, and Arun Wolf

The long term impact of being the Guest of Honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair has been demonstrated time and again. Not only does this honor result in the translation of a country’s books into a languages around the world, but it also bolsters the book industry within the country itself.

The latter half of this statement was what Vladimir Grigoriev, the Deputy Head for the Federal Agency of Press and Mass Communication (and organizer of Russia’s 2003 Guest of Honor program), focused on in his presentation this morning on “Market Trends in Russia and Digital Publishing.” Grigoriev’s figures were pretty impressive. Since 2003, the overall production of titles in Russia has more than doubled from 47,700 to over 123,000 last year, and overall book sales have followed a similar trajectory, shooting up from $1.6 billion USD in 2003 to over $3 billion last year.

It’s not all good news though. The economic collapse of 2008 hit Russia pretty hard, including the book market. Although things could change over the next couple months, experts are projecting a 20% decrease in sales (to $2.4 billion USD) for 2009. According to Grigoriev, a recent study pointed to a decrease in reading among young people, and a startling statistic that “almost 40% of the population is not buying any books.”

When asked to name a few contemporary Russian authors worth reading, Grigoriev hedged, claiming that he could name a dozen or two, but that they weren’t on the level of Chekhov, Tolstoy, or other Russian Masters. He also pointed to the nonexistence of a “promotional infrastructure” (like the German Book Office or other similar, government funded agencies around the world) as one of the main reasons for the lack of translations of Russian works into other languages.

(As a U.S. publisher specializing in literature in translation, this is a huge pet peeve of mine. Granted, I love data. Numbers. Statistics. The Book Industry as Industry. Business and Growth. But damn it, I also love literature and reading. And finding new voices. Which is what the Frankfurt Book Fair is best at. Providing interested and curious editors with lists upon lists. With more recommendations than you can ever process. This is the second year in a row I’ve attended the Russian Book Presentation, and here’s to hoping that in 2010 the event will include a booklet featuring a dozen contemporary Russian writers whose last names aren’t Sorokin or Pelevin. . . . I will make my way over the official Russian stand at some point, so hopefully I’ll be posting a cool update to this sometime soon . . .)

On the eBook side of things, Alexander Roife, the CEO of LitRes.ru, highlighted the rapid sales growth Russian eBooks are experiencing. As he admitted, Russia is probably best known for its e-piracy and distribution of free books, music, and videos, but nevertheless, best-sellers on LitRes.ru—a legal eBook retailer founded in 2007—are selling between 3,000 and 6,000 copies. Which seems almost too good to be true . . . But if it is, Russia’s book market is definitely primed for a strong recovery from last year’s economic slump.

19 October 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This post originally appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog. I highly recommend visiting the official blog for interesting posts from Richard Nash, Alex Hippisley-Cox, and Arun Wolf

The first ever Tools of Change Frankfurt conference took place all day today, bringing together representatives from a number of different parts of the book industry to discuss opportunities for the future of the publishing industry.

Seeing as that my flight arrived at 7am this morning, I didn’t exactly make it to the opening sessions . . . and wasn’t entirely cogent during the panel that I participated on.

That said, the presentations I attended were pretty inspiring, especially the one from Michael Tamblyn’s “Your Reading Life, Always With You,” which employed a very “reader-centric” approach to contemplating the future of e-books.

Tamblyn—the VP of content, sales, and merchandising at Shortcovers.com, an e-book retailer launched by Canada’s Indigo Books & Music, Inc.—gave a very engaging and humorous presentation littered with real-life situations and the impact these situations should have on the future of e-books.

His basic goal was to demonstrate the readers would be willing to pay $14+ for an e-book—if there are enough useful features included. This might seem like a small point, but publishers have been collectively freaking out about the now-almost-standard $9.99 price point that Amazon.com has helped institute and that readers have cottoned on to. Remember the #9.99boycott of a few months back? This is supply meets demand meets value expectations stuff, and at the moment, what you get when you buy an e-book is only worth $9.99 to the vast majority of e-book users.

But Tamblyn things that can change. He pointed out a myriad of features that would entice readers to fork over a few extra bucks for an improve level of e-functionality.

For example, “longevity of the book” was an obvious starting point. A traditional book can be passed down from mother to son, generation after generation, until the book falls apart or goes missing. Tamblyn’s argument was the readers would pay an addition $.25 for an e-book with this feature.[gallery]

Other potential e-book features Tamblyn thought readers would be willing to cough up a few cents for, included:

  • “shared library,” the digital equivalent of what happens when two people move in together and start sharing books;
  • “multiple platforms,” which would allow a customer to purchase the e-book, print book, and audio-book versions of a title for one low price;
  • “loaning ability,” so that you can share your favorite books with someone and cultivate word-of-mouth; and
  • “the social aspect of reading,” through which it would be possible to share information about what you’re reading or have read via all the various book-related social networks such as Good Reads and LibraryThing.

Tamblyn briefly touched on the technical side—claiming that all of the features discussed could be implemented almost immediately—but what he’s most concerned with is giving readers what they actually want. And getting other publishers to buy into this vision.

Personally, as a print book publisher and reader, I was actually swayed quite a bit by his presentation. With each example I could imagine how this would occur in my life and how I’d be much more tempted to invest in an e-reader if x + y + z were possible. It was also striking how well his ideas fit in with those found in Ted Striphas’s The Late Age of Print.

This need for publishers to be “reader-centric” when expanding their digital initiatives was a theme that ran throughout the Tools of Change panels, including the panel Richard Nash of Cursor moderated on the “Deconglomerated Publisher & the End of the Supply Chain,” (which is also the one I participated on) and Kassia Kroszer’s presentation on “Starting from Scratch” in building a digital publishing company.

Never having been to a TOC conference, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but the turnout was fantastic and the level of discussion extremely sophisticated. Great first year, and hopefully this will become a staple of the Frankfurt Book Fair for years to come.

13 October 09 | N. J. Furl | Comments

Chad may be at the Frankfurt Book Fair all week—making it quieter over here—but you can still read all about it on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog. Chad and a handful of others are all contributing.

29 September 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Just wanted to mention that I’m going to be writing a number of articles for the Publishing Perspectives Show Daily at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair. Actually, I’m working on a bunch of them right now . . . But that said, if you have an interesting announcement/story/event related to the FBF, please feel free to contact me at chad.post [at] rochester [dot] edu. We’re still looking for good story ideas . . .

10 August 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Just got a message from Riky Stock at the German Book Office that there are still a few openings for this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair International Booksellers Program. Similar to the editor’s trip, this program helps introduce booksellers from around the world to their German counterparts. Somewhat geared towards people interested in importing and selling German books, but I can only imagine that any perceptive bookseller would get a lot out of this sort of trip and the various meetings with international booksellers.

Anyway, here’s the info she sent me:

The international programme provides foreign booksellers with an insight into the functions and structures of the German book trade, enabling them to efficiently organise their import and sales of German books. The programme promotes dialogue with other booksellers, German publishers and wholesalers and helps participants to create their own network.

In addition to the attendance at the Frankfurt Book Fair and visits to German publishing companies the programme includes an introduction to the German book market, one day of work experience in a bookshop, two visits to wholesalers as well as cultural activities.

All visits will be supported by presentations given during the seminar. Participants will be able to report about their home countries’ book markets. Time is allowed for in depth exchanges of experience between participants, speakers and organisers.

Booksellers Programme 2009

Organizer: Ausstellungs- und Messe-GmbH / Frankfurt Book Fair

Funded by: Foreign Office, Frankfurt Book Fair

Date: 15 – 22 October 2009

Participants: booksellers from non-German speaking regions with an interest in importing German books

Seminar language: English

Costs for participants: € 290,- incl. VAT;
Travel expenses to Germany and back home are excluded.
Room, board and local transport is taken care of by the organiser.

