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.)
Copies—and more information about Argentina in general—can be found at Hall 5.1 D975.
Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .
Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s La Superba is appropriately titled after the Italian city of Genoa, where, after escaping the pressures of fame in his own country, the semi-autobiographical narrator finds himself cataloguing the experiences of its mesmerizing inhabitants with the intention. . .
It took reading 44 pages of Intervenir/Intervene before I began to get a sense of what Dolores Dorantes and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez were up to. Recurring throughout these 44 pages—throughout the entire book—are shovels, shovel smacks to the face, lobelias—aha!. . .
As presaged by its title, contradiction is the theme of Peter Stamm’s novel, All Days Are Night. Gillian, a well-known television personality, remains unknowable to herself. And Hubert, a frustrated artist and Gillian’s lover, creates art through the process of. . .
It’s a rare and wonderful book that begins and ends with violence and humor. At the start of Etgar Keret’s The Seven Good Years, Keret is in a hospital waiting for the birth of his first child while nurses, in. . .
Last year, Han Kang’s The Vegetarian was an unexpected critical hit. Now, it’s just been published in the U.S. and has already received a great deal of positive critical attention. The Vegetarian was a bold book to attempt as an. . .
It’s been almost a year since the publication of Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah, but despite being included on the 2015 PEN Translation award longlist, and some pretty vocal support from key indie presses, the book has. . .
Jorge Eduardo Benavides’ novel La paz de los vencidos (The Peace of the Defeated) takes the form of a diary written by a nameless Peruvian thirty-something intellectual slumming it in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands. Recently relocated. . .
Anyone with any interest at all in contemporary Moroccan writing must start with Souffles. A cultural and political journal, Souffles (the French word for “breaths”) was founded in 1966 by Abdellatif Laâbi and Mostafa Nissabouri. Run by a group of. . .
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. . .