Former Open Letter senior editor, E.J. Van Lanen, announced yesterday that he’s started a publishing house dedicated to doing e-versions of international literature. As you can see in the press release below, the first titles—Anna Kim’s The Anatomy of a Night and Uwe Tellkamp’s The Tower—will be available in the spring of 2013.
This is a really cool idea, and I hope it not only gains a lot of traction and readers, but expands rapidly to include many more partnerships and titles.
Frisch & Co. Launches International E-Book Publisher, Partners with Germany’s Suhrkamp Verlag
BERLIN/NEW YORK, October 2012—Frisch & Co. today announced the launch of its e-book publishing program, which will publish contemporary foreign fiction in English-language translation for e-book reading devices. For its initial titles, Frisch & Co. is partnering with Berlin-based Suhrkamp Verlag—venerable publisher of Hermann Hesse, Bertolt Brecht, Thomas Bernhard, Peter Handke, and many other modern German-language luminaries. The companies will collaborate to select and publish two new titles from Suhrkamp’s list each year. Frisch & Co. is currently seeking partners in other countries.
Frisch & Co.’s first two titles are Anna Kim’s haunting and poetic novel The Anatomy of a Night and Uwe Tellkamp’s award-winning epic The Tower. Both titles will be released for the first time in English in late-Spring 2013 and will be available through online e-book retailers and on Frisch & Co.’s website.
“There are so many truly fascinating stories, and great writers, that English-only readers simply don’t have the opportunity to discover,” said E.J. Van Lanen, Publisher and former Editor and co-founder of Open Letter Books. “The goal of Frisch & Co’s publishing program is to share some of these stories, and we’re trying to reach readers where they increasingly are: on their tablets, phones, and e-book readers.”
The Pew Internet & American Life Project estimates that 25% of American adults currently own a tablet device, and the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) estimate U.S. trade publisher e-book revenues of $1.97 billion (or 16% of total trade dollars) for 2011, up from $838 million and 6.7% in 2010. Adult fiction currently comprises 31% of sales within the category. With its list of prominent and emerging international authors from prestigious international publishers, its single-minded focus on the e-book category, and competitive pricing, Frisch & Co. is well-positioned to benefit from these trends.
“I’m really thrilled about this project,” said Nora Mercurio, Rights Manager at Suhrkamp Verlag, “since in my eyes it represents the perfect merger of the important values Suhrkamp stands for—tradition, high literary quality, the preference of stable partnership over one-time licensing, and an open-mindedness about the future, in this case digitalization.”
In addition to publishing its books through major online retailers, Frisch & Co. will sell its e-books in DRM-free .epub format on its website.
About the books:
Translated into fifteen languages, Uwe Tellkamp’s bestselling The Tower won the 2008 Deutscher Buchpreis—awarded annually to the best German-language novel—the Deutscher Nationalpreis (2009), and the Literaturpreis der Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (2009). The Tower paints an epic panorama of the waning days of the German Democratic Republic.
Suicide is spreading like an epidemic in Anna Kim’s third novel, The Anatomy of a Night, which follows the twists and turns of eleven people’s lives in a poor and largely isolated village in the eastern part of Greenland. Precisely observed and beautifully written, The Anatomy of a Night announces a major new voice in German literature.
For more information on Frisch & Co., visit its website, or contact E.J. Van Lanen (vanlanen [at] frischand.co).
Dr. Jing Bartz: The minister from the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) approved the first list of translation funding shortly before the Frankfurt Book Fair. The amounts range from 2,000 to 7,000 euros per title. Just to give a few examples: Berlin Verlag has bought a short novel by a young Chinese author, “Im Laufschritt durch Peking”, which it plans to make one of its key titles in 2009. This is about a migrant worker who comes to Beijing in search of wealth and love. S. Fischer Verlage are at the moment preparing Yu Hua’s lengthy family novel “Die Brüder”, a panoramic picture of Chinese society from the fifties through to the present day. At Suhrkamp, Mo Yan’s novel “Sandelholzfolter” is already being translated: a historical novel that takes readers back to the days of Germany’s colonial presence in China.
Ambitious literature that conveys life and what it feels like to live in China and does so interestingly and with understanding, goes down well with German-language publishing companies. As well as contemporary literature, some classical works will probably also receive funding.
The application process is simple, needing no more than completion of a one-page form and presentation of the licence agreement. Apart from a rejection, there’s nothing to lose. I would advise all German and English-language publishing companies to take advantage of this funding opportunity.
There’s also an interview with Uwe Tellkamp, author of Der Term (The Tower), a 1000-page novel that won the 2008 German Book Prize. Surprisingly, Tellkamp isn’t the most loquacious of interviewees:
Frankfurt Book Fair: In the industry, you were already the favourite once the shortlist was announced. Did you really not expect at all to win the prize?
Uwe Tellkamp: No.
The whirl of your novel – dense, eloquent and intense, and showing borrowings from your own life – sweeps the reader along with it. Were you also caught up in a whirlwind of past events as you wrote, or was there such a thing as “normal everyday life” for you?
In an interview at the Book Fair, you said that a book tells you when it’s finished and that as the author, you have to be able to listen to that. For “Der Turm”, it took almost 1,000 pages before saying “stop”. Did that surprise you?
Still no reference to the sale of the English-language rights . . . Hopefully someone will pick this up.
A few days age we wrote about the German Book Prize Winner, Uwe Tellkamp’s Der Turm, and lamented the fact that there wouldn’t be much interest in the 1000+ page book from American or British publishers.
Well, a little birdie tells me that we were quite mistaken and that Suhrkamp is fielding a “huge wave of calls and requests from the UK” for the book.
Let’s hope that something comes of it!
We’re a bit late with the news—I swear, the Book Fair will be my excuse for everything for the next three weeks at least—but Uwe Tellkamp’s Der Turm won this year’s German Book Prize. Hasn’t been a huge amount of interest from American or British publishers (surprise!) for this 1,000 page book. Michael Orthofer is one of (if not the) first American’s to review the novel giving it a solid B+:
Der Turm is set in Dresden, in the East Germany of the 1980s, then still the German Democratic Republic. The book covers the period right up to the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, though it moves at varying speeds across these years, lingering over particular episodes and stretches, then leaping over longer periods. [. . .]
Tellkamp offers a vast survey of East German life, even as he keeps it within relatively limited areas: school, the workplace (the hospital and the publishing house), army life. For the most part, those whose lives are described are fairly well-to-do — if not financially particularly well-off, at least relatively secure in their places, and certainly comfortable (even as that occasionally proves illusory). True, occasionally strangers are assigned a portion of their living spaces, as lines are redrawn in the houses and officialdom literally encroaches on their lives further, but most can get by relatively comfortably. Tellkamp does, however, pointedly describe the lives of the truly privileged, the nation’s favoured sons, which some of the others catch a glimpse of — an entirely different world. [. . .]
Yes, in many respects Der Turm is a glorious epic of that sad last decade of East German history, with some remarkable patches of writing and some very fine scenes. Yet it feels incomplete as a history, the pendulum swinging too far and spitefully back in a book that drips with contempt and feels too personal in its reckoning with an entire nation and system.
Randall Jarrell once argued a point that I will now paraphrase and, in doing so, over-simplify: As a culture, we need book criticism, not book reviews. I sort of agree, but let’s not get into all of that. Having finished. . .
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“Rambling Jack—what’s that?”
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“Yeah, it looks short. What is it, a hundred pages?”
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