Contact: Nadja Mortensen: mortensen at book-fair dot com

23 June 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

As mentioned last week, China is the Guest of Honor at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, and to prepare for this, four journalists from the FBF have headed over to Peking on a “journey of literary discovery.” (Which I believe means listening to a lot of speeches about China’s book industry and traveling around to various stores, publishers, etc.)

Ed Nawotka (of Publishing Perspectives and PW) is one of the journalists, and will be posting a series of stories all week about the literary scene in China.

Not too much online yet, but there is a post about how many Kindles he saw on the plane (and the lack of good travel books available for the Kindle) and one about the Joyful O2Sun Bookstore.

As the week progresses, I’m sure this will get more and more interesting. Definitely worth checking in on, and I’ll be sure to post about any really interesting pieces.

19 June 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Over the past couple days, I’ve received two interesting press releases from the Frankfurt Book Fair worth sharing.

First off, it was announced earlier this week that Finland will be the 2014 Guest of Honor. From the press release:

Finland is known for its literary export of children’s books – for example, Tove Jansson’s “Finn Family Moomintroll” – and of mystery novels, including authors like Pentti Kirstilä, Matti Y. Joensuu, Outi Pakkanen or Taavi Soininvaara. Authors like Kari Hotakainen, Anja Snellmann or Arto Paasilinna have also managed to make the leap into the international publishing world – their most important works are also available in German translation.

For more information about Finnish literature, I highly recommend checking our the online journal Books from Finland. We’ve written about this before, but honestly, this is the best place to find samples, read reviews of Finnish works, etc. Also, although it’s not exclusively Finnish, the blog Nordic Voices in Translation is a fantastic source for information and sample translations. (Especially sample translations.)

For more information about China, this year’s Guest of Honor, the Frankfurt Book Fair put together this very handy overview of the Chinese book market, which includes a brief survey of the development of Chinese contemporary literature and a review of the development of Chinese literature in 21st century.

*

And on a slightly different note, the application information for the international bookseller’s program is now available. I personally think this sounds really interesting:

The international programme provides foreign booksellers with an insight into the functions and structures of the German book trade, enabling them to efficiently organise their import and sales of German books. The programme promotes dialogue with other booksellers, German publishers and wholesalers and helps participants to create their own network.

In addition to the attendance at the Frankfurt Book Fair and visits to German publishing companies the programme includes an introduction to the German book market, one day of work experience in a bookshop, two visits to wholesalers as well as cultural activities.

All visits will be supported by presentations given during the seminar. Participants will be able to report about their home countries’ book markets. Time is allowed for indepth exchanges of experience between participants, speakers and organisers.

Application deadline is July 15th, and all the necessary info can be found at the link above.

19 March 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The new issue of the Frankfurt Book Fair is now available online, and includes:

17 February 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Following on his hilarious (and spot-on) piece on the MLA convention, Gideon Lewis-Kraus has an article in the new Harper’s on life and the Frankfurt Book Fair.

As is evident from the title—“The Last Book Party”—Gideon’s piece is more about the people, the social aspects, the scene of the Frankfurt Book Fair than anything else. (For anyone who doesn’t know, in October, thousands of publishing people descend on Frankfurt, Germany to spend five days buying and selling—or at least talking about buying and selling—rights to books. We usually come back with four-plus linear feet of catalogs, samples, promotional books, etc., that we slowly read through over the ensuing twelve months before the practice starts all over again . . .) And this plays to Gideon’s strengths as a writer—he’s great at depicting these sorts of events, making them make sense to a newcomer, and making the overly familiar step back and see these ritualized occurrences in a slightly odder light.

And he’s great at describing people and getting excellent quotes. Especially from the always on and always entertaining Ira Silverberg:

Ira, in a bracingly Windsor-knotted pink tie and smart blue sports jacket, just stepped off the red-eye from New York but looks as though he just stepped out of an extravagant shower. His gray curls, shot through with some black still, are swept back from his forehead in a way that seems both distinguished and boyish. Credited with looking like a Jewish Richard Gere, he is finer-hewn than that, his features sharper, more clever. [. . .]

“Our roots are in literary books,” Ira says. (When Ira was a teenager he went on a pilgrimage to see Burroughs.) “They’re not our day-to-day business; our day-to-day business is disgusting. You’ll be hearing a lot about vampire year. But here is where we can at least remember what we think differentiates us from widget salesmen.”

Thankfully the piece doesn’t devolve into a look at how publishing people spend all their time drinking, screwing around, and pretending they live glamorous lives once they get out from behind their desks. Instead he poignantly pokes fun at this:

It’s getting later and drunker, and one young foreign-rights agent pointedly asks me how the late-night scene at the Frankfurter Hof could possibly be relevant to my purposes. Motoko [Rich of the New York Times, I say, told me I should hang out here. The agent says it makes her and everyone else uncomfortable that I’m hanging around when everybody’s drunk, that maybe what I’m jotting down is that someone is flirting and then leaving with a married person. I’m pretty sure I know the flirtatious pair she’s referring to, from the previous evening, though I certainly didn’t know until now that they’d left together; I couldn’t care less. Her pointing this out seems less defensive than insistent, as if she wants to make sure I register that despite the crisis in the industry, married people in Frankfurt are still sleeping with people to whom they happen not to be married. I take out my notebook and write, “Motoko useful again.”

What Gideon starts to develop in the piece is an interesting model of the ultimate publisher/editor/agent: someone who has both aesthetic and commercial chops. A person who loves real literature, and knows how to pick a commercial success. It’s an interesting idea that shuffles aside a lot of the reasons why a particular book becomes a worldwide hit, but is useful way of looking at the big names in the publishing world.

One of the people Gideon centers on is Andrew “The Jackal” Wylie, who represents writers like Italo Calvino and (now) Robert Bolano, and is also known for his vicious nature and for creating nasty bidding wars. (The bit about Gideon hedging on translating the title of the German article for Wylie—the title refers to the super-agent as the “greediest” man at Frankfurt—is hysterical.)

The whole article is pretty entertaining, and worth checking out to get a sense of what the Frankfurt Book Fair is like.

8 December 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The December Issue of the Frankfurt Book Fair Newsletter is now available online and includes a number of interesting pieces.

The article on the 10th Anniversary of the German Book Office, which highlights the difficulties of getting German titles published in English translation and the job the GBO is doing to make this happen is interesting if for nothing else than Lorin Stein’s quote that “In America the market for translated literature is—almost without exception—the most sophisticated readership we have.”

The article on creating networks of young publishers focuses on the Society of Young Publishers and the German young publishers groups and the desire to create a large “international network for young publishers—from Iceland to the Arab world.” According to this piece there will be an exploratory meeting at this year’s London Book Fair and BookExpo America, with a first event to take place at next fall’s Frankfurt Book Fair.

With my obsession about the future of publishing though, the thing that really caught my eye is this ongoing series about the future of the industry around the world. Right now there are pieces from the U.S., China, Germany, South Africa, and the Arab World, and there are more in the works for future newsletters. I’m a big fan of this series, especially since each entry/region is pretty distinct in its approach and thoughts about the future. A series definitely worth checking out and keeping an eye on.

18 November 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments [1]

In one of my Frankfurt posts I mentioned the 30 Great Authors from Argentina (warning—pdf file) “brochure” that the Fundacion TyPA put together to help promote writers who had yet to be translated out of Spanish.

It’s hard to describe this elegant, unique brochure (more like oversized trading cards in a box than a printed brochure), but some (poor quality) pictures might help:

It’s really cool that TyPA decided to feature only authors who hadn’t been translated. Sure that leaves out some great contemporary writers (in the intro they mention Cesar Aira, Martin Kohan, and Alan Pauls), but brings attention to authors most editors otherwise wouldn’t hear about, such as Eduardo Muslip, Oliverio Coelho, and Carlos Gamerro. (Descriptions of their novels can be found in the pdf version of the brochures.)

