19 October 09 | Chad W. Post

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.


Comments are disabled for this article.
....
The Little Horse
The Little Horse by Thorvald Steen
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

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. . .

Read More >

Guys Like Me
Guys Like Me by Dominique Fabre
Reviewed by Peter Biello

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. . .

Read More >

Birth of a Bridge
Birth of a Bridge by Maylis de Kerangal
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

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. . .

Read More >

Faces in the Crowd
Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli
Reviewed by Valerie Miles

At 30, the Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli is already gathering her rosebuds. Faces in the Crowd, her poised debut novel, was published by Coffee House Press, along with her Brodsky-infused essay collection, Sidewalks. The essays stand as a theoretical map. . .

Read More >

Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia
Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia by Julio Cortázar
Reviewed by Cameron Rowe

Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia (narrated by Julio Cortázar) is, not disappointingly, as wild a book as its title suggests. It is a half-novella half-graphic novel story about . . . what, exactly? A European tribunal, Latin. . .

Read More >

Self-Portrait in Green
Self-Portrait in Green by Marie NDiaye
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

Marie NDiaye has created a tiny, psychological masterpiece with her Self-Portrait in Green. In it she explores how our private fears and insecurities can distort what we believe to be real and can cause us to sabotage our intimate relationships.. . .

Read More >

The Madmen of Benghazi
The Madmen of Benghazi by Gerard de Villiers
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Reading a genre book—whether fantasy, science fiction, crime, thriller, etc.—which begins to seem excessively, stereotypically bad, I have to make sure to ask myself: is this parodying the flaws of the genre? Usually, this questioning takes its time coming. In. . .

Read More >

The Four Corners of Palermo
The Four Corners of Palermo by Giuseppe Di Piazza
Reviewed by Patience Haggin

The Sicilian Mafia has always been a rich subject for sensational crime fiction. The Godfather, Goodfellas, and The Sopranos worked the mob’s bloody corpses and family feuds to both entertainment and artistic value. Giuseppe di Piazza’s debut novel attempts this,. . .

Read More >

Writers
Writers by Antoine Volodine
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Antoine Volodine’s vast project (40 plus novels) of what he calls the post-exotic remains mostly untranslated, so for many of us, understanding it remains touched with mystery, whispers from those “who know,” and guesswork. That’s not to say that, were. . .

Read More >

My Brilliant Friend
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
Reviewed by Acacia O'Connor

It hasn’t quite neared the pitch of the waiting-in-line-at-midnight Harry Potter days, but in small bookstores and reading circles of New York City, an aura has attended the novelist Elena Ferrante and her works. One part curiosity (Who is she?),. . .

Read More >