From Contemporary Russian writer Aleksandr Skorobogatov comes some sad news about Northwestern University Press’s “Writings from an Unbound Europe” Series:
The end of a publishing era
RIP – Writings from an Unbound Europe
The editors of Northwestern University Press have decided to end the run of Writings from an Unbound Europe, the only more or less comprehensive book series devoted to translated contemporary literature from the former communist countries of Eastern/Central Europe. The final title in the series, the novel Sailing Against the Wind (Vastutuulelaev) by the Estonian Jaan Kross (1920-2007) will appear in a translation by Eric Dickens some time in 2012. With that title Unbound Europe will have published 61 books since its inception in 1993. Among the highlights of what has been published over this twenty-year period are the first English-language editions of David Albahari, Ferenc Barnas, Petra Hůlová, Drago Jančar, Anzhelina Polonskaya, and Goce Smilevski. By far the best selling title in the series is Death and the Dervish (Drviš i smrt) by the Bosnian writer Meša Selimović (1910-1982), which has sold close to 6000 copies since it appeared in 1996. In recent years, however, changes in book-buying habits and diminished interest in Eastern/Central Europe in the English speaking world have led to significantly lower sales, even for masterpieces by such major writers as Borislav Pekić and Bohumil Hrabal. I would like to thank the series co-editors Clare Cavanagh, Michael Henry Heim, Roman Koropeckyj, and Ilya Kutik as well as several generations of Northwestern University Press editors and directors for their work on this project. Most of the books published in the series remain in print and will continue to be available on the Northwestern University Press backlist.
So many favorites were included in this series: Dubravka Ugresic, David Albahari, Georgi Gospodinov, Bohumil Hrabal, on and on and on. Sad day for Eastern/Central European literature in translation. Hopefully some press will pick up the slack . . . hopefully. But if a series like this can’t exist in a university setting, well . . . Ugh. And no offense to the great people working at NUP, but without this series, you drop (in my opinion, at least) from the first-tier of university presses (Columbia, Harvard, Yale, etc.) to something lower. I don’t want to name any titles, or make my point at the expense of any hard working authors, but your new catalog seems very vanilla when you remove the translations. Just another set of books to get lost in just another set of bookshelves . . .
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There are plenty of reasons you can fail to find the rhythm of a book. Sometimes it’s a matter of discarding initial assumptions or impressions, sometimes of resetting oneself. Zigmunds Skujiņš’s Flesh-Coloured Dominoes was a defining experience in the necessity. . .
In a culture that privileges prose, reviewing poetry is fairly pointless. And I’ve long since stopped caring about what the world reads and dropped the crusade to get Americans to read more poems. Part of the fault, as I’ve suggested. . .
I would like to pose the argument that it is rare for one to ever come across a truly passive protagonist in a novel. The protagonist (perhaps) of Three Light-Years, Claudio Viberti, is just that—a shy internist who lives in. . .
The last five days of the eleventh-century Icelandic politician, writer of sagas, and famous murder victim Snorri Sturleleson (the Norwegian spelling, Snorre, is preserved in the book) make up Thorvald Steen’s most recently translated historical fiction, The Little Horse. Murdered. . .
We all know Paris, or at least we think we know it. The Eiffel Tower. The Latin Quarter. The Champs-Élysées. The touristy stuff. In Dominique Fabre’s novel, Guys Like Me, we’re shown a different side of Paris: a gray, decaying. . .
One hundred pages into Birth of a Bridge, the prize-winning novel from French writer Maylis de Kerangal, the narrator describes how starting in November, birds come to nest in the wetlands of the fictional city of Coca, California, for three. . .