There were three books that really caught my eye:

The No Variations by Luis Chitarroni (Interzona, 2007): “In this book—one of the most complex and challenging texts of Argentine literature in recent years—the Borgesian themes of erudition, tradition, and consecraton are sent through the shredding machine. The result is a ‘novel’ made up of diaries, notes, forgetfulness, articles, and poems created by writers invented by the author.”

Apex by Gustavo Ferreyra (Sudamericana, 2004): “The city—Buenos Aires—emerges slowly in this novel, and it is the city we deserve, the novel-city of the present. Action and geography seem to walk together and, sometimes, join efforts to keep the characters of the story apart, missing each other in the places where they should have met. And the other way around. In this way, we—the readers—can discover details that a more general view would never show us. Up close, Apex seems to say, every act is a criminal act; up close, every fictional character is a monster.”

Neon by Liliana Heer (Paradiso, 2007): “Neon, a wonderful example of this century’s expressionism, invites the reader to delve into the fundamentals of power. In this novel three characters recreate humanity in Kafka’s style. Evil is shown from different points of view, in relation with an inheritance, with repression, with racial prejudices, and with some humorous lines that balance on the edge between madness and reason, justice and injustice, man and animal. And above all towers an erotic scene that is the leitmotiv of the whole story . . .”

22 October 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This somewhat maudlin post originally appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog.

Although the Fair doesn’t officially close for a little while, for all intents and purposes, my time here is over. I’ve met with all the people I needed to meet with, visited all the stands I needed to visit, and drank enough beer to last me till FBF ‘09 and beyond.

Despite the fact that I really need some restful sleep–without the aid of alcohol–and time to sort through all the information I’ve gathered over the past six days, I’m still a bit sad to see the fair end. I get an ache inside when I see the ice cream carts empty and shut down for the year.

To me, the fair officially ended with the “Fairwell” Reception that just took place. Sponsored by the German Book Office of New Dehli, it featured Fair Director Jurgen Boos, who compared the Fair to a palimpsest, a collection of written, erased, and rewritted experiences from which each person takes away some images and ideas important to them. He also honored the participants in the Invitation Programme for Exhibitors, a group of 25 publishers from Africa, Asia, Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe who are given a free stand at the Fair and who attend a two-day seminar to learn about the Fair and the German book market as a whole.

This year’s participants included Almadia Editorial, a young press from Oaxaca that I found out about yesterday and am excited to check out in more detail when I get home. (They have a great list and beautiful production.)

I can’t think of a good parting line . . . For anyone who has never been here, the Frankfurt Book Fair is almost impossible to summarize. It’s an intense week of meetings every half-hour on the half-hour. A week of very late nights (turn early mornings) of partying and mingling and exchanging information. It’s a chance to reconnect with international colleagues and a chance to learn more about the international publishing scene in one week than most people do in a lifetime. It’s also incredibly exhausting and extremely exhilarating to be in a place where books really, truly matter to all the tens of thousands of people in attendance. And it’s also officially over.

22 October 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments [2]

This post originally appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog. (And hopefully this situation will be written up in the near future by someone with more info and journalistic skills.)

In addition to talking about Marguerite Duras at the Frankfurter Hof (as Ed mentioned below), Anne-Solange, the rights director for Gallimard, also spoke at length about Nobel Prize winner Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio, his latest book, and her decision not to auction this to American publishers during the fair.

Although a number of French writers have won the prize over the years (fourteen, I believe), this was the first Gallimard author to win during Anne-Solange’s tenure. And Le Clezio is most definitely a Gallimard author–all of his forty plus titles are published there, beginning with Le Procès-Verbal (The Interrogation) in 1963. His most recent book is Ritournelle de la faim, which came out earlier this year.

His books have been translated all over the world, and a number of titles have even been translated into English and published in America. Most recently, Godine published The Prospector and Curbstone did Wandering Star. Nevertheless, American journalists shrugged their shoulders in confusion when he was announced as the Nobel winner last week, and at the fair, a very important American publisher referred to Le Clezio as “unknown” to Anne-Solange. (Coincidentally, Le Clezio’s Dutch publisher was there to speak up about the seven titles he has in print.)

That’s where this story gets interesting to me. Rather than jumping on the Nobel buzz and trying to auction the rights to the new Le Clezio book to a commercial U.S. publisher, Anne-Solange decided not to even try to sell the rights at the Fair. “When an American publisher asks me about the book I reply with ‘Why are you interested in this Le Clezio? What do you know about his other books?,’ ” she said, clearly getting some well-deserved pleasure out of the baffled responses. “I tell them that I’ll note their interest, but this is a new book, I don’t need to rush the sale, I’ll sell the rights later. Instead I want to focus on getting a lot of Le Clezio in print.”

That’s the crux of the situation: Simon & Schuster have the rights to four titles, but isn’t really jumping at the chance to make these available. This is in contrast with Le Clezio’s German publisher which put ten titles back in print (and in bookstores) three days after the Nobel announcement. As is common in the U.S. publishing scene, most publishers are only interested in the new book and hesitate to go back to do an author’s older work. (Which is ridiculous and emphasizes how the commercial market trumps quality in America.)

After speaking with her for a while, it’s clear that Anne-Solange wants to do right by Le Clezio’s work, rather than simply cashing in on his current fame. To me, this is a very valid approach, but one that most people will react badly to. (Anne-Solange has a bit of a reputation for criticizing American publishers and their resistance to French–well, any foreign country’s–fiction.) The desire to “create a context” for an author’s work is very admirable, and was echoed in my conversation with Carles Torner of the Ramon Llull Institut who wants a wide range of classic and modern Catalan authors translated into English rather than just a few contemporary books.

Whether or not Anne-Solange’s plan will work out and allow for a slew of Le Clezio books to become available to American readers remains to be seen. This is pure speculation, but I think it’s going to take some time and an independent press to bring Le Clezio to the U.S. market. Big presses have the ability to put books in print virtually overnight, but it doesn’t seem like they think of Le Clezio as a potentially profitable author. (Which seems strange, but there are those French Nobel winners–cough, Claude Simon, cough–who don’t sell very well in America despite the quality of their works.) They would also be adverse to translating some of the past books. An independent press might have a different viewpoint, although it would be more difficult for a smaller press to get a bunch of titles in print and in stores in a short period of time.

But all this could change come Monday when a Le Clezio story appears in the new issue of the New Yorker . . .

22 October 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This post originally appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog.

Catalan Culture was last year’s Guest of Honor at the Fair, and put on a huge display of Catalan culture, and producing a number of slick publications and presentations to help make people aware of their rich literary tradition. (It’s sad, but I think a lot of Americans–and possibly others–think that Catalan is a Spanish dialect rather than recognizing that it’s a unique language. Again, Horace Engdahl, lack of literature in translation, America isolationism, etc., etc., etc.) Based on the sheer number of people visiting their booth and attending their fabulous parties, it seemed pretty successful, and based on my conversation with Carles Torner of the Ramon Llull Insitut, this positive effect has carried over quite well.

“Being the Guest of Honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair was very important to us,” Torner said. “By the end of this year there will have been as many translations of Catalan books into other languages as there was in 2007.” Which sounds sort of static, but is actually a huge gain considering that 53 titles (including a lot of multi-volume titles) were published in German in preparation for the Frankfurt Book Fair.

(I’m going to digress for a moment here: as I typed that it occured to me just how special it is to be the Guest of Honor. And just how civil, bookish, and outward looking the German publishing scene is. There’s a better chance of the Cubs winning the World Series than American publishers getting together and publishing a shitload of books in translation in preparation for BookExpo America. Dead horse, beating it, I know, I know, but for all doubters of Engdahl’s statments, here’s another instance pointing to just how right he is.)

