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.
In the London of Hédi Kaddour’s Little Grey Lies, translated by Teresa Lavender Fagan, peace has settled, but the tensions, fears, and anger of the Great War remain, even if tucked away behind stories and lies. Directly ahead, as those. . .
One of the greatest services—or disservices, depending on your viewpoint—Bertrand Russell ever performed for popular philosophy was humanizing its biggest thinkers in his History. No longer were they Platonic ideals, the clean-shaven exemplars of the kind of homely truisms that. . .
The best way to review Alejandra Pizarnik’s slim collection, A Musical Hell, published by New Directions as part of their Poetry Pamphlet series, is to begin by stating that it is poetry with a capital P: serious, dense, and, some. . .
Upon completing Albertine Sarrazin’s Astragal I was left to wonder why it ever fell from print. Aside from the location, Astragal could pass as the great American novel. Its edginess and rawness capture the angst and desires we all had. . .
When my eyes first crossed the back cover of Fabio Genovesi’s novel Live Bait, I was caught by a blurb nestled between accolades, a few words from a reviewer for La Repubblica stating that the novel was, however magically, “[b]eyond. . .
“I preferred the war to the plague,” writes Curzio Malaparte in his 1949 novel, The Skin. He speaks of World War II and the destruction it has wrought on Italy, the city of Naples in particular. But the plague he. . .
With the steady rise of feminist scholarship and criticism in recent decades, it is little wonder that the work of Louise Labé should be attracting, as Richard Sieburth tells us in the Afterword to his translation, a “wide and thriving”. . .
In Conversations, we find ourselves again in the protagonist’s conscious and subconscious, which is mostly likely that of Mr. César Aira and consistent with prototypical Aira style. This style never fails because each time Aira is able to develop a. . .
You are not ashamed of what you do, but of what they see you do. Without realizing it, life can be an accumulation of secrets that permeates every last minute of our routine . . .
The narrative history of. . .
Literature in translation often comes with a certain pedigree. In this little corner of the world, with so few books making it into this comforting nook, it is often those of the highest quality that cross through, and attention is. . .