(Another digression: the press I run is publishing three Catalan works over the next eighteen-months thanks to last year’s FBF and an amazing visit to Barcelona.)

Carles’s feeling is that the publication of Catalan literature–classic, modern, and contemporary–by German publishers sent a message to the rest of the publishing world. Jaume Cabre is a perfect example. After being published by Surhkamp for the Fair, his latest novel Les veus del Pamano was picked up by Dutch, Italian, French, and even Romanian publishers. That’s how the network of publishers I’ve mentioned before functions: if a couple well-respected presses publish a book, it sends a message to everyone else that they should pay attention. (Well–again with the horse–except maybe in the case of Le Clezio. He’s published by Hanser in Germany and many other fantastic presses, but Simon & Schuster doesn’t seem to be rushing his books back into print . . .)

In terms of numbers, over 80 translations of Catalan books came out last year around the world (or at least were subsidized by the Ramon Llull Institut) and that number will likely be broken this year.

Carles also mentioned that another great effect of being the Guest of Honor is the fact that they no longer have to spend time explaining what Catalonia is–something that used to be a huge problem. But now there are other problems. Similar to the situation with Dutch and China (see my earlier post), some Greek publishers became very interested in acquiring Catalan works last year, but at the time there were no Catalan to Greek literary translators . . . So the Ramon Llull Insitut organized a special seminar, helped get some translators up to speed, and now eight books are under contract with Greek publishers.

Since last year’s Fair, the Ramon Llull Institut has continued to expand its activities, hosting a number of events at this year’s PEN World Voices Festival (including one to celebrate the Review of Contemporary Fiction’s New Catalan Writing issue), planning a seminar in New York in November 2009 to bring together translators, critics, and publishers interested in Catalan culture, and opening an office in New York next year.

22 October 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This post originally appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog.

(Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the English-language version of this brochure—”* Great Translation by the Way”—is available for download from the NLPVF site. Here’s the Dutch version and if anyone can find the English, please let me know. And apologies for the redundancy of the opening paragraph of this post.)

Literature in translation–and all that goes into producing, publishing, and promoting literature in translation–is a huge interest of mine. (See my U.S. blog Three Percent and/or Open Letter, the publishing company I run.) So I was extremely excited to come across “* Great translation by the way” by Martin de Haan and Rokus Hofstede, a brochure on display at the the Foundation for the Production and Translation of Dutch Literature stand.

This is a fascinating booklet that builds off of some of the ideas in the “To Be Translated or Not to Be” report that was issued from PEN America and the Ramon Llull Institut at last year’s Fair, focusing on the current situation of transltion in the Netherlands, and proposing a set of directives that the European Union should implement to help preserve and cultivate a “flourishing translation culture.”

The title and the purpose are explained in the opening:

” ‘Great translation by the way.’ It is with off-hand comments like these that book reviewers typically dismiss the work of a translator–assuming, that is, that they mention the translator at all. Such cursory treatment makes painfully clear where translators stand in the literary pecking order: right at the bottom.

“This document is a pleas to set matters right and to give a central place to literary translation as a profession. This is a matter of some urgency, as the quality of translations from and into Dutch is under threat and a huge shortage of translators is looming.”

The “huge shortage of translators” problem exists throughout the world, with “meagre pay, low professional status and a lack of educational facilities” being the primary deterrents. Recently, Chinese publishers bought the rights to 60 Dutch works, which is fantastic on one hand, except for the fact that at the time there was only one living Dutch to Chinese translator . . .

Which, in my opinion, is a huge problem. Translated literature is a fantastic way to encounter other cultures and a way to exchange ideas, two concepts that are at the heart of what makes the Frankfurt Book Fair so special. (And at the heart of why Horace Engdahl said that America was too insular to participate in world literature. We publish a miniscule number of translations a year–approx. 330 new translations of adult fiction and poetry. Seriously.)

Maria Vlaar, the Deputy Director of the Foundation for the Production and Translation of Dutch Literature, talked to me about this booklet, explaining that they published this booklet to create a roadmap of sorts for how the E.U. could support translation culture and help it grow in a way that’s more effective and ambitious than simply providing a couple thousand euros in translation subsidies. (Which is what they do now.)

After setting the scene, the booklet details five general recommendations, some specific to the Netherlands, others that apply to all of Europe: 1) establish a degree program in translation to and from Dutch, 2) support lifelong learning and professional development for translators, 3) boost the position of the translator by helping protect their rights and increase their pay and visibility, 4) provide funds to publishers doing “difficult” works that would otherwise flounder in the marketplace, and 5) encourage intercultural dialogue about translation.

One of the specific programs Ms. Vlaar is really big on is the creation and funding of “Translator Houses” throughout Europe. These Houses serve as a place where translators can go and live for a month to work on the translation their doing in the book’s country of origin. (For instance, someone translating a Spanish book in to Dutch could spend a month in Spain to research, increase their knowledge of the area, etc.) One of these houses exists in Amsterdam, and almost 50 translators a year are flown in and put up in one of five apartments where they can work. And a number are even given a 1,000 euro stipend to help with daily expenses. Her vision is that these Houses would exist throughout Europe, thus increasing cultural exchanges and growing the European network of translators.

What’s most interesting to me about her recommendations and ideas about how the E.U. could support this culture is the similarity to current marketing ideas and the shift away from only funding a specific product to funding a group of people who would directly impact the translation scene for years and years to come. Don’t get me wrong, all us publishers would still get our translation subsidies (sigh of relief), but at the same time the E.U. would also be supporting the education and opportunities for a wide number of people who are constantly in contact with publishers and authors, and often serve as “cultural ambassadors,” helping increase the number of translations published.

Thanks to this booklet and last year’s “To Be Translated or Not to Be” report, there is a growing awareness of the need to support literature in translation, and it’s great to see some specific, doable (post-bank bailout, of course–there will always be an economic pecking order) ideas being presented.

Copies of “* Great translation by the way” are available in English and Dutch at stand 6.0 B969.

22 October 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This post originally appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog.

As Richard Nash and I agreed, the only thing that needs to be said about book piracy is that there’s no where near enough of it. Anyway, here goes:

The possibilities of the internet and our increasingly-connected culture can make a publisher’s eyes light up and can strike fear in his heart simultaneously. As we all know, the internet is a great tool for finding information, for connecting with other people, and now, in this “web 2.0″ world, for creating and sharing your creative endeavors, developing new communities, and connecting with friends and colleagues from all over the world.

It’s also a place where you can illegally download scanned versions of books (a la the last Harry Potter book that was leaked online days before arriving in stores), audiobooks, mp3s, movies, etc. Thanks to filesharing, one-click download sites, and other digital “pirates,” bascially anything you want you can find online for free.

To help give publishers advice on these wonderful/scary opportunities, the International Publishers Association hosted two panels today: “Online Book Piracy: Will the Internet Kill Publishing?” and “Preparing Publishers for Web 2.0.” It was interesting how well these two panels fit together in terms of viewpoint and overall tone, going from a more outraged and suspicious view of how the internet is stealing business, to a more optimistic look at the future of publishing in our digital age.

Martin Steinebach started off the piracy panel pointing out how easy it is for someone to create and disseminate a digital version of a book. Through sites like Pirate Bay (more on that in a minute) and Literature-Free.com, one can find thousands of e-books and audiobooks that can be downloaded for free (illegally, of course) with the click of a button. He also pointed out what an enormous challenge it is trying to shut down digital pirates. Every time a site or distribution method (such as a peer-to-peer site) is shut down, another site or mode of dissemination (such as a one-click download site) comes into existence. Because of the money pirates make via ads and user fees is so significant, trying to completely prevent online piracy is like trying to reverse a hurrican with a small fan.

That’s the situation in Sweden anyway, where Kjell Bohlund is trying to takedown Pirate Bay, but is struggling to overcome the dominant political and social scenes in which these digital pirates are seen as Robin Hood-like figures making cultural ideas available to everyone for free. In fact, in a recent survey 92 per cent of Swedes thought too much time and effort was going into trying to stop file-sharing websites. And the Prime Minister – in talking about illegal downloading – once said ”You can’t make a whole generation into criminals.”

Although stopping illegal downloads seems to be a Sisyphean task, there are a lot of people out there trying to curb their monetary “losses.” (I have to admit that I’m pretty suspect of all statistics on how much money is lost due to pirates. These figures seem to assume that people who “stole” a song or ebook would have bought that particular book or album if only the free downloadable version weren’t available. Which is pure rubbish and is why some publishers are experimenting with free downloads of their books.) The law firm of Covington & Burling is like the CSI team of internet enforcement, monitoring illegal downloads and helping takedown a number of these services. In the near future, educational e-books published by Even-Moor will be able to ”phone home,” allowing the publisher to “track usage of the book by IP address.” (Which sounds incredibly invasive to me. Could you imagine if there was a way that the publisher could tell where a particular copy of a print book was being read?)

The second panel on this thing we call “web 2.0″ (a term which all the panelists agreed was rather silly and meaningless) was much less reactionary. Instead, they focused on mechanisms that could be created to assist in controlling your digital content without creating such a devisive situation. As Mark Bide pointed out, right now our only tool for dealing with online copyright infringement (such as “re-using” someone’s content in a YouTube video) is litigation, which is a costly and ineffective tool. He pointed to Google Books as a better model for dealing with these issues in our day and age. Rather than suing and countersuing over copyright infringement when Google started scanning the world’s books, publishers and Google came together and came up with mechanisms and protocols so that publishers could control how much of their content was made avaialble and what restrictions were put in place. (For example, a publisher could place a restriction that only 10 per cent of a particular title can be viewed by an individual in a given day.)

Gatekeeping and the relationship between audiences and creators was the key for this panel. The web 2.0 model is one of interactivity and re-use. Of allowing audiences to participate in creating content, closing the gap between publisher and reader. Author sites, wiki sites, co-created sites, and similar ideas present amazing marketing opportunities (Simon Juden of the Publishers Association emphasized the new ways in which communities can be formed around ideas, books, or authors, in today’s world, and the ways in which this can be advantageous to publishers), and sticky rights issues. Looking to the future though, publishers will have to deal with these isuses and strike the correct balance that allows readers to creatively interact with a publisher’s content while also rewarding creators and maintaining a certain degree of control over how their intellectual property is distributed.

21 October 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This post originally appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog.

(There was also talk of an International Society of Young Publishers—more on that in the near future.)

Athough most of the talk at Frankfurt is about the publishers, editors, agents, and authors, it’s also a great place for booksellers to connect with each other and to find out about various resources, such as the International Congress of Young Booksellers.

The ICYB has been around for over 50 years and is an organization designed to support “young” booksellers interested in sharing ideas with other booksellers from around the world. I put “young” in quotes, since they accept anyone into the organization–those young in age, in experience, in heart . . .

One of the primary activities of the ICYB is their annual congress, which takes place at the end of May in a different country every year. Last year it was in Athens, Greece and was attended by more than 35 booksellers from 12 different countries. (Although no one from the U.S. or UK attended . . .) And At the Congress the booksellers share various ideas, present info about the book trade in their country, visit bookstores, work on projects, and have an excellent opportunity to network with other people who are passionate about books.

It’s worth mentioned that this week-long event isn’t limited to booksellers–publishers and others in the book trade are more than welcome to attend. As Miriam Feldmann stated, it’s much better to have a mix of perspectives so that people working in different parts of the industry can have a better perspective on how everything functions, and on how things could be improved.

Next year the Congress will take place in Frankfurt, and the ICYB is expecting a large group. (Past Congresses in Finland and Germany drew more than 50 booksllers.) The theme will be E-motion@l Bookselling and will be held in the German booksellers school in Frankfurt.

To Americans, the idea of “bookselling school” probably seems a bit odd, yet in Germany, you can’t become an official bookseller before completing this program, which generally takes three years, and consists of working almost 40-hour weeks at a bookstore while also taking two full days of classes. And these aren’t just classes on how to create beautiful displays–students study economics, literature, math, and more, and take two crucial exams covering the whole of the book business and their studies that they have to pass in order to graduate.

Miriam Feldmann, 25, will be graduating from bookselling school next May and has been working in a bookstore in Cologne for the past couple years. Despite the systematic professionalization of the bookselling field, her description of the bookselling scene in Germany is very reminiscent of bookselling in America: stores struggle to stay afloat, chains stores are coming to dominate the marketplace, and booksellers generally don’t make much money. But the job does come with a great deal of respect . . .

In addition to continuing to attend the Congress to find out about bookselling in other countries, Miriam’s hope is to move to the U.S. next summer to get a better sense of America’s book world.

More information about the ICYB can be found at their website, where you’ll also find an application form to attend the 2009 conference, which runs from May 24th through the 30th.

21 October 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This post originally appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog.

In contrast to Russia, both the Korean government and the Romanian government have recently launched large projects to better promote their writers abroad.

The Korea Literature Translation Institute (6.0 E 937) recently published some wonderful, quite elegant materials to help foreign publishers get a better sense of the Korean literary scene. Just in time for the fair, they published the first issue of a list: Books from Korea, a new quarterly magazine with essays, articles, samples, reviews, and interviews of Korean writers and books. It’s a nice glossy magazine filled with interesting content, like a piece called “The Postmodern City and Its Discontents.”

As if that weren’t enough, they also published the first volume of “New Writing from Korea,” a 374-page collection of excerpts from twenty-five contemporary Korean authors. It’s about half-prose, half-poetry, and is one of the densest, heaviest books I’ve ever tried to lug around in my bag. And possibly the first comprehensive introduction to Korean literature that I’ve encountered.

Over in Romania, they announced the launch of Contemporary Romanian Writers, a new website providing bio and bibliographic information along with book descriptions and excerpts for a host of Romanian writers. From a quick scan, it’s a very well designed site, and one that will be incredibly useful to any publisher interested in Romanian lit.

Obviously a number of other countries are producing beautiful brochures and other materials to promote their authors, but these two really stand out as impressive, ambitious projects.

21 October 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This post originally appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog, and drew a comment . . .

At the urging of the Frankfurt Book Fair and the German Book Office in Moscow, Russian representatives put on a special “Look at Russia” seminar earlier today. Vladimir Grigoriev, the deputy head of the Federal Agency for Press and Mass Communication, gave a short presentation filled with statistics about the Russian publishing scene, including:

  • Approx. 110,000 titles are published each year, from 100 different publishers;
  • 80 per cent of these publishers are based in Moscow (Grigoriev said that he’d rather see the scene spread out throughout the country);
  • More than 80 per cent of the titles published each year are from Russian authors;
  • Translation is a growing field, with approx. 6,000 English works translated into Russia each year, 1,000 from Germany and France, 300+ from Spanish–all numbers that exceed the number of translations published in the U.S. each year;
  • Over the next couple of years, Grigoriev believes one or two chains will come to dominate the bookselling market. At the moment there isn’t any one company with a presence throughout Russia.

Always interesting to get these facts, and to compare them with other countries, but I wish he (or another presenter) would’ve talked about some contemporary writers, particular publishing houses, etc. Unlike a number of other countries (Netherlands, Estonia, France, Germany, and many more), Russia does not have a “book office” or any other organization designed to promote Russia literature abroad, which is one reason that only a few contemporary writers are being translated.

Surprisingly (to me at least), the question and answer session got a bit tense when someone questioned the motive of the Russian booth, claiming that instead of sending Russia authors to represent the culture, they only sent the government . . . Grigoriev dodged the question gracefully, claiming that the private publishing scene has only existed for seventeen years, so publishers were still learning how to promote authors abroad. He did follow this up by pointing out that the only state-run publishers are the ones that produce medical books, the official encylopedia, and textbooks . . . You know, fact-based publications. Hmm.

Note: One of things I didn’t mention in this piece was how the event ended. After the initial round of speeches, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s old (literally) friend and biographer gave a brief talk. Honestly, I’m not sure if this woman had ever used a microphone in her life. Instead of speaking into it, she kept dropping it, hitting various objects, causing eardrum-exploding feedback loops.

21 October 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments [1]

This originally appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog.

This past spring I was fortunate enough to be able to participate in a Editors’ Week in Buenos Aires. It was an amazing experience, solidifying my lifelong interest in Argentine literature, and giving me a once-in-a-lifetime chance to visit the place where many of my favorite books are set. I also met a lot great people, and found out about a lot great authors. So personally, I’m very excited to see what Argentina does when it’s the Guest of Honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2010, which, in a way, the events taking place this year are building up to.

Fundacion TyPA (the same organization that sponsors the editorial trips) are putting on two key events this week, both entitled “Argentinean Publishing Inside-Out.” The first took place this afternoon, featuring European publishers talking about Argentinean books. And on Friday, the counterpart panel takes place with Argentinean publishers talking about the contemporary scene.

Geoff Mulligan, Dominique Bourgois, and Michi Strausfeld, were there today to talk about Argentinean translations they’d published. Geoff emphasized the need to find a great translator (editing a bad translation consumes more time than any of us have), while Dominique had a fantastic quote about how “publishing is a network of writers and a network of friends”.

She said that in relation to a question about how to find Argentinean authors, a question that allowed Gabriela Adamo from TyPA to present their new (first?) catalog of “30 Great Authors from Argentina.” This booklet – actually, it’s a set of 30 envelope-sized cards with info about each author in Spanish and English collected into a cardboard slipcover – is incredibly appealing and very informative. Rather than highlight the Cortazars and Borges and Macedonios of Argentine lit, none of the 30 authors included have been translated into English. Some of the authors are very young, some more established, all very interesting. You can pick up a copy of this catalog at Hall 5.1 E 955.

Note: TyPA will be sending me a pdf of the special brochure/trading cards they made for Frankfurt, and I’ll post it here as soon as possible.

21 October 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This post originally appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair blog. (And this is one of the most serious ones I wrote.)

Today’s EPP (Educational Publishing Pavilion) panel on “Global Innovations and Market Opportunites,” blended together two of the primary focuses running throughout this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair events: educational publishing and digital initiatives. (I’ll be writing about a number of e-publishing panels later this week . . .) This particular panel featured three CEOs who are utilizing emerging technologies to improve the educational content they’re producing.

The event opened with an intro by Dr. Hugh Roome from Scholastic International in which he pointed to four key markets that will become more and more important to educational publishers over the next five years: 1) developing online courses and materials for a variety of students, both in traditional schools and those being home-schooled, 2) English language training for the world, 3) school-to-work programs to teach immediately relevant skills, and 4) working with Ministries of Education in developing countries to incorporate solid, inexpensive educational programs into their poorer schools.

Each of the panelists presented a new technology (or new way to use technology) that would assist in the creation of educational materials designed to reach one of the markets/opportunities Dr. Roome mentioned.

Sudhir Singh Dungarpur from Q2A Media (Hall 8.0 J 954) presented information about the “Interactive Whiteboard,” a multimedia enhanced whiteboard that can be used in classrooms to better engage and interact with students. Although he didn’t have a whiteboard there (it is on display at their stand, which is (Hall 8.0 J 954), it sounded pretty cool. Teachers can edit and load lessons that contain a variety of flash media, learning quizzes, and other interactive activities, encouraging students to “do” things in class. (This “doing” was very important to Sudhir–according to a study he cited, we remember 10% of what we read, 30 per cent of what we say, and 90 per cent of what we see, say, and do. It was interesting, although scary to me, how visual-heavy these new teaching technologies are. Books are being replaced in schools by podcasts and flash animation . . . though if it helps kids learn, it’s definitely a good thing.) The first phase of this project is ready to be deployed, and over 300 schools in Europe will be using these in the near future. And apparently, American schools are receiving large grants to purchase these as well. Of all three presentations, this seemed like the most game-changing technology, altering the way classes can be taught.

The DNL e-book format was the focus of Adam Schmidt’s (DNAML Pty. Ltd., 8.0 L 977) presentation. DNL is a particular e-book format that works on PCs and will soon be Mac-compatible. At this time, it wouldn’t really work with an e-reader because it too is very media/flash heavy. (Maybe in the future . . . It would seem to make most sense to have these books available on iPhones. . . .) The format was pretty nice, contained all the bells and whistles you might expect, and was DRM protected on their server. (This was a huge selling point of his, something that helped his pitch with HarperCollins, but something that I’m personally not keen on. Kids illegally download math books is the least of our problems . . . Kidding of course.) You can also buy the book within the book, which is a very cool function. There wasn’t much info about how easy/difficult it is to create these books, which would’ve been interesting to find out about, especially in contrast to Sophie, a free, very usuable e-book programme.

Finally, Rachelle Cracchiolo from Teacher Created Materials in California (Hall 8.0 O 907) talked about the immense popularity of the podcasts they’ve made available on their website. Although they’ve mainly used these as a marketing tool, she saw a huge growth possibility in providing English as a Second Language content and materials for staff development and teacher training. The basic message: people dig iPods and are willing to listen to things they normally wouldn’t find the time to read and study. Sort of co-opting the Apple cool for educational purposes–not a new idea, but one that could be implemented more widely and in more situations.

Although I’m a trade publisher who loves fiction, this panel was interesting to me in the way it demonstrated how different types of publishers are preparing for the future of publishing and learning.

21 October 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Because I wrote for the Frankfurt Book Fair blog and newsletter, and because yes, I did stay out too late at the Frankfurter Hof and elsewhere, and because the Sportschule (a great place to stay, if not a bit Spartan) has some serious internet difficulties, I really didn’t have a chance to write my usual gossipy, personal posts from Frankfurt. And there’s really no way to go back and recapture the frenetic insanity that is the Frankfurt Book Fair.

(I have to say, one of the big things I’ve noticed upon returning is just how quiet life can be. Not a single person spoke on the bus this morning, and the only thing I heard was a tinny voice from the radio: “. . . bring his liberal values to Congress . . .” The FBF is aflame with noise. Everywhere.)

So instead of writing about the parties and whatnot, over the course of the day I’m going to link to all the posts I wrote for the FBF blog and some of the ones that Edward Nawotka and Andrew Wilkins wrote. (They did a ton more posts than I did.)

It’s not hard to pick up on the evolution of my posts from the FBF . . . They start out as journalistic as I can possibly write and sort of d/evolve into the typical 3P sort of post.

And as I sort through the four bags (seriously, my wrists can attest to the fact that this isn’t an exaggeration) of materials we brought back, I’ll write up the more interesting items.

15 October 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments [1]

One of the coolest things that happened last night was when, in the middle of the Berlin Verlag party, everyone went dead silent to watch the announcement of the Booker Prize. (_The White Tiger_ by Aravind Adiga won.)

For one thing, it was interesting to see people freaking out over a book award. Of course, people from Atlantic were there, and had good reason to be excited, but even so, it was a unique experience.

Even stranger—to Americans—was the fact that the Booker ceremony was televised! Can you imagine an hour-long National Book Award presentation program? Featuring Tom Jones?

Bizarre these countries where the written word is cherished and celebrated . . .

BTW, my posts are up at the “Frankfurt blog.:http://www.book-fair.com/en/blog/ There are three of us covering the fair and tons of events, so this should be one of the best sources for information about what’s going on at this year’s fair.

15 October 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

OK, it’s technically only day one, but man, everyone already looks and seems exhausted. (The stress of the financial crisis? One too many at the Frankfurter Hof? All of the above?)

I’m planning on posting more about the fair here later, but as I mentioned before, I’m also blogging for the English language Frankfurt newsletter, which can be found here.

My first “assignment” was an Educational Publishing Panel (I don’t think this post is up yet, but will be in the near future), and I promise these will get more interesting as the week goes on . . . Next up—in addition to meetings with the Flemish Literary Fund and the translator of Rupert who doubles as a foreign rights agent—is a presentation on publishing Argentine books in translation . . .

13 October 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Another week, another excuse for the probably lack of posts after today. This afternoon I fly out to the Frankfurt Book Fair where I’ll mingle, chat, and drink with thousands of publishers, editors, agents, authors, etc. The fair is almost beyond description, and is indispensable for anyone interested in staying in touch with world literature. The sheer number of meetings from Wednesday through Sunday is almost overwhelming, not to mention the panels and presentations I’m planning on attending, and the long nights mingling at the Frankfurter Hof.

I’ll try to post daily about the fair (thankfully we’re not staying next to the murder field this year), although since I’m going to be officially writing about the Fair for the FBF newsletter and blog, I’m not sure how much time I’ll have available. Regardless, as soon as I figure out exactly where my articles (along with those of my fellow bloggers) will appear, I’ll put up a link. Should be an interesting (re: adrenaline filled and exhausting) week . . .

22 August 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Frankfurt Book Fair (the history of which actually dates back hundreds of years, although the modern version started shortly after WWII), the FBF newsletter is focusing each month on another decade of the fair. This month they look at the 1980s and talk to Peter Mayer, who, at the time, was the CEO of Penguin International and is now the publisher of Overlook.

Sounds like the 80s were a particularly good period of growth for the fair (in 1988 there were 7,000 exhibitors from 92 countries), and Peter’s description of the importance of the fair seems pretty accurate:

You have attended the Frankfurt Book Fair for over 40 years. What does the Fair mean to you?

Publishing as an activity, while centered on books and authors, is not only about them, although when I was younger I thought it was only about them. We live in a book community, the community matters to me and Frankfurt is a great coming-together place. One often drinks a lot and stays up too late; one loses one’s voice. One smiles at people whose face one knows but whose names have been forgotten over the last 12 months. One comes to know who is married to whom, and to whom no longer, how many children each acquaintance has, how these children are getting along, where friends live. Sometimes I have been lucky enough to visit them in their own countries or have them visit me in mine.

On the business side, I always have a very busy schedule. There were many years when there were very “big” books and I think the fair became a center point for the publishers and agents to excite their foreign counterparts and thereby manage to extract some very high advances. The same regarding co-publishing art books. The opportunity to do that leads agents and publishers often not to sell rights to the books before the fair because at the fair high-pressure and event fever can be generated. For Overlook Press, this worked with Robert Littell’s The Company when literary agents Andrew Nurnberg and Ed Victor and I worked very closely together to produce some very pulsing excitement and the book was sold to many countries. This probably led to the emergence of The Overlook Press as a company which today is seen as one having quite a few commercial books alongside the literary books we are perhaps mostly known for.

29 April 08 | E.J. Van Lanen | Comments

The redesigned website of the Frankfurt Book Fair launched today. It’s a welcome improvement over the old site—visually cleaner and much easier to navigate. Check it out.

28 April 08 | E.J. Van Lanen | Comments [1]

According to Publisher’s Lunch:

Iceland has formally signed on as the guest honor for the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2011. FBF director Jurgen Boos says in the announcement, “Iceland is one of the smallest book markets worldwide, but unbelievably productive. Literature has shaped the identity of this European island nation from the beginning. At the same time, its geographical position and its culture have made Iceland an important interface between America and Europe.”

22 February 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The Literary Saloon has a link to this article from the Finnish press stating that Finland lost out to Iceland for 2011 Guest of Honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Iris Schwanck, the director of the Finnish Literature Exchange (FILI) was informed on Wednesday of the negative decision by Jürgen Boos, the director of the Frankfurt Book Fair.

“The negative decision is a major disappointment, because the programme Finland offered was excellent, and because the popularity of Finnish literature is just now showing a strong upward trend in Germany”, noted Schwanck.

Apparently, there were non-literary factors at work in this decision:

Nokia’s decision to close down its factory in the German city of Bochum has aroused plenty of negative feelings against Finland in Germany, as has been regularly reported on these pages.

“In fact, Jürgen Boos admitted that the Bochum situation did not make the atmosphere favourable for Finland. However, he offered us another opportunity to apply for the guest of honour position for 2013-2014”, reported Schwanck.

That’s unfortunate for Finland—and FILI, which is one of the best literary cultural organizations in the world—but great news for Iceland, which is very deserving of the honor.

19 October 07 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Esther Allen—brilliant translator, champion of international literature, director of the Center for Literary Translation at Columbia, and advisory board member of Open Letter—has an interesting article in the International Herald Tribune about Frankfurt and the To Be Translated of Not To Be report she edited.

But when you come to Hall 8, you have to line up for a metal detector. And once in, you hear and see only one language – this is the English-language hall. I never got over to Hall 8 this year, but during last year’s fair I wandered by to say hello to some American publisher friends and was struck by how lavish the stands are. The stands in Halls 5 and 6 are spiffy, but in Hall 8 it’s immediately clear that a great deal more money has been spent. This is where the sellers are.

The English-speaking world buys so little at the fair and pays so little attention in general to writing in other languages that it doesn’t even keep statistics about the percentage of books published in English that are translations. The figure of 3 percent, often bandied about, is almost certainly high.

When I was in Iowa for the 40th Anniversary celebration of the International Writing Program, Eliot Weinberger insisted that this 3% figure was grossly exaggerated and that the real number is closer to .3%. (And that we should change the name of the blog.) He said that the 3% figure includes any book with an ISBN, and that if you only look at nationally distributed titles (which I think is a fair criteria), there’s probably only 300 works of translated literary fiction published every year. (I have a feeling he’s right about this.)

All of this—in combination with finding out that I missed some awesome salsa dancing with the Catalans—is awful depressing, so I’m done blogging for today.

16 October 07 | Chad W. Post | Comments

I met Peter Zilahy at the Canongate party referenced in this article . . . He may well have thought I was some sort of stalker—his flowing locks are pretty remarkable though, and make it easy to pick him out of a crowd.

I first encountered his work in the (now defunct?) pages of Orient Express, which was edited and published by Fiona Sampson. His writing is quite inventive and remarkable, and it’s exciting to know that Last Window Giraffe will be out in February.

Anyway, he covered the bookfair for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and if you can read German, I’m sure you’ll find this interesting. Reading between the lines of the almost completely incompetent Google Translation, it seems that his main focus is on the business side of things . . . which is only fitting, since Frankfurt is the nerve center of creating book buzz and big advances.

At the book fair is not about what is the best book, but what sells best. The European culture has long decided that it is not just a book, this would contradict the spirit of Frankfurt. (Google Translation, which is why the last sentence is a bit wonky.)

As a university-supported, nonprofit press, our perspective is a bit different, as we hunt down the best books that are out there, paying less attention to the sales potential than to the quality of the book itself. And being open to books from around the globe, we were able to find literally hundreds of outstanding sounding titles to look into.

One of the most interesting comments in this vein came from Petra Hardt of Suhrkamp. We were talking about two authors—Ralf Rothmann and Andreas Maier. She said that if we wanted to sell more than 1,000 copies, we should go with Rothmann; less than 1,000, Maier. Probably not the best business sense, but this made Maier sound more attractive . . .

16 October 07 | Chad W. Post | Comments

I referenced it earlier, but here’s the official link to Motoko Rich’s article on Anna and Lorin Stein and the Frankfurt Book Fair.

There’s a lot to say about the fair, and about it’s impact on international publishing, and I’ll try and do more of this over the next couple weeks, but for now, I want to point out that it’s absolutely true that the Hof is the nerve center of the FBF nightlife, and if you’re going to be in the “in-crowd” you have to be there mingling, sipping a drink, chatting, all night. Four hours sleep becomes a luxury.

But it was by hanging out there that E.J. and I randomly met the agent for a South African novelist we’re interested in (until that moment we had no idea who represented this author), and it is the place that info from meetings gets amplified, connections are made, books are discussed, and so on.

John Freeman—my new blog idol for the amazing work he did covering the fair—has a nice post about this scene, and a great urban publishing legend:

According to a friend, a dutch publisher coming home in a blackout once made the mistake of giving his business card to the taxi driver, not the card for his hotel. He woke up 8 hours later in Amsterdam with a rather large bill. He then got on a plane and flew back to Frankfurt and went right on with his fair.

14 October 07 | Chad W. Post | Comments

By the final day of Frankfurt, it’s clear that most people are receiving bonus points just for making it to their meeting. I even heard about someone from Dalkey and from the Flemish Literary Fund both falling asleep for a second while talking . . .

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13 October 07 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Thankfully we only had one other meeting with a UK publisher, so we were able to avoid Hall 8 for the most part. The one time we did go, we found out that the vigilence of the bag searches had declined drastically, and according to one guy, they hadn’t found a single contraband item during the entire fair.

Today was a hectic, long day, and day four is just about to start, so here’s a few highlights:

  • Books from Lithuania produces some of the most beautiful propaganda. All of their publications are fantastic, and they were very excited that we’re going to be publishing Ricardas Gavelis’s Vilnius Poker. They were much more thrilled about being able to attend the German Film Awards last night as special guests of the Ministry of Culture though.
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10 October 07 | Chad W. Post | Comments [1]

The Frankfurt Book Fair is officially underway, and E.J. and I have made it through one long day of meetings, with three more to go. The fair itself is enormous beyond description. (We’ll post pictures once we have access to our computers again.) With hall upon hall, exhibitor upon exhibitor, there’s a lot to take in. . . I really can’t offer an objective, interesting summary of FBF, so instead here are a few bullet-points:

  • In terms of describing the fair itself, I’ve heard two apt bits—“it’s like Burning Man for publishers,” and, “in comparison to BEA where there’s a lot of publisher on bookseller love, Frankfurt is more of the editor on agent, or publisher on publisher variety.” Which isn’t as sexy as it sounds. Really. And both of these comments were made to Motoko Rich, who’s covering the fair for the New York Times and doing a special feature on Anna and Lorin Stein.
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2 October 07 | Chad W. Post | Comments

With the Frankfurt Book Fair practically here, we’re rushing around the Open Letter offices desperately preparing for all the parties meetings.

So things might be a bit quite online for the next few days. But come next week, we’re hoping to provide some image heavy posts about our first trip to the FBF.

I’ve heard that to be cool in Frankfurt, you have to be reading some hip, slightly obscure books that you can toss casually into late-night, half-drunk conversations.

I always have a hell of a time figuring out what to bring on these 6+ hour plane rides, but a few books just arrived that I’m really excited about and seem to fit this billing:

Autonauts of the Cosmoroute by Julio Cortazar and Carol Dunlop will be out next month from Archipelago. Unfortunately, I just finished reading this (and writing a review for The Quarterly Conversation), so I can’t bring it, although I plan on mentioning it every chance I get. Seriously—this book is amazing.

John Siciliano at Penguin just sent me the new translation of Knut Hamsun’s Growth of the Soil . I’ve heard over and over how great this book is, but refused to buy the crappy looking Vintage mass market edition (again, snobbery) . Thankfully, this is part of the Penguin Classics line now, in a completely readable format.

Finally, I’m also excited about Bohumil Hrabal’s In-House Weddings, which just came out from Northwestern. Here’s a clip from the jacket copy:

Inspired by “Mrs. Tolstoy and Mrs. Dostoevsky, whose biographies about their husbands have now been published in Prague,” Bohumil Hrabal decided to produce his own autobiographical work, ostensibly fiction, from his wife’s point of view. He would write, he said, “not a putdown about myself, but a little bit of how it all was, that marriage of ours, with myself as a jewel and adornment of our life together.”

14 August 07 | Chad W. Post | Comments

As the Frankfurt Book Fair grows closer, there’s sure to be more and more articles and events promoting Catalan literature, and as a big fan of the Ramon Llull Institut and Barcelona, I’ll try and share as many as possible. One interesting program I came across today is GeoGraphia: Literary Landscapes:

GeoGraphia is a joint initiative by the Institut Ramon Llull, the Goethe-Institut and Literaturhaus.net to boost knowledge of Catalan and German literature in each other’s countries through an interchange of authors.

Three pairs, each made up of one German and one Catalan writer, will share their experiences on a journey through their respective countries. Acting at the same time as host and guest, native and foreigner, this journey there and back seeks to reveal the ego and the other and their roots, their common culture. During the journey, the writers will appear before audiences in a number of cities in Germany and Austria (at the Literaturhäuser) and in Catalonia, Valencia and Mallorca. The project will be presented at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October 2007.

Should be interesting, especially considering the participating writers: Katja Lange-Müller and Enric Sòria; Keto von Waberer and Carme Riera; and Michael Ebmeyer and Jordí Puntí.

8 August 07 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This story has been around for months, but the International Herald Tribune has a piece on the troubles Catalonia is having getting writers to attend the Frankfurt Book Fair this year, where Catalonia is the Guest of Honor.

This is one of the rare times that the FBF chose to honor a region rather than a country, and initially, the Ramon Llull Institute was only going to invite authors writing in Catalan to attend. Spain’s literary world freaked out, Catalan backtracked, and ended up inviting Spanish authors as well.

But many are refusing to go, calling the gesture an insulting afterthought prompted by political interference and serving up a nasty dispute for the normally genteel confines of the world’s largest book fair.

I have no place commenting on Spanish/Catalonian art and politics (and politics of art), but this really isn’t doing much to help promote Catalan or Spanish literature. Catalonia has a great tradition of authors writing in Catalan, very, very few of whom have been translated into English. (Merce Rodoreda, a bastardized version of Albert Sanchez Pinol’s Cold Skin, and now Quim Monzo, are the ones that come immediately to mind.) In my opinion, following years of oppression, the Ramon Llull Institute deserves an opportunity to promote the writers it exists to support and to spread the word about a “Catalan asethetic.”

On the other hand, it doesn’t make much sense for both the Catalan and Spanish governing bodies to marginalize writers living in Catalonia and writing primarily in Spanish.

Maybe it would’ve been best to have Catalonia, Galicia, the Basque Country, and Spanish-speaking Spain all be Guests of Honor and to celebrate the whole of literature from Spain at once. But really, we can’t have Frankfurt without some controversy . . . that’s what publishing people thrive on.

19 June 07 | Chad W. Post |

This October, Catalan will be the Guest of Honor at the Frankfurt Book Fair, which is a great opportunity to promote their literature to the world. (I’ve been a big fan ever since the Ramon Llull Insitut brought me to Barcelona . . . funny what a nice trip to a beautiful city can do. . . . )

There’s a lot of info on Catalan Culture now available at the Frankfurt site.

Of course, things are going as smoothly as they should . . . Catalonia, wanting to emphasize the uniqueness of the tradition of literature written in Catalan, is excluding from their delegation authors who live in Catalonia but write in Castilian.

I’m not going to pretend to understand the intricacies of this politically-charged situation, but I will say that barcelonareporter.com needs to stop using Babelfish (or whatever auto-translating program they’re using), since I am 100% sure that there is no contemporary Catalan writer named Enrique Vila-Kills.

